I don’t know if it’s the changing of the seasons, the leaves, the weather or all of the above that makes me want to bake everything and anything. The past couple weeks I’ve been scrolling through my recipes of seasonal breads and cookies (drooling) and I can’t choose. Do I make the pumpkin snicker-doodles or the pumpkin cinnamon rolls with caramel frosting? But then I make pumpkin-pull-apart every year and I can’t not make that this year! Oh, the decisions! And one thing I am not good at is making decisions. This creates a big problem when it comes to holiday baking. I make all the things! Actually, side note, this past week I was looking through baking notes from last Christmas (I mean, everybody does that, right?) and at the top, I wrote “Cut back next year!” So far, things aren’t looking good for me…
Well, out of all the pumpkin and fall-inspired recipes I have yet to make, I went with a classic stand-by — Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread. I think it’s one of the first bread recipes I ever made — way back in, ohh, 2008. I tell ya, it was years ago.
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something so gratifying about starting with just a handful of basic, pantry-staple ingredients and then creating…this! I love kneading the bread, getting the feel of the dough, and just creating something so basic, yet so delicious. #foodnerd
Anywho…this is one of my favorite breads and it also happens to be a bread my father-in-law really enjoys, too (with extra raisins). I made it for him and a group of others who were staying with us last year, only to find out that he loves baked goods with raisins in it. Score for the new daughter-in-law! So, in honor of his birthday this past week, I decided to share our favorite with all of you today.
Although many people are intimidated by yeast breads, they’re relatively simple to make. It just takes time and a little bit of practice to really get the “feel” of the dough down. Trust me, this is a bread nobody in your family will mind you practicing on — it’s so good! Some things to keep in mind when starting out making your own bread:
1) You don’t want to kill your yeast (it’s living, you know!), so make sure your water and oil mixture isn’t boiling. You just want it warm. 120 degrees is the recommended temp, but I zap it in the microwave for a minute or so, test it with my finger to make sure it’s “very warm.” If you want to be exact, go ahead and take the temperature of it.
2) Don’t be afraid to use your flour! The dough will be sticky at first, so be generous. As you knead and when you’re rolling out the dough, make sure the counter is well floured. If you’re getting frustrated with the process, you may just need more flour —it makes things so much easier.
3) Not sure how to knead? It’s a rhythmic motion that is one of my favorite parts of making bread. Basically, it’s three steady motions of 1) slight fold, 2) rock into it with the heel of your hands, 3) turn of the dough 45 degrees and repeat. Again, it just takes practice to feel comfortable doing it.
4) As you roll up the rolled-out dough (er, does that make any sense?), make sure to pinch it shut as you go and roll it fairly tightly. Otherwise, you come out with bread like the last batch I just made with large gaps in the swirl. Don’t be like me.
5) Be patient. Yeast bread does take time. It’s not so much the time you actually spend doing anything. It’s the time it takes to let it rise (twice) and bake. It’s the perfect thing to make when you’re going to be around the house on a Saturday or Sunday. Plus, then you can enjoy the smell of cinnamon and freshly baked bread the entire rest of your day. You don’t have to have candles, you can have the real deal. #win
Have I overwhelmed you yet? Are you still with me?
If all else fails, just “gild the lily” and add a glaze over top — it makes everything just a little bit better. You can thank my father-in-law for that addition to the bread. Oh, and the extra raisins. :)
Now, what’s next for my seasonal baking recipes…I think those pumpkin cinnamon rolls are calling my name.
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Yields 2 loaves
Slightly adapted from: Betty Crocker
- 6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 2 packages regular active or fast-acting yeast
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- Generous 1 cup raisins
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Vegetable oil
- Butter or margarine, softened
- In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, the salt and yeast. Heat water and oil until very warm (120°F to 130°F), but not boiling; stir into flour mixture. Stir in eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
- Place dough on lightly floured surface; gently roll in flour to coat. Knead 8 to 10 minutes or until smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. (If desired, at this point, dough can be refrigerated up to 4 days.) Cover; let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. (If using fast-acting yeast, do not let rise 1 hour; cover and let rest on floured surface 10 minutes.) I put my dough on top of a warm oven or in an oven that was preheated to the lowest temperature possible and then turned off. On cold days, I’ll place the bowl in front of a burning fireplace.
- Grease 2 (9×5-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray. Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half. Knead generous 1/2 cup of the raisins into each half. Roll each half into 18×9-inch rectangle. Brush 1 tablespoon oil over rectangles.
- In small bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon; sprinkle each rectangle with half of sugar-cinnamon mixture. Beginning at 9-inch side, roll up each rectangle. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Press each end with side of hand to seal; fold ends under loaf. Place loaves, seam sides down, in pans. Brush oil over loaves. Cover; let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
- Move oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 375°F. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to cooling rack. Brush butter over loaves; cool.
- Once cooled, for optional glaze, whisk together 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon milk, and 1/4 cup powdered milk until smooth. Drizzle on top of bread.