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cinnamon swirl bread

May 6, 2012

Oh, hey there! It seems we stumbled into yet another episode of Erica-sucks-at-posting-in-the-second-half-of-the-semester. My bad. But guess what, guys! Only two more of those episodes to go! (Well, three if you count studying for the bar, but I like to pretend that doesn’t exist.) And as a reward for your patience, I have a fantasmic cinnamon bread recipe that’s so good that, despite the fact that I made it about two months ago, I still remember its deliciousness vividly.

Of course, trust Cook’s Illustrated to turn something traditional and comfort food-y into something even more wonderful with a few strange tactics. Because of the way this bread is assembled, you get tons of tasty, sweet-spicy cinnamon swirl in every bite (now I’m starting to sound like a Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercial…hm). My favorite parts of each slice were the edges, where the cinnamon swirl had melted and caramelized into the most wonderful crust on earth. And the bread itself was soft and chewy and lightly sweet. And now I want to make some again on this gray Sunday afternoon.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 3/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

1. For the dough, cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon flour; set aside to soften while mixing the dough. Whisk the remaining flour, milk powder, sugar, and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fitting the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add water and egg and mix on medium-low speed until a cohesive mass forms, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl if necessary. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan in bottom of oven. Remove plastic from mixer bowl, add salt, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 7 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, set a pan with 4 or so cups of water on the stove to boil. With mixer running, add butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to knead until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer dough to large greased bowl and, using bowl scraper or rubber spatula, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold 6 more times, for a total of 8 folds. Cover tightly with plastic and transfer to middle rack of oven. Pour 3 cups of your (hopefully) now-boiling water into loaf pan in oven, close oven door, and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.
3. Remove dough from oven and gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Repeat folding step, making total of 8 folds, re-cover, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
4. Whisk filling ingredients (minus the egg) together until well-combined; set aside.
5. Grease two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with one piece of dough, pat into rough 6-by-11-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold long sides in like business letter in thirds to form 3-by-11-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into a ball. Dust ball with flour and flatten with rolling pin into 7-by-18-inch rectangle with even 1/4-inch thickness. Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle half of filling mixture evenly over dough, leaving 1/4-inch border on sides and 3/4-inch border on top and bottom; spray filling lightly with water. Filling should be speckled with water over entire surface. With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into firm cylinder. Turn dough loaf seam side up and pinch closed; pinch ends closed. Dust loaf lightly on all sides with flour and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with second ball of dough and remaining filling.
6. Working with one loaf at a time, use bench scraper to cut loaf in half lengthwise; turn halves so cut sides are facing up. Gently stretch each half into 14-inch length. Line up pieces of dough and pinch 2 ends of strips together. Take piece on left and lay over piece on right. Repeat, keeping cut side up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch ends together. Transfer loaf, cut side up, to prepared loaf pan. Repeat with second loaf. Cover loaves loosely with plastic, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Remove loaves and water pan from oven; heat oven to 350 degrees. Allow loaves to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes longer (top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over lip of pan).
7. Brush loaves with egg mixture. Bake until crust is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, tent loaves with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes longer.
8. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pan, return to rack, and let cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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