Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This is the bread that we always dreamed we would bake.

The dough was beautiful from the start -- elastic and soft. It rose like a beast, and sprang back after we punched it down. It hardly clung to the counter, folding easily into a roll. In the oven, it rounded out into a tall and golden loaf. The slices were evenly swirled, fluffy and chewy, and unbelievably delicious. The bread is sweet enough alone, but when you get to the heavily swirled, gooey bits in the middle, it's something quite special.

We've found that it's best to bake breads when there are several unimportant things to do, but nothing pressing. Today's bread took about four hours total, but we were able to fit the steps in between loads of laundry and watching Rock of Love II with Brett Michaels. We found the recipe on Cooks Illustrated this morning, and adjusted it for our standing-mixer-less kitchen. It requires some patience and steps, but we'd recommend it in a second.

Given our trouble getting doughs to rise, this (and challah) absolutely mark our most successful bread recipes yet. Like we mentioned, it's a dream loaf come true.

1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra

(filling and glaze)
1/4 cup sugar
5 tsp ground cinnamon
milk for brushing
1 large egg
2 tsp milk

Begin with the dough. Heat milk and butter together in a small saucepan until butter melts. Cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir slowly in a circular motion while adding sugar, eggs, salt and lukewarm milk mixture. Continue stirring a bit more quickly, and add 2 cups of flour until mixed thoroughly, then add remaining 1 1/4 cups flour until mixed through. Add more flour if dough seems extremely sticky. Remove dough from bowl, and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in covered, greased bowl to rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. Once risen, punch dough down once in the center, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar together for filling, and grease 9x5 inch loaf pan. Roll dough into an 8x18 inch rectangle, with the 8 inch side facing toward you. Brush milk over dough, and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it, leaving a 1/2 inch edge on the side farthest away. Beginning with the side closest to you, roll dough into a log shape, pressing ends together to make sure that it does not become more than 8 inches. Pinch dough ends together to form a tight seam, and push ends of dough toward the center. Pinch outside dough edges together to form a seal. Place the dough seam-side down into the loaf pan, and press down evenly. Let the dough rise more until it is about 1 inch above the edge of the pan (30-60 minutes). Preheat oven to 350, and combine milk with egg. Before baking, brush this mixture over the top of the loaf. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and let cool for 45 minutes before serving.