Of all the myriad ways I describe myself and what I do, “bread baker” has consistently been pretty low on the list. I have gotten pretty good with cakes and cookies and even pie, but bread still isn’t an area of my expertise.
That said, I’ve been slowly getting into bread-making since the start of the pandemic. I didn’t jump on the sourdough starter train or anything (seemed like a huge waste of flour at the time), but I tinkered with no-knead recipes and have since posted two English muffin breads and a dreamy, decadent cheese bread. Today though, I’m tackling one of my favorite things in all of bread-dom, classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread.
Oh yes, I have loved Cinnamon Swirl Bread as far back as I can remember. Paired with butter or peanut butter, it was my dad’s go-to “feed the kids” breakfast when I was little, and it’s one of my many go-to “feed yourself before your blood sugar drops further” meals at the ripe age of almost-37. A few weeks ago, I tried my hand at making Cinnamon Swirl Bread at home and it turned out so well! Soft, buttery, cinnamon-scented and perfect for toast.
Cinnamon Swirl Bread is super simple to make and can be put together in about 4 hours. That may seem like a lot, but with two rises and an hour of baking time, the active prep is a little more than 30 minutes.
The base recipe is exactly the same as the one I use for cheese bread—it’s soft and buttery, like a brioche. It comes together in minutes and is soft, pliable and so satisfying to knead. Let it rise once, then roll it out like you’re making cinnamon rolls and scatter it with cinnamon, sugar, and a little flour before rolling it up for a second rise. Flour in the filling may seem strange, but it lends some structure here so that the cinnamon swirl keeps its definition through the second rise and baking time. I can’t take credit for this brilliant tip—shout out to the fine folks at King Arthur Flour.
This bread needs nearly an hour in the oven, until it’s tall and deep brown and smells outrageously delicious. If you want a perfect swirl for toasting and all, you should probably let your Cinnamon Swirl Bread cool completely. I know that’s a big ask and you’re probably (justifiably) going to ignore it, but someone might revoke my newly-minted bread baker card if I don’t say it.
But for real, if you’re not at least tempted to tear into this like a wild animal, we might fundamentally misunderstand each other.
That’s okay, though. More Cinnamon Swirl Bread for the rest of us.
Cinnamon Roll Bread
makes one loaf
2 3/4-3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Make the dough. In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter and milk together until just warm to the touch, about 95-110 degrees.
Crack the egg into a small mixing bowl. Whisking constantly, add the butter/milk mixture in a thin stream until completely combined. Add mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together. A shaggy dough should form and be pulling away from the bowl. Gradually add flour in 2 tablespoon increments until the it pulls away a bit.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 5-6 minutes, until smooth. Gather dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, making sure to get a little oil on all sides. Stretch some plastic wrap over the top and allow dough to rise in a warm, draft-free environment for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
In the meantime, heavily grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with butter.
Mix the filling. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together sugar, cinnamon and flour. Set aside.
Flour a surface and a rolling pin. When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto the surface. Roll it out to an 11x14-inch rectangle (about 1/8-inch thick). Sprinkle the filling over the entire surface of the dough, leaving 1/2-inch bare on all sides. Starting from a short edge (an 11 inch edge), tightly roll the dough into a cylinder place it in the prepared pan. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap. Let loaf rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45-60 minutes, or until it peaks over the top of the pan. If you poke it with your finger, the dent should remain.
Meanwhile, set an oven rack in the central position. Preheat oven to 350F.
When loaf has risen, remove and discard the plastic wrap. Bake loaf for 50-55 minutes, tenting the loaf with foil if it is getting too dark. Test for doneness with a skewer—if it meets any resistance or comes out with dough on it, bake in five minute increments until neither of those things happens. To test for doneness with a thermometer, insert the end into center. If it reads at 190F or above, it’s done.
When the bread is done, brush the entire top with melted butter. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning it onto a rack to cool completely.
Slice bread thickly and enjoy warm or room temperature, or use it for toast. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to a week.