Since the 2012 Bread Challenge started, Fridays have been the day that I say, “Oh, shit. I have to decide what kind of bread I’m going to make this Sunday.”  Luckily, the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated arrived in last Friday’s post (Oops. I mean “mail”. I’ve been watching too much Downton Abbey). And inside, just the recipe I was looking for – Cinnamon Swirl Bread. And who doesn’t love Cinnamon Bread?

This time, knowing what I now about Cook’s Illustrated recipes, I read the article completely before jumping in. Well, almost completely. I did catch the part in the beginning about not being tempted to add additional flour, but I missed the part about there being FOUR SEPARATE RISES.  One short 20-minute rise, and three 45-minute rises. This was probably not the best recipe for me to start at nearly 5:00pm. It was a late night. The things I do for you, Dear Reader. Mrs. Patmore would be proud.

At any rate, this recipe turned out great, and I would definitely recommend it for a day where you have a lot of time and nowhere to go. The best part: it makes two loaves, one for now and one for later – it freezes well. I bet it also makes some kick-ass French Toast.

As always, my comments and adjustments are in blue. Recipe and photos after the jump.


Cinnamon Swirl Bread (click over to Cook’s Illustrated for the full printable recipe, along with helpful tips)

Published March 1, 2012. From Cook’s Illustrated.


To achieve the proper dough consistency, make sure to weigh your ingredients. The dough will appear very wet and sticky until the final few minutes of kneading; do not be tempted to add supplemental flour. This time, I noticed this well in advance.



  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (I hate buying a pound of this when I only use one stick of it)
  • 3 ¾ cups (20 2/3 ounces) bread flour, plus extra for work surface
  • ¾ cup (2 ¾ ounces) nonfat dry milk powder (this stuff is expensive; need to find more recipes that contain it)
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 ½ cups (1 ½ pints) (12 ounces) warm water (110ºF)
  • 1 large egg , lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cups (7 ½ ounces) golden raisins (I almost left these out, but they seemed integral to the bread structure. They are.)


  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Egg Wash:
  • 1 large egg , lightly beaten with pinch of salt


Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon flour; set aside to soften while mixing dough. 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 minutes, scraping down bowl if necessary. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.

Very sticky sponge

Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven. Remove plastic from mixer bowl, add salt, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 7 to 15 minutes (mine came together at around the 8-minute mark). With mixer running, add butter, 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 to 5 minutes longer. (It’s going to seem like it’ll never come together, but be patient, Grasshopper).

Add raisins and mix until incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer dough to 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. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover tightly with plastic and transfer to middle rack of oven. Pour 3 cups boiling water into loaf pan in oven, close oven door, and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.

Boiling water to help the dough rise. I love that the steam appeared in the photo. And, damn, I need to clean my oven.

Remove bowl from oven and gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (making total of 8 folds), re-cover, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Whisk filling ingredients together until well combined; set aside. (I was expecting this to be a paste; it’s more like dry streusel topping)

Grease two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough, pat into rough 6 by 11-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold long sides in like business letter to form 3 by 11-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into ball. Dust ball with flour and flatten with rolling pin into 7 by 18-inch rectangle with even ¼-inch thickness. Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle half of filling mixture evenly over dough, leaving ¼-inch border on sides and ¾-inch border on top and bottom; spray filling lightly with water.

With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into 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. Repeat with second ball of dough and remaining filling.

The two batches of dough, resting

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 14-inch length. 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. Repeat with second loaf.

Braided dough

Cover loaves loosely with plastic, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Remove loaves and water pan from oven; heat oven to 350º. Allow loaves to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes longer.

Brush loaves with egg mixture. Bake until crust is well browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º degrees, cover loaves loosely with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200º degrees, 15 to 25 minutes longer.

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. That is a painfully long time to wait for bread, made worse when the cooling period ends around midnight, and you have to wait until the next day to try it.

Finished Cinnamon Swirl Bread!


  • I  have to say that this recipe was extremely involved, and very labor-intensive. But, that said, it turned out to to be well-worth the trouble. In fact, I brought one loaf into work yesterday, and Matthew (of last week’s birthday cake) emailed me: “It was totally worth it.”
  • This recipe can be a bit on the expensive side, what with the unsalted butter and dry milk powder that you might never use again and the huge amount of cinnamon. I’ll be trying to incorporate the first two items into future project recipes.
  • I’m always afraid that the dough isn’t going to rise, for one reason or another. I’m terrified of recipe failure. Rise #2 was particularly frightful, but I powered through and all ended up as it should.
  • The slicing and braiding were strokes of genius, and really made the loaves look beautiful.
  • Making this bread kept me from watching all of Downton Abbey on Sunday night. But, I finished it last night. Seriously, everything went to shit for the Crawleys, dinnit?

Here’s my finished slice:

Perfect swirl, Incredible bread.

And here’s what Cook’s Illustrated’s bread looked like:

Not too shabby! I would classify this bread as a success. The only thing missing is butter. But, it really doesn’t need it. It’s pretty outstanding.

If you’re interested in the detailed (but short) prep video from Cook’s Illustrated, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.