Cinnamon Swirl Bread


Oh my God, this bread takes FOREVER to make! It has 4 rise times of 45 minutes each. And that’s not counting all the prep time, mixing time, rolling time, baking time, cooling time… Whew, just tires me out to write about it and relive it all again.

But is it worth it? I sure as heck was hoping so as the interminable hours passed waiting for one rise…then another…then another…and yet another.

And once it’s finished baking, you need to let it cool for two hours! Oh, this was killing me!

And to make it worse, I started this entire process after dinner–not the kind of timing I recommend. Start it early in the morning one day when you have all day to hang around and no errands to run or parties to attend.

Make other goodies in between rise times. I mixed up ice cream and made jam and cooked some soup… And of course I had to clean up all the messes I made. I kept busy but my eyes got droopy as the clock ticked closer to midnight. That’s way past my bedtime, people!

But the thought of some homemade cinnamon swirl bread just sounded soooooo good. To add to that, the entire house smelled like a bakery. Cinnamon wafted into every corner, totally teasing my taste buds and triggering a drool factory.

By the time the bread finished baking, I had to wait for it to cool, but at this point, I was just glad I could go to bed. I was okay with not tasting it yet.

And YES, the following morning I awoke bright and early, eager to cut a slice. Oh my, people, IT WAS WORTH THE PAIN.

Delicate, light, airy bread laced with slightly gooey cinnamon sent shockwaves through my taste buds. I had to practice some serious raging willpower to not scarf the entire loaf right then and there. And I’m not kidding.

I can imagine it made into french toast. Good thing this makes two loaves so I can freeze one to try that out later.

Now, let me share a few observations I made along the way. This is easy to mix with a big stand mixer; I imagine it would be a nightmare without one.

The dough is very sticky after the first mix. Once butter is added (a lot of butter, I might add, but it helps create a tender bread), the dough looks very slick yet it grows quite elastic and easy to handle at this point. After rising, gas bubbles appear. I left them alone, for the most part.

Read the directions carefully; otherwise, you’ll mess up like I did on the rolling and sprinkling of the cinnamon swirl. I got to the step about patting out the dough, folding it into thirds, but totally forgot to then roll that into a ball and split the dough into halves. Hence, I rolled out all of it, thinking this was the step to sprinkle the cinnamon swirl. Oops! It really needed one more rolling and even some rest time somewhere in there. That’s what happens when you work late at night and are droopy eyed with fatigue. Never fear, I just rolled up the dough, cut it in half, and rolled again–and had to simply let go of the fact that I forgot to include rest time for the dough. My bread and swirls still came out pretty and tasty in the end.

As I was rolling, the dough had more of the gas bubbles and kept letting out the gas. It was quite hilarious. Lots of popping noises going on.

Bottom line: if you are up for a long process and a deliciously delicate-tasting final product, by all means try this recipe. I will definitely try this again some day…just not in the evening!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 1/4 cups (20 2/3 oz.) bread flour, plus extra for dusting work surface (recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups flour, but when I measured 20 2/3 oz. on my scale, it came out to 4 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup (2 3/4 oz.) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) golden raisins (I omitted these)


  • 1 cup (4 oz.) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with pinch of salt



  1. Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 tbsp. flour; set aside to soften while mixing dough (tossing butter with flour helps the dough grip the butter and pull it into the dough, resulting in a lofty baked loaf).
  2. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, sugar, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, add water and egg and mix on medium-low speed until cohesive mass forms, about 2-5 minutes, scraping down bowl if necessary. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove plastic wrap from mixer bowl, add salt, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 7-15 minutes (the long kneading time creates more elasticity and better traps gas for a taller rise).
  4. 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, 3-5 minutes longer.
  5. Add raisins and mix until incorporated, 30-60 seconds.
  6. Transfer dough to a 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. Repeat 6 more times for a total of 8 folds. (All this folding incorporates more air into the dough, encouraging it to expand and rise more.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to middle rack of oven. Place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water (this will create warm, humid air which will stimulate yeast activity and speed rise time); close door and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove bowl from oven; gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (making another set of 8 folds), re-cover with plastic wrap, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
  8. Filling: Whisk filling ingredients together until well combined; set aside.
  9. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans (mine were 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch).
  10. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough, pat into rough 6 x 11-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold long sides in like a business letter to form 3 x 11-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into a ball. Dust with flour and flatten with rolling pin into 7 x 18-inch rectangle with an even 1/4-inch thickness.
  11. Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle half of filling mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border on sides and a 3/4-inch border on the top and bottom. Spray filling lightly with water, making sure entire surface is speckled with water (FYI: powdered sugar absorbs water from the dough, dissolving to form a sticky paste that helps hold the layers together as the bread expands during proofing).
  12. With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into a firm cylinder. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch closed; pinch ends closed. Dust loaf lightly on all sides with flour and let rest for 10 minutes.
  13. Repeat with second ball of dough and remaining filling.
  14. Working with 1 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 a 14-inch length. (Cutting loaf and having cut side face up allows any trapped gas to escape during baking.) 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; push any exposed raisins into seams of braid (so they won’t burn during baking).
  15. Repeat with second loaf.
  16. Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  17. Remove loaves and water pan from oven. 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).
  18. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  19. Brush loaves with egg mixture (this will make crust shiny). Bake until crust is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F, tent loaves with aluminum foil to prevent sugar from burning, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees, 15-20 minutes longer (took 20 minutes for me).
  20. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.
  21. Baked and cooled loaves can be wrapped in double layer of plastic and stored at room temperature for 2 days. To freeze bread for up to 1 month, wrap it with additional layer of foil.

Yield: two loaves

SOURCE: Cook’s Illustrated magazine (March & April 2012)

3 thoughts on “Cinnamon Swirl Bread

  1. I bought this issue of Cook’s Illustrated just to try this recipe. I had to read the recipe in two sessions because it was so long and tedious. So glad to hear that it was worth all of the trouble. Can’t wait to try it. Your bread looks fabulous. I saw it on Foodgawker.

    • Let me know how it turns out when you try it. I’m just finishing off the second loaf and want to make some more already. I might try a chocolate filling in one next time, like the one used in babka bread (which I’ve made once with partial success and once as a dismal failure). Good luck!

  2. Pingback: Chocolate Babka | Scrumptious and Sumptuous

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