Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Cranberries

You’ve all recovered from Thanksgiving, right? Come on…we’ve got to carbo-load for Christmas.

Slice2

I made this bread on a lazy Saturday morning while we had a plumber and an electrician in the basement. I won’t bore you with the details of home ownership and the projects therein, but we needed some work done and let’s just put it this way: Eric and I could not have done any of that business ourselves. So, we hired some awesome help who made it happen in just a few short hours.

I have no clue what those guys did to our house and I have a feeling my husband is equally mystified.

All I knew is that I had some hungry men on my hands and a few hours where I had to be at the house. What better task to assign oneself than bread baking?

Berries2

Berries1

The funny part is that our aforementioned electrician also happens to be Eric’s best friend. His name is Adam and he is…a character. Adam, if you’re reading this – I mean that as a compliment, of course.

Adam is many things – a fellow home owner, a fiercely loyal friend, matter-of-fact and funny. The only problem is that – when he comes over – I tend to unintentionally provide him with most of his material.

All stand up comics should have a muse like me.

On this particular day, Adam busted me taking my food photos. Like, I was all up in one of my loafs of bread when Adam came up from the basement and I was gettin’ pretty pervy in the depths of food photography. He looked at me like I had ten heads and eventually allowed me to explain what the heck I was doing hovering over my freshly baked bread like a hungry hunchback.

While he thought food blogging was weird – and rightfully so – he quickly changed his stance after taking one bite of this bread.

“If I could make bread like this, I’d blog about it.”

DucksInRowWell, if you read this post and follow the recipe below – you, too – can make bread exactly like this. Bread baking is a funny thing. It’s time consuming, yes, but not in the same sense as studying for the bar exam or training for a half marathon. By the way, I should tell you I’ve done neither of those things, but they seem like daunting tasks, don’t they?

By imaginary comparison, bread baking actually offers a lot of down time. This means you can do anything else it is that you’d like to do, in the meantime. Watch some trashy TV (yay!), do laundry (boo), take pictures of the bread baking process (weird route to take, according to Adam)…whatever bakes your bread brownies.

While many breads rise only once, this one requires two rises. It doesn’t mean it’s more complicated – it just means it takes a little more time. I promise though – it’s worth the wait.

Explosion

Plus, look how exciting bread making is! My mixer literally exploded with dough, but everything turned out okay. Keep an eye on yours and instead of photographing the dough-verload (see what I did there?), simply slow the mixer down or turn it off completely so that you can push the dough back down and show it who’s boss.

Dough2

Dough1

Once the base of the dough has mixed for a bit, it’s time to add some dried cranberries that were soaked in warm water before this whole process got started. I know what you’re thinking: “Ohhhh! That’s what those pictures I saw up there were about!”

Soaking the cranberries in water does a couple of things – it takes the fruit from all shriveled up to plump and flavors the water we incorporated into the dough. Two birds one stone, baby!

BrainBread

After the first rise, dump your ball of dough onto a surface that’s been lightly dusted with flour. Appreciate your husband’s astute observation that the dough closely resembles a brain right about now and tease him that you are in fact, making brain bread.

Then, give him your best evil laugh/crazy look. Go ahead and get weird…you guys are married now.

FillingAs now-defunct celebrities would say about bedrooms on MTV Cribs, “this is where the magic happens.” Here, we have a healthy amount of cinnamon and sugar in one little prep bowl and an egg – that will eventually be beaten with a little bit of water – in another.

Sprinkle

Divide your big dough ball into two equal(ish) pieces and roll them out super thin. The thinner the better because that makes for more cinnamon-swirly-deliciousness once all is said and done. Before you sprinkle the surface of your dough with this sweet and spicy goodness, make sure you lay down a little of your egg wash so that everything sticks together nicely.

Roll Up

Rise Before

Then, roll your dough up and stuff it in a loaf pan. There she is…all nicely nestled and ready to rise!

Rise After

I told you this thing was ready to rise. Here’s how it looks after being brushed with a little bit of the leftover egg wash right before baking.

Is it gross to admit I think this already looks good enough to eat? Remind yourself it’s raw dough (um, ew) and pop it in the oven.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Cranberries

adapted from the Kitchn
Yield: 2 loaves
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes (active), 1 1/2 hours (inactive)
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup (6 oz) dried cranberries
1 cup (8 oz) warm water
1 tablespoon active dry (or instant) yeast
1 cup (8 oz) milk – I use 1%, but any will do
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 1/2 – 6 cups (1 lb 11.5 oz – 1 lb 14 oz) flour (I used a combo of white whole wheat and bread)Filling:
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons warm water

Directions:
Put the cranberries in a small bowl and cover them with 1 cup hot water. Let the cranberries plump for at least 10 minutes. Using a sieve or colander, separate liquid from berries – pouring liquid into a large mixing bowl and setting berries aside in the bowl they were originally soaking in.

Once your water has come to room temp, sprinkle the yeast over top. Give it a few minutes if using active dry (or skip right to next step if using instant), then stir to fully dissolve the yeast into the water. Stir the milk, melted butter, salt and cinnamon into the water. Add 5 1/2 cups of the flour and stir to form a shaggy dough.

Knead in your mixer on low speed with a dough hook or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes to form a smooth, slightly tacky dough. Check the dough halfway through; if it’s very sticky (think: bubble gum), add a little more flour. The dough is ready when it forms a ball without sagging and quickly springs back when poked.

Toss the cranberries with a few tablespoons of flour to absorb any residual moisture from when they were plumped. With the mixer on gradually add them to the bowl and continue kneading until they are evenly distributed. Then, remove dough and give the bowl a coating of nonstick spray – then set dough back inside and cover.

If kneading by hand – turn the dough out onto your work surface and pat it into an oval. Sprinkled about half the cranberries over the top and fold the dough like a letter. Pat it into an oval again, sprinkle the remaining berries, and fold it again. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes to distribute the raisins through the dough. (Alternatively, you can reserve the berries and sprinkle them over the dough along with the cinnamon-sugar.) Return the dough to the bowl and cover.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and beat together the egg and water in a second bowl. Divide the dough into two pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out on the counter. It should be slightly less wide than your baking pan and as long as you can make it. The thinner the dough, the more layers of crazy-good cinnamon swirl you’ll end up with. If the dough starts to shrink back on you, let it rest for a few minutes and then try again. Brush the entire surface of the dough with egg wash, leaving about two inches clear at the top. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar. Starting at the end closest to you, roll up the dough. When you get to the top, pinch the seam closed. Transfer the loaf to your loaf pan seam-side down. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Let the loaves rise until mounded over the top of the pan and pillowy, 30-40 minutes. Halfway through rising, preheat the oven to 375° F.Brush the top with some of the remaining egg wash. If desired, sprinkle some of your remaining cinnamon-sugar over the tops of the loaves as well. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool completely before slicing. Baked loaves can also be frozen for up to three months.
LoafLookDown
Look at that loaf. It’s just begging to be cut into. I, of course, didn’t even wait for mine to cool before slicing it up. I warned those hungry men that the bread would be warm and was immediately told by Adam with a sense of urgency that it was “ahhh, a little more than warm.”
SliceFortunately for me, no one was harmed in the making – or eating – of this bread.
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