Growing up, I remember thinking a slice of bread smeared with butter and dusted (heavy-handedly) with cinnamon-sugar was the most amazing thing since, well, sliced bread. Then I discovered cinnamon-raisin bread! A slice of bread with built-in cinnamon-sugar swirls and bonus raisins. Are you kidding me?!
I recently started to venture into yeast bread (for some reason, they’ve always intimidated me). After some trial and error and long overdue research, the intimidation dissipated. I knew, for nostalgia purposes, I had to dive in and create my own cinnamon-raisin swirl bread recipe. The best part, it is easy to make. Just a few ingredients, a couple of hours for rising time, and you’ll be enjoying delicious slices of cinnamon-raisin goodness.
Lean vs. enriched bread dough:
There are many variations of cinnamon-raisin swirl bread recipes out there. You can pretty much use any variation of a standard bread dough recipe and get a decent loaf of bread. But for this one, to get a deliciously tender, soft, rich bread, we will use an enriched dough.
So what is the difference between lean and enriched dough?
- A Lean dough is low in sugar and has little to no fat. The main ingredients being flour, water, salt, and yeast.
- Whereas enriched dough has the main ingredients of lean dough and generally contains a higher amount of fat, sugar, and eggs.
Cinnamon-raisin swirl bread ingredients
Just 9 ingredients, some patience, and a little technique are all this recipe requires to successfully make a beautiful homemade cinnamon-raisin swirl bread loaf.
- Flour: you can use all-purpose or bread flour without needing to adjust anything in the recipe. With either flour, you will get a great loaf of bread. However, if you have the means to, I highly recommend bread flour. It creates a much chewier, tender, and more flavorful bread because of its higher protein and gluten content.
- Yeast: you can use either active dry or instant yeast. The difference is how they are incorporated. Active dry yeast must have a liquid to activate the yeast. In comparison, instant yeast is added directly to your dry ingredients. The directions for this recipe were developed using active dry yeast.
- Sugar: this feeds the yeast and also helps to make a more tender dough. You will need two types of sugar, granulated sugar for the dough and powdered sugar for the filling.
- Salt: crucial for flavor. Not only because salt enhances flavors but because it slows down the rising process. Slower rising equals more developed flavors.
- Eggs: used to tenderize the dough, provide color, and assist in the rising process for softer and chewier bread.
- Butter: impacts the finished flavor and texture. Butter is used instead of oil to give a richer end flavor.
- Milk: you can use whatever milk you have on hand, but I recommend using full-fat milk because it helps to produces a softer and richer loaf of bread
- Raisins: you can’t have a cinnamon-raisin swirl bread recipe without raisins. But, they are completely optional, so you can keep them out if you don’t like them (gasp).
- Cinnamon: the main event for getting that beautiful swirled middle.
Overview: how to make cinnamon-raisin swirl bread:
Make and knead the dough:
This recipe uses a stand mixer and a dough hook to make and knead the dough for simplicity purposes. However, you can still make it by hand. It just takes a lightly floured work surface, 10 minutes, and a bit of arm strength. Just make sure not to add too much flour. If working by hand and it becomes too tacky, let the dough rest for about 10-15 minutes to allow the liquids to absorb.
Cover and let rise:
After you’ve kneaded the dough, grease the bowl with butter or oil, place dough in a medium-large sized bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel, place in an area that is not drafty, and let rise at room temperature.
Make the filling:
Many recipes use a combo of cinnamon, granulated sugar, or brown sugar. To make a tighter swirl and keep it from separating, you will whisk together powdered sugar and cinnamon. Powdered sugar tends to get clumps, so I recommend sifting the mixture to remove them.
Punch down dough:
This releases some of the gas bubbles produced in the rising process and creates a finer bread crumb.
Shape and roll down into a 8x20 rectangle:
The size and length of your rectangle will determine the amount of swirl in your finished bread loaf. This recipe makes a slightly larger bread loaf, so I recommend a larger rectangle.
Brush with egg and dust with Cinnamon-sugar:
Like the sugar type used in the filling, the binder you use to brush onto the dough will impact the swirl's integrity. Brushing with an egg instead of butter creates a much firmer binding between the dough and the filling. You can use butter, which does give it an added richness of flavor.
Roll dough into a loaf:
This is where a little bit of technique comes in. To get a swirl that isn’t going to fall apart, you want to make sure that it is rolled as tightly as you can. Starting with the short side, rollover about 1 inch to get the swirl started. Roll another 1-2 inches and then pull back towards yourself to create tension. If you have ever rolled a sleeping bag, it is a similar movement. Roll, pull back, creating tension, and continue rolling and pulling back every couple inches until you get to the end. Pinch and seal the dough.
Let rise about 1 hour:
In a greased loaf pan, place your dough and let rise. It will have risen about ½ -1” inch above the edge of the pan when it is done.
Brush dough with egg & bake for 30-35 minutes:
Brushing the dough with an egg before baking is optional. It does help with the crust's overall appearance once it is baked, giving it a shinier and crispier crust.
Tips for keeping cinnamon-raisin swirl bread from separating:
Your bread is out of the oven, you’ve patiently waited for it to cool, and you cut in to find little gaps between the swirls. While this won’t make your bread any less tasty, it can be frustrating if it looks like it is falling apart.
Why is this happening?
- During the 2nd rise, the yeast creates gases that allow your bread to rise, but these gases can get caught in the spiral layers.
- During the baking process, steam is being generated and pushes into the swirl layers, causing gaps to form from the pressure.
How do you prevent this from happening?
- The type of binding agent
- The type of sugar
- The tightness of the roll
In this cinnamon swirl bread recipe, an egg is used as the binding agent, and powdered sugar is used as the preferred sugar for the filling. This is because the protein in the egg creates a strong adhesive once it dries. Simultaneously, the starch and smaller sugar granules from the powdered sugar allow less steam to be created once the sugar heats up during the baking process.
Finally, the tightness of the roll plays a large factor as well. It is important to roll as tightly as you can. As mentioned in the previous section, the technique is similar to rolling a sleeping bag. Roll, pull back, create a bit of tension, and continue rolling and pulling back every couple inches until you get to the end.
How long does cinnamon-raisin swirl bread last:
There’s nothing like freshly baked bread, but if for some reason you have leftovers, it's best within the first 1-2 days. Serve sliced as is or toasted and topped with salted butter (my personal preference).
Your bread can also be stored at room temperature, firmly wrapped in plastic or foil to block air and prevent from going stale, for 3-5 days.
If you are not planning on eating it immediately, you can store it in the freezer for up to 1 month. To freeze, I recommend wrapping tightly in plastic and a layer of foil.
Recommendation for uses of leftover or stale cinnamon-raisin swirl bread:
- Bread pudding
- French toast
- French toast bake
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If you end up making and enjoy this delicious cinnamon-raisin swirl bread recipe, please consider tagging @nightowlsbakingco on Instagram and leaving a review below.