Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
I really love baking. It probably has something to do with the fact that I really love sweets, and sweets are generally baked. It also has something to do with the fact that baking requires measuring and exactness – which oddly enough makes it a nice relaxing break from our everyday chaotic lives. I like the idea that I can relax while at the same time doing something productive- and I have something to show for it when I’m done! The only problem with this is that one can only desserts so much. If you would like to bake something, but fear (like me) that brownies will disappear in an embarrassingly short time, this bread would be the perfect choice. This bread is perfect for slicing for breakfast and running out the door with. I like it just plain, but John (of course) likes to add butter to it.
Like any yeast bread, it requires a lot of waiting around for the dough to rise – but each step actually takes very little time. It’s really perfect to make on a day you were going to spend at home anyways. It can make a nice break from something monotonous (like studying) because after each step, you have to wait around for 40 minutes to an hour anyways. I included step by step pictures, but only because they are fun, not to make this seem like it’s a really difficult recipe! Each step is very simple. The trickiest part is making sure to completely seal the loaf before baking – so that no cinnamon sugar mixture leaks out and burns on the sides of the pan. This recipe makes 2 loaves, so you have one to give to a friend or freeze – but if you only want one, it can easily be halved. When freezing this bread, I wrap it in aluminum foil, and then place it in a freezer bag, and it freezes wonderfully.
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Makes 2 standard (9×5) loaves
For the dough:
- 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (or 1 packet)
- 2 cups warm milk (~105-110˚ F)
- 34 oz (6 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tsp. coarse salt
- 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins
- Cooking spray
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
Start by combining milk and yeast in the bottom of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour, softened butter, sugar, eggs, salt, & cinnamon. Turn the mixer on low speed (2), and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes. Add the raisins and continue to knead for 3-4 more minutes. The dough should be smooth and clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky to handle, add a little bit more flour and knead for a few more minutes.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, and place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Turn the dough over to lightly coat the outsides with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Place in a warm, draft free place and let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled. I like to put mine inside a turned-off oven.
Then fold again into thirds, the opposite direction. The purpose of this is 2 fold. First of all, it basically serves as a very gentle kneading, which releases any gas built up in the dough, and gives the yeast access to new nutrients. But do not “knead” the dough, or over-handle it -because this will destroy the gluten strands that give the bread it’s airy and light weight texture. Secondly, this method helps to shape the dough into a rectangle, which is helpful in the next step.
Once each loaf is folded, place them seam side down in an bowl coated with cooking spray. (Each loaf should get it’s own bowl at this point.) Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and allow the dough to rise for an additional 45 minutes.
Once the dough has risen for the second time, roll out one ball of dough into a 15×11 inch rectangle.
In a small bowl combine the sugar, water and cinnamon. Brush the rectangle of dough with the slightly beaten egg, and then spread about half of the cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangle, leaving a small border at the edges. (If you want to be very exact, you can mix 3/4 c. sugar, 1 T. cinnamon, and 2 T. water for the first loaf, and then do this again for the second loaf.) *Note: if you add too much water to the cinnamon sugar mixture (which I have done before), it will seep out of the loaf, and create a burned sugar crust to your bread. So while mixing together the sugar-err on the side off too little water. The amount in this picture is a little too liquidly.
Fold in about one inch of the edges of the dough, in order to seal the cinnamon-sugar mixture in.
Starting with the unfolded edge of the dough, roll dough into tight log. Press gently as you roll to ensure the dough is sticking to itself – this will help prevent the cinnamon sugar mixture from seeping out.
Once the dough is rolled, pinch the edges of dough together tightly. Use some water to make sure the dough adheres.
Place dough seam side down in a heavily greased 9×5 inch baking loaf, and repeat with remaining roll.
Cover each loaf pan with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise again for 40 minutes so that the dough just rises above the edge of the pan.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush the remaining egg over the top of each loaf in order to give it a shiny, finished appearance (I didn’t do this for this loaf, hence the less than perfect surface). Loosely tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top of each pan, to prevent the top from over browning.
Place loaves in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. 20 minutes into baking, remove the foil “tent” to allow the surface to brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then remove from pan and cool on a cooling rack.