Thursday, March 11, 2010

Swirls Make Everything Prettier

Everyone has heard the story of who invented Scotch tape, zippers, or Post-Its. Most of the time, these inventions stem from some crazy "Eureka!" moment that changes the way the world works. For Post-Its, I'm not so convinced, but they do  make cluttering your apartment with little sticky notes a whole lot easier, that's for sure.

Now I've got a question for you: who came up with the idea of putting swirls in baked goods, and more specifically in bread? It might have been a mother who had a hard time getting her children to eat bread once it hardened, and thought putting something swirly inside would help. Or it might have been a pure coincidence, but it's more fun to tell a  story--hey, remember when Phil tried making bread with cinnamon and ended up with these weird swirls in the middle? So funny!

OK, maybe not. Wherever this tradition of swirly bread may have originated, I fully adhere to it. Bread is already pretty tasty in itself, but having an extra little treat winding its way around is even better. When I was younger, I was a huge fan of the cinnamon nut swirl bread from Strawberry Fields, our local natural/organic food shop. Toasted and slightly buttered, it was a great weekend treat. In fact, I just may fly back home this May just for a taste of it. Not to see my parents, just for the bread. (Note to my wonderful parents: Just kidding, really!)

I've been dreaming about recreating the tastiness that comes along with biting into a fresh slice of cinnamon-swirl bread, where you feel like you won't be able to stop yourself from slicing the whole loaf and eating it up in a few minutes. Back in Saint Dié for a few days, I set out to make cinnamon-swirl bread myself.

All I can say is: yum. Alright, it seriously had nothing to do with the bread I grew up with, where the swirls had a lot more filling. But it was pretty good for a first try, and definitely tasty enough to be my breakfast of choice for the next three days. I left on the third day...otherwise I would have no qualms whatsoever about eating six day-old bread. Especially this one.

I'm all ears (or eyes, I guess) if you have any suggestions to make the filling more...filling-esque!

Cinnamon-Swirl Bread
adapted from
makes 1 loaf

2 TB unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 3 TB melted butter, plus more for bowl and pan
1/3 c. + 1 TB milk
1/4 c. warm water
1 package active dry yeast
3 TB plus a pinch sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 TS salt
1 TS ground cinnamon

Make the dough: Lightly butter a medium bowl and set aside. In a smal saucepan set over medium-low heat, heat 1/3 cup milk and 2 TB butter until bubbles form along the sides of the saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside. In a cup, combine 1/4 c. warm water, yeast, and a pinch sugar. Stir to combine; the mixture should foam in about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, slightly beat 1 egg. Slowly add milk mixture, stirring to combine. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour, a heaping TB sugar, and salt. Mix on low to combine. Gradually add the milk mixture, beating on low until well combined. Add the yeast mixture, beating to combine.

Remove dough to work surface,  and knead until it is silky and smooth and bounces back when pressed with your thumb. Transfer to prepared bowl, turning to coat in butter. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C, with rack in the center. Make the filling: Lightly butter an 8 1/2-by-4-by-2-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; set aside. 

Remove dough from bowl, and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Knead until silky and smooth. 
Roll the dough into an 8 1/2-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush the surface of the dough with 3 tablespoons melted butter, and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. 

Beginning with a long side, roll the dough up into a log. Using your fingertips, be sure to push in at the seam where the dough meets the cinnamon sugar. Carefully pull the dough back to its original 8 1/2-inch width as it shrinks. When you reach the end, pinch the two layers of dough together to seal. Place the roll, seam-side down, in prepared pan. Cover, and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. 

Make the glaze: Whisk together remaining egg and 1 tablespoon milk. Brush over the risen dough. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a finger, about 40 minutes. 
Remove from oven, and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
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grace said...

i often randomly wonder who came up with so many things. i hadn't previously considered the source of the swirl in baked goods, but whoever it was deserves a pat on the back. your bread looks great, lucie!

Paris Pastry said...

It's been too long since I made a swirl bread! The last one I baked was a chocolate-swirl brioche, also from Martha Stewart.

ArchaeologyAnna said...

Hahaha! I love this post! You are so right about swirls!!! Speaking of swirls... have you seen Disney's Hercules? Most of the animation in that movie has at least one swirl as part of the design! : )

Fran said...

This looks really yummy, I will try it! :)

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Anonymous said...

That looks totally fun to eat. To maximise jam-spreading surface area, I would unswirl it and spread jam EVERYWHERE! :) You've done an awesome job with the bread.

Lucie said...

Thanks everyone, this was (from what I can remember!) my first time baking bread so I can only try to improve from here!

Vicky: I was pretty tempted to unswirl it and spread cinnamon butter everywhere. I didn't, but it was hard to resist!

Snooky doodle said...

this looks awesome and sounds delicious! :)