This cinnamon swirl bread is a classic pan loaf that just gets better when toasted and spread with butter or used for French toast. There are a few keys to making this loaf perfectly: You need to scald the milk to denature the proteins that inhibit the bread rising; you need to use ice instead of water to cool the milk down; and you need to fold the dough only once, rather than the usual three or four times, so as not to build too much strength into the dough. You will be rolling it up tightly, after all, and you don’t want the layers to separate. The final key? Lots and lots of cinnamon sugar.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Baking By Hand: Make the Best Artisanal Breads and Pastries Better Without a Mixer © 2013 by Andy & Jackie King, Page Street Publishing.
- Yield: Two 5-in × 9-in/12 × 23-cm pan loaves
- Desired Dough Temperature: 85˚F/30°C
- Mixing Time: 40 minutes
- Bulk Fermentation: ~2 hours
- Proofing Time: ~2 hours
- Baking Time: ~25 minutes
- Cooling Time: ~15 minutes
- 1 lb 12.75 oz/815 g white bread flour
- 3.75 oz/110 g granulated sugar
- 6.5 oz/180 ml whole milk
- 6.5 oz/180 g ice
- 6 oz/170 g large eggs
- 3.25 oz/90 g unsalted butter, melted
- 2 ½ tsp/17 g fine sea salt
- 2 tsp/8 g instant yeast
- ⅓ cup/40 g ground cinnamon and ⅓ cup/60 g granulated sugar, mixed together
- Combine your flour and sugar in your large mixing bowl. Warm your milk in a pan on the stove or in the microwave until it is steaming, and then pour it into a large bowl and combine with the ice to make a (relatively) room-temperature liquid. Add the eggs and melted butter and swish the mixture around with your hand to mix it up, making sure to break all of the yolks. Then, dump your flour and sugar on top of the liquid ingredients, and mix it by hand for about 30 seconds, until it comes together in a shaggy mass. Don’t forget to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl regularly; you want all of that flour hydrated and don’t want to see any dry spots. Set aside in a warm place, at least 80˚F/25°C, for 30 minutes. If you’re having trouble finding your warm place, it’s time to use your trusty heat lamp.
- Sprinkle the salt and yeast on top of the dough and grab a four-finger pinch of the dough and pull. It should stretch out like chunky taffy rather than just tear off. Incorporate the salt and yeast into the dough, continuously pushing the sides of the dough into the middle while turning the bowl. After a minute of this, the dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl and developing a bit of a sheen, and you shouldn’t feel any crunchy salt crystals. Cover the bowl and put it in your warm place for 1 hour.
- Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and give it your four-fold. The fold will happen just once. You’re actually looking to just build a little strength into the dough here, not a whole lot. You are going to be rolling in a layer of cinnamon sugar for the final shape, and you don’t want to create so much strength that the layers separate when popped in the oven. So, after the fold, wait another hour, and if your kitchen’s at a nice, warm temperature, you’re now ready to divide.
- Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface; it should be a little sloppy. Using your bench knife and scale, divide into two 1 pound, 12 ounce/800-g pieces. Gently pre-shape the dough into loose 8-inch to 10-inch/20 to 25-cm cylinders (see page 39), and cover with cloth or plastic so they can relax for the final shaping. This will take about 1 hour. When the pieces are relaxed enough where you can pat them out and they won’t go springing back, they’re ready to shape.
- Orient the piece of dough so that the skinnier ends are at the top and bottom of your work surface, and pat out with your hands until they’re about ¼-inch/ 5 mm thick. Spray the surface of the dough down with water, and, leaving a ½ inch/1 cm rim around the perimeter (you’ll need those clean edges to seal the perimeter shut when you’re done shaping), sprinkle a layer of cinnamon sugar on the dough so that you can’t see the dough underneath, but no more. This should be about ⅓ cup/50 g per loaf.
- Starting at the end of the dough closest to you, roll the dough up—but don’t just fold it over itself. Stretch some tension into the surface of the dough, and when you get to the end, pinch the seam shut so that you have a nice, tight cylinder with a smooth surface. Place the shaped loaves into oiled 5-inch x 9-inch/ 12-cm x 23-cm loaf pans, and cover with a cloth.
- While your dough is proofing, place your baking stone on the lowest rack in your oven, and your cast-iron pan on the highest rack. Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200°C. Check in on your bread periodically; if the surface feels dried out, spray it with a bit of water to allow for maximum expansion. If it feels cold, make it warmer. This may take up to 2 hours, depending on the conditions of your kitchen. The loaf is ready to go in when the dome of the loaf has risen about 2 inches/5 cm above the lip of the pan.
- Spray the surface of the loaves one last time with a few spritzes of water. Now, grab three ice cubes from the freezer. Being careful to not keep the oven door open too long and let the heat out, open the oven, slide your loaves onto the stone, throw the three ice cubes into the cast-iron pan and close the door. After 5 minutes, quickly open the door and spray the interior of the oven with water. Continue baking until the loaf is an even golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans immediately and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting. If the sides and bottom seem too light after removing the pans, feel free to place them back in the oven for 5 minutes to firm up the crust.