As I was searching for things to make for my next baking adventure I thought about things that my family enjoyed to eat often and what came to mind was cinnamon toast. It is made most days in our house. So I searched around for a recipe that seemed slightly challenging, but again not too complicated (I hate buying a big bag of some ingredient only to use a small amount in one recipe – it feels so wasteful). I landed on a recipe for Cinnamon Swirl bread from the Pioneer Woman. I had all the ingredients for it at my house and although the time seemed really long for proofing times, it felt like something that I could easily whip up during a week day – pacing out the hands on work times during the mythical “nap times” and proofing times during my kids awake times. It seemed like a perfect plan….
Turns out that this simple recipe was much harder than I anticipated it would be for me to master.
The first attempt was a dud to say the least. I am 100% sure that in an effort to accomplish this recipe – I rushed the very important step of letting the milk and butter cool down before adding the yeast and I for sure killed it all. There was a very little rise after the first proof and almost none after the second, but I had let it go for 2 hours each (and that is what the recipe said) and decided to just bake it anyway and see what happened. It wasn’t good. It was tight, chewy and the filling flowed out like a river. My husband described the first version as, “very dense dough with delicious caramel running out of it”. It sucked to fail at that recipe!
Therefore, I put on my big girl pants and decided to try again. Round #2. I was determined to do a better job. I pulled out my thermometer and made sure that the butter and milk was between 100 – 110 degrees before I sprinkled the yeast into it. I also again stuck with the proofing times of two hours each. I majorly over proofed my dough the first time! This is what the dough looked like after I pulled it out of my oven (which I had heated to 140 degrees and turned off). It was a raised dome of dough and as soon as it hit the counter it deflated to this! I thought that part of my problem last time was that I had rolled the dough too tight and so this time I decided to split the roll down the middle and braid the two open sides of the roll so that the filling was all exposed and the dough had more room to grow and open up. Unfortunately, I didn’t trust the cooking time and decided that the whole loaf needed to be set before I pulled it out of oven and MAJORLY over baked it! I gave some my to my neighbor who said, “Well it rose better, but it wasn’t exactly enjoyable to eat”.
I knew at this point that I needed to make some changes for my next round.
Try #3 – I wised up and ended up just microwaving the milk and butter for 30 seconds each instead of cooking it on the stove. I checked the temp after mixing them and it was right at 103 degrees and sprinkled the yeast on top. After waiting the allotted 10 minutes. I came back to this massive yeast bloom and knew that I was headed in the right direction.
While the yeast was blooming, I heated the oven again to 140 degrees and then turned it off and left it closed while I mixed the dough. I whipped the eggs and sugar together until they were light and fluffy. I also added some vanilla bean paste for extra flavor. Then I mixed in the milk, butter and yeast mixture. Next I added half the flour and all of salt to the mixture until incorporated. Then I mixed in the rest of the flour.
After the flour was all mixed in, I switched the paddle attachment for the dough hook and let the mixer kneed the dough for 10 minutes. On the day I was baking, it was pretty humid out. After I attached the dough hook and started letting the mixer kneed the dough, I realized that I needed to add more flour for the correct consistency. The second picture shows how sticky the dough was until I added more flour and let the mixer go for a few more minutes to develop the gluten that lets the dough stretch.
Once the dough was at the correct consistency, I put it in an oiled bowl and covered it with plastic wrap. I put the bowl in the oven to proof.
Here is where my love of the Great British Baking Show proved to be really helpful!
I was watching it the other day and they were talking about how enriched dough (dough was added sugar and fat aka the type of dough I was making) took longer to proof in the proofing drawer, like 30 minutes….30 MINUTES – I for sure didn’t need to let my dough proof for 2 hours, since I basically created a proofing drawer with my oven. This time I let it proof for 45 minutes and had amazing results.
I turned the dough out onto my pastry mat that I floured and rolled it 24 inches long and as wide as my pan was that I was baking it in (about 9 inches). Then I rubbed room temperature butter all over the dough and sprinkled it with a combination of sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Next, I rolled the dough, starting at the 9 inch end. Then I pinched it closed on the seam. I sliced the dough through the middle the length of the roll and braided it all together. Finally I put it in the buttered loaf pan and covered it with plastic wrap to raise again. This time I only left it to raise for 30 minutes.
After the second proof I pulled it out of the oven and turned the oven on to 350 degrees. Once the oven came to temperature, I put the loaf back in to cook for 45 minutes. I came back to the oven to check on it half way through the cooking time and was SHOCKED by how enormous it had grown. I let if finish cooking and let it cool for 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan.
This loaf finally tasted great! It was tender and moist, it just looked terrible! Everyone gave it rave reviews. I really thought about calling it quits and not making a 4th batch…but I couldn’t get over how ugly it really looked.
Soooooo….today my son asked for cinnamon bread and I decided I could make just one more batch. For attempt #4 – I followed all the same steps as #3 except for one change. I rolled the dough out to 24 inches long and 14ish inches wide. Then I cut the dough in half length wise and went to cover it with cinnamon and sugar and realize that I used all my cinnamon on the last loaf. So I covered one half of the dough with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice and the other half with sugar and mini chocolate chips. I rolled the doughs up, sliced them, braided them, and then put them each in a loaf pan. I let them proof for 30 minutes. Baked them at 350 for 45 minutes (I should have pulled them at 40). Let them cool and sliced into them. I then sent all my friends who had been cheering me on in the adventure a text that said, “I can finally stop making this bread – it looks good and it tastes good”
So technically my final loaves were not cinnamon swirl bread, but they were very tasty!
Cinnamon Swirl (Or other filling of choice) Bread
- 1 cup Milk
- 6 Tablespoons Butter
- 2-1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
- 3-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- Neutral Oil for the bowl (I used grape seed)
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
- Softened Butter, For Smearing And Greasing
- Turn your oven on to 140 degrees.
- Heat the butter and milk for 30 seconds each in the microwave. Combine and temp to make sure it is between 100-110 degrees. If it is low, heat for 10 more seconds. If it is too high, wait for it to cool. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Turn your oven off and do not open the door.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar, vanilla bean paste and eggs with the paddle attachment until light and frothy. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and all of the salt and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat/knead dough on medium speed (I used speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid Mixmaster) for ten minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add flour and continue to mix until the dough pulls and flops away from the sides and stretches when pulled between your fingers and thumb.
- Drizzle in a little neutral oil (I used grape seed), then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in your oven for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
- Turn dough out onto the floured work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle 24 inches long and about 14 inches wide. Smear with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Slice the dough down the middle length wise (So you will make 2 hotdogs, not 2 hamburgers – as my grade school art teacher used to say).
- Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.
- Slice the dough from skinny end to skinny end, revealing all the filling inside. Pinch the ends at the top and gently “braid” the dough.
- Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, exposed filling up, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and put back into the still warm oven for 30 minutes. When the dough has risen so that it is starting to rise above the top of the pan pull it out of the oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven.
- Pull out the bread and allow it to cool in the pan for 15-30 minutes.
- Then run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert it to turn it out of the pan.
- Let it continue to cool or slice it and enjoy it warm.
Recipe Inspired by the Pioneer Woman
- This was WAY tougher than I imagined it would be to make
- It takes perseverance to feel like I have accomplished the challenge I have before me
- I hope my in-laws enjoy the bread this week while they are at our house
- I don’t want to bake bread again for a while – my pants don’t want me to either…ouch