There are very few things in life that satisfy me as completely as a freshly baked loaf of bread. You’ve got four out of five senses covered here. I get to stick my hands in a bowl of dough and knead until it’s satiny smooth. I get to watch the different elements of the bread transform…the yeast bubbling in warm water, the dough rising and doubling in size. Obviously the smells are heavenly. Bread baking always smells good and comforting, but bread with cinnamon sugar baked into it? Smells like cinnamon rolls and whole wheat bread made a baby in my oven. And the taste…I don’t really need to say much here. Pillowy, soft bread with the perfect crust. Like the Pepperidge Farm bread we used to eat as a treat on weekday mornings, but better.
This was almost a perfect baking experience. Almost. I took the bread out of the oven after 35 minutes. The top crust was golden brown. The bread sounded hollow when I tapped it. I turned it out of the pan onto a cooling rack, let it rest on its side to finish cooking. When it was cool, I sliced off a thick piece. It looked perfect. No gaps in the cinnamon swirl, no doughy bits. So I sliced off another piece. Aaaand hold the phone.
A little hole? A cinnamon-sugary, gooey hole? I sliced again. A tunnel?!? A veritable tunnel of unbaked dough through my bread?!?! How could it do this to me? I was so close. So happy. So ready to believe it was the perfect loaf. This new development was not okay with me. I tented the top with foil so it wouldn’t brown anymore, and tried to finish it off in the oven. It…sort of worked. The insides weren’t just going to magically rise again and fill out the center of the loaf. I tried to ask them to, but they didn’t listen. So I settled. When it was baked, but still holey, I conceded defeat.
But is it really defeat if it still tastes redonculous? Not really 🙂 And lesson learned. I’m currently doing some online shopping for an instant read thermometer, so I’ll always know if the center is done! (Note: No photos of this catastrophe exist. It was too depressing to document.)
Now the recipe. I used the recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Bread from Baking Illustrated, but I made two changes. First, I used half whole wheat flour, which turned out fine because the recipe calls for all-purpose anyways. I also added plenty of raisins because that’s just how I like my cinnamon swirl bread (it would also probably be good with toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts). If you’re like my best friend from college, and you hate raisins for some strange reason, just omit them. Finally, I hand-kneaded the dough instead of using a stand mixer. I always feel a little wrong doctoring recipes from Baking Illustrated since the people at America’s Test Kitchen clearly spend their lives making sure each recipe is exactly perfect. But it doesn’t feel so wrong that it stops me.
Anyways, bake this baby up. Use a thermometer to make sure it’s done, for serious. (Or maybe your bread-baking instincts are superior to mine, in which case, I’m jealous.) Put your face in it and inhale deeply when you take it out of the oven. Then maybe share it with one other person, but no one else.
Whole Wheat Raisin Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Makes 1 9-inch loaf
1/2 cup milk
4 TBS (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) Rapid Rise yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-112ºF)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 – 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose, plus extra for dusting work surface
1 heaping cup of raisins, soaked in hot water, drained, and patted dry
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tsp ground cinnamon
milk for brushing dough
For egg glaze
1 large egg
2 tsp milk
1. For dough: Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat (or in the microwave) until the butter melts. Cool until it reaches 110ºF.
2. Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the sugar and eggs at low speed to blend (or stir to combine). Add the salt, warm milk mixture, and whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (to equal 2 cups of flour total). Mix at medium speed (or stir with a wooden spoon) until completely combined, about 1 minute. If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment. Add 1 1/4 cups more all-purpose flour and the raisins, and knead at medium-low speed, adding more flour sparingly if the dough sticks to the bowl, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (If kneading by hand, add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth enough to turn it out of the bowl. Knead on a lightly floured work surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 12 minutes.)
3. Squeeze the dough with a clean, dry hand. If the dough comes away cleanly from your hand, it’s ready. If it’s still too sticky, knead in up to 1/2 cup flour. (You should use no more than 3 3/4 cups of flour total.) Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. After the rise, punch down the center of the dough once. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated, covered, up to 18 hours.) Without folding the dough, turn it out onto an unfloured work surface, and let it rest about 10 minutes.
4. For filling: Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
5. To shape dough: Press the dough into an evenly shaped 8 by 6-inch rectangle. (You can flour your work surface ever so slightly if the dough is sticking too much.) With a short side of the dough facing you, roll the dough with a rolling pin into an evenly shaped 18 by 8-inch rectangle. If some raisins get squeezed out, just press them back in. Brush the dough liberally with the milk. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the far side. Starting at the side closest to you, roll up the dough tightly. Push the ends in occasionally to keep it from stretching wider than 9 inches. When you finish rolling, pinch the seam tightly. Push in the center of both ends, and firmly pinch the dough at either end together to seal the sides of the loaf. We don’t want any filling leaking out!!
6. Place the loaf, seam side down, into the greased pan. Press lightly to flatten. Cover the top loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough is 1 inch above the top of the pan, about 1 1/2 hours (1 hour longer if the dough was refrigerated). As the dough nears the top of the pan, preheat the oven to 350ºF with a rack in the center.
7. For glaze: Whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze.
8. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer (they’re not kidding around with this part) inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan into the center reads 185-190ºF, 30-35 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on its side on a wire rack until room temperature, at least 45 minutes. Don’t slice it before it’s cool! Bread has to finish baking as it cools.
(Bread will keep at room-temperature, wrapped tightly, for 4 days or frozen up to 3 months.)
Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker
Does anyone have any recommendations for a good instant read thermometer (reasonably priced)? The same goes for a hand mixer. Good luck baking, thanks for checking out my post! Stay warm!