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There’s nothing better than fresh, homemade bread… unless it’s also cinnamon swirl bread, of course!
Making a cinnamon swirl loaf isn’t as hard as it sounds, I promise. In fact, it’s not all that different from making homemade wheat bread. It just has a few extra steps.
My recipe is a variation of one my mom and grandma learned at a Shar’s Kitchen cooking class.
How to Make Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread
The first part of the recipe is the exact same as my homemade honey whole wheat bread. But since nobody likes having six billion screens open at the same time to cook a single recipe, I’ve got it all here again. (Cue the Moana soundtrack: “You’re Welcome!”)
In any case, let’s get those mixers ready, shall we?
I have an older generation of this Bosch. It’s the best mixer I’ve ever had. Okay, so it’s the only mixer I’ve ever had. Even so, I’m a fan. This is the same mixer my mom used to make bread while I was growing up. These things are built to last.
In your mixer with a dough hook, mix:
- 6 cups of warm water. The original recipe recommends having the water at 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve never measured the water temperature. I just turn on the hot water and call it good. It’s worked just fine. Want to add some extra protein and nutrients? If you make your own Greek yogurt, you can easily substitute room temperature whey for equal amounts of water. It does NOT affect the flavor of the bread.
- 2 tablespoons sea salt. I’ve also used kosher salt – although you’ll want to do closer to 2.25 tablespoons or the bread will lack that extra oomph.
- 2/3 cup canola oil. Do this before the next step. Trust me.
- 2/3 cup honey. If you did the oil first, the honey will slide out of the measuring up a LOT easier. Aren’t you glad you trusted me?
- 3 tablespoons dough enhancer. It took me a few years to decide that this was actually a good idea. It does make a difference to the flavor – in a great way. Don’t leave it out – your mouth will thank me.
- 2 cups high gluten bread flour OR 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten. I know that gluten is a hot topic. I’ve made the bread without this just fine, though the bread doesn’t rise as well. I tend to only put a few tablespoons in (like 3) and the bread is just fine. I haven’t noticed any change in flavor based on the amount of gluten added – or left out.
- My own special ingredient: flax seed meal. It’s another ingredient that has ZERO impact on the flavor and adds a ton of nutrition. It makes the bread appear speckled and more whole-wheaty. My picky boys don’t mind it at all. Check your local whole foods store or Costco – that’s where I get mine. I usually add about 1/2 cup.
- 3-4 cups of fresh ground flour. This isn’t all you’ll need, so have more than this. I typically end up using about 10-12 cups whole wheat and 2-3 cups of white bread flour. This is just to start the mix. You can use bread flour, fresh-ground wheat flour, or a mixture of the two. I prefer to grind my own wheat for about 75% of the flour used in my recipe, because while I prefer the taste of whole wheat bread, my family prefers the mixed flavor of 75% wheat and 25% bread (white) flour.
- 3 tablespoons instant yeast. I’ve used a variety of yeasts and so far all have worked just fine. I use whatever I got on sale.
Mix the ingredients together for a few moments. Then turn off your mixer, put the lid on, and…
Let it be.
That’s right. You need to WALK AWAY. Trust me. Go check your Facebook, like me, follow me on Pinterest, Google+, or Twitter for 10-15 minutes. Give the yeast time to activate and work. This will make a world of difference in how the bread tastes and rises.
When you come back and take the lid off, you’ll notice the amazing smell of a strong yeast bread. You can thank me now.
Time to add more flour – when the mixer is OFF.
Next you’ll turn on the mixer and start adding flour. Keep adding flour until the all the dough is pulled off the sides and bottom of the mixer. Use the least amount of flour possible to achieve this. Doing so means you’ll have super moist bread. Be sure to turn the mixer off when adding flour. Then turn it on for a minute to evaluate how much more flour you need to add.
Two reasons to turn off the mixer:
- I have small kids who like to help and I like their fingers where they are – attached.
- I don’t like flour scattered around my kitchen from trying to add flour to a moving mixer.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes.
Let it knead for about 10 minutes with the lid on for safety.
This next step is optional, though it does make the bread fluffier and more even throughout. Throw the dough in a bowl and let it rise. This is a great time to do some clean up – or play with the kids. Once it’s doubled in size, punch it down.
Once the bread is done being beaten up and is a beautiful ball of dough, make sure you have a large area of clean and clear counter space (or a giant silicone pastry mat. I love mine) and oil your hands. I’ve used both oil spray and from the jug. Maybe I’m lazy, but I use the cooking spray.
With the dough on your silpat, you can start shaping the loaves. I use a non-metal cutter to separate the dough into 6-8 equally sized chunks. Why not metal? Because I don’t want to destroy my silpat – or my wooden table. I use standard-sized glass bread pans and I can get anywhere from 6 to 8 loaves. Why the range? It depends on how big the loaves end up. It also depends on if I’m making rolls. More rolls means less loaves of bread.
I make each section of dough big enough to take up about half of the pan.
This is the Cinnamon Swirl Step:
Skip this step if you want regular whole wheat bread. You’re missing out, but I understand. PB&J doesn’t go well on Cinnamon Swirl bread.
Using an oiled rolling pin, roll one of the dough sections flat. The flatter you get it, the more cinnamon swirl you’ll have. This time I got it pretty thin. I’m bad at estimating, but I’d guess it was no more than 1/4 inch thick. Make sure that the width of the flattened dough is LESS than the length of your bread pan. It has to fit in the pan, after all.
The next step is to apply something to the dough for the cinnamon sugar to stick to. Remember how I’m lazy? (Or efficient) I use the cooking spray and give it a quick layer of oil. Melted butter or canola/vegetable oil can also be used. Don’t use olive oil – it’ll taste funny. And you’ll throw away the bread.
Next, you’ll want to sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar. I, however, prefer to dump it on. My cinnamon sugar mixture is pretty dark – I’m pretty sure that I’m using all of that cinnamon to compensate for all of the sugar. Oh well. It’ll taste great.
Now that you have the bread properly cinnamon-ified, roll it up. For reference, roll it from the far end, going towards you, to the nearest end. After it’s rolled up, pinch the dough together. Be gentle, but make sure that both the ends and the bottom are sealed up tight. Then pick up the loaf of bread and throw it down onto your table.
That’s right. Throw it onto the table.
But only once.
This helps seal the bread better and compact it so you’ll have fewer air bubbles. You can seal regular bread this way, too, but it’s not as important. The cinnamon swirl bread, having lost a good amount of its surface area due to cinnamon sugar-ing, has a harder time staying together without this step.
Time to rise!
Rest your dough babies into some well-greased bread pans. Or just use the cooking spray again. Did I mention how much I love the convenience of cooking spray?
Turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cover the bread with a towel. I like to set my bread pans full of dough (ready to rise) on the top of my oven (okay, so I’m using my stove top, because that’s how my oven’s designed) as it pre-heats. After all, rising bread (and yeast) like warm temperatures. Let the bread rise for about 30 minutes – or until it’s doubled in size. Again.
Using the top of the oven while the oven pre-heats has two benefits: 1. the rising dough loves the warmth and 2. the bread is usually done rising at the same time the oven’s ready to cook the bread.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.
35 minutes in my oven is perfect. It’s not convection, so I set the timer for 20 minutes. Then I pull the bread out, move them around, and stick ’em back in for the last 15 minutes. I can’t wait to have a convection oven again so I can avoid the bread tetris game midway through the cooking cycle.
Keep in mind that the bread will rise a little bit more while cooking. If it’s a tight fit into the oven, it may not come out. Rearrange the oven rack height and try again.
Let cool – in the pan
For about five minutes on top of a cooling rack – unless your counter can take it. I don’t want to find out if mine can’t, so I use the racks.
After five minutes or so in the pan, it’s time to get the bread out. This five minutes in the pan, weirdly, makes a huge difference in getting the bread out of the pan. If I don’t wait, the bread doesn’t come out as easily.
Let it cool for reals
Time to let it cool on the cooling racks – out of the pan. Feel free to stop and look at how gorgeous those loaves are! My mouth is watering. Quick break for a slice of bread…
Oh, wait. It’s still too hot to eat, let alone touch. FINE! I’ll let it cool.
FINALLY! Time to enjoy
The bread needs to cool at least 10 minutes before it’s ready to slice. You can eat it before that ten minute mark, but the loaf will squish as you slice it. If you wait at least ten minutes, it’ll harden to keep its shape as you slice it. Don’t worry – it’ll still be warm enough to melt the butter.
It’s finally time to enjoy the bread… yummy! Slather on some butter (and maybe sprinkle on some more cinnamon sugar, because why not?) and enjoy!