This Week's Adventure

A swirl of cinnamon

Scanning over my recipe list, two iterations on a theme caught my eye this week: cinnamon swirl bread and easy cinnamon bread. The easy cinnamon bread intrigued me, because it is leavened both with baking powder and yeast. I don’t think I’ve made anything like that before, so that was what I planned on–until I couldn’t find cinnamon flavored chips anywhere, not in my little local grocery store, not in the slightly larger grocery store the next town over, and not the large chain grocery store I visited while traveling this weekend. They had cherry-flavored chips of all things, but not cinnamon chips. So when I got home yesterday, cinnamon swirl bread it was.

This bread was delicious, but my methodology resulted in moments of both success and failure. I started well; I observed the dough closely during the kneading process, and I learned a lot.

Previous to starting this project, I didn’t really think about the hydration of the dough. I thought the dough just needed to be kneadable, so I would freely add flour if the dough was sticky. But now, trying to respect the recipes’ flour ratios, I’ve started using my bench scraper to scoop up the dough on one side, then flatten and fold it with my other hand, then scoop it up again. This keeps the dough from sticking to the counter, and seems to help it become more cohesive more quickly. Eventually, it reaches an equilibrium of hydration, no extra flour needed.

kneading textures.jpg
Clockwise from top left: just mixed; a few sticky minutes later; cohesive, but not perfect; and just glossy.

This dough was supposed to be “smooth and satiny.” Over about ten minutes, it went from rough but cohesive, to having a heavily textured surface despite a flexible feel, to increasingly smooth and shiny until it reached what I deemed to be satiny. Then, off to rise in a greased bowl. I gave it an hour and fifteen minutes, and it was good and puffy.

Then I ground up my cinnamon-raisin filling. I do not have a food processor, and have gotten quite used to babying my blender through a task better suited to its squatter, less liquid-oriented cousin. It took a lot of pulsing until the raisin pieces were as small as I wanted, but eventually we got to a sandy sort of texture.

blender.jpg
Cinnamon-raisin filling before and after blending.

The dough was good and soft, easy to stretch into the designated size (didn’t even need a rolling pin), and I had just the right amount of filling to cover it. Rolling it up into a swirl was likewise easy.

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Slab o’dough brushed with egg wash, filling patted on top.

I completed the first rise in the oven after letting it warm for a few minutes, but instructions for the second rise specified room temperature, under either a proof cover or greased plastic wrap. I decided to try the top of my cake carrier as a proof cover. It fit over the loaf pan fine, but the dough did take longer to rise than stated. It’s probably because the room temp was maybe 65, but I so far haven’t found any detailed explanation of how a proof cover is supposed to work, so maybe my cover was too big, or something.

But it eventually got close to crowning one inch over the pan, and I moved on. I made some very tasty-looking streusel for the top and put it in to bake.

Streusel

This is where the failure come in. I didn’t check the temperature of the loaf–not specified in the recipe, but there are temp guidelines for breads somewhere in the book–and it ended up sinking in the middle, only mostly-done.

While disappointed in the lack of pretty perfection, it was still delicious, slightly gooey center and all, so I didn’t mind so much. Husband and I ate it all over two days.

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I am happy that I made this bread, but I am not happy that I may have to order cinnamon chips online for the other recipe. Seriously, cherry-flavored chips?

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