Do you see what I see? Visions of Virgin Mary may imprint on your morning toast but my household is decidedly more secular. Look! There’s a panda on my cinnamon raisin swirl bread! Or does it look like a cute little bulldog to you? In either case, cuteness rules at Candy’s kitchen and now you cannot un-see it. I am much better at baking than I thought.
I’ve been fiercely craving homemade cinnamon swirl bread for a few weeks. A soft loaf enriched with milk, butter, and eggs and a hypnotising swirl of sugar and cinnamon. Of course raisins are mandatory but not just any dried up chewy specimen. I wanted juicy raisins plumped with dark rum. Obviously this is not a loaf that I can waltz into any bakery to bring home. It was time to take matter into my own hands.
What makes swirl bread awesome? The swirls, of course. How disappointing would it be if swirls of filling gave way to gaping holes in my slice of bread! Thankfully, America’s Test Kitchen was already one step ahead and came up with this reliable no gap recipe (available at Cook's Illustrated Cookbook). It was a simple trick of brushing the dough with milk as adhesive to cinnamon sugar and dough. The enriched dough was not lean like sandwich bread yet not rich like brioche. It strike a good balance.
I veered slightly off the recipe with the way I made up the dough. I rubbed cold butter into the flour and judged the mixing time by texture rather than time. With a fresh bottle of instant yeast, the dough was lively even when I tried to delay the first rise with an intermission in the fridge. The elastic dough behaved well and easily stretched to the required size. A handful of raisins was warmed with a glug of dark rum in the microwave before I scattered them over the cinnamon sugar. The tightly rolled loaf spent a night in the fridge. It rose overnight to the size I expected after proofing so I only had to bring the chilled dough to room temperature the next morning before baking.
My loaf of bread took a long time to bake before reaching the requisite 195F internal temperature. It was not easy to suppress my impatience as my kitchen was filled with the sweet bakery aroma. Waiting did pay off. Quite handsomely, in fact. When I finally sliced my freshly baked loaf into thin slices, Little Brother and I shared a blissful moment of quietly enjoying our breakfast. It was everything I hoped for in a cinnamon swirl raisin bread.
And a panda. Yay panda!