Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, there was… a loaf of Beautiful Cinnamon Bread, Too Perfect for this World!
The following recipe is adapted from a bread making class that I attended, so this is my version of a recipe that I do not own personally. This version of the recipe includes my detailed instructions for how you can create the perfect loaf based on several years of attempts at variations on this bread recipe. Special thanks to the bread class instructor for making bread with me three times until I could get it perfect, then letting me come back to the class in the years that followed, just for the sheer joy of it!
This recipe is free from eggs, nuts, soy, and dairy. Now take a deep breath, because we ARE working with yeast, but remember:
You got this!
You will need…
1 ¾ cups warm water
2 tbsp yeast (from a canister, not those teeny tiny packets)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp good quality olive oil (or canola oil will do)
3 ½ and then ½ cups flour
Cinnamon-sugar mixture containing 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon
A candy thermometer that includes the 100 to 120 degree range
First, run the water so it gets quite hot. I like to make this recipe with water that’s about 110 to 115 degrees. I fill a large liquid measuring cup and then take its temperature with my candy thermometer. Once I have achieved the perfect blend of hot plus lukewarm water to hit that 110 degree goal, I then pour into smaller measuring cups to actually measure the correct amount. I’ve found that using water over 115 degrees is too hot and may kill the yeast. I’ve found that using colder water will work most of the time too, but the most consistent results I’ve had have been around the 110 degree mark.
When your water is perfect, combine water with yeast, sugar, salt, and oil. Whisk to dissolve the yeast, then stop whisking so the yeast can activate. Let the mixture sit for ten minutes without touching it so that the yeast will activate accurately. It will be obvious that there is a change taking place in your bowl.
If nothing interesting happens, throw this out and start over with new yeast. You will KNOW if the yeast is activating or not.
In the mean time, mix 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a tiny bowl with a tiny whisk (or a fork). I would start with 3 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon, and then if it doesn’t look like it’s going to be strong enough for your taste in cinnamon, add an additional 1 tbsp sugar plus 1 tsp cinnamon.
After ten minutes have passed: Add 3 ½ cups flour and mix well. I like to use a large wooden spoon for this step.
Sprinkle remaining ½ cup flour onto the counter or table. Place the dough on the floured surface and knead until elastic and not sticky. The texture you’re going for is similar to the feeling of a Cabbage Patch Doll’s head. Tacky, smooth, and not sticky.
Don’t add any extra flour above the ½ cup mark until you’ve really given the dough a lot of kneading love. If you’ve been kneading forever and it’s used up all the flour and it’s still overly sticky, then try adding maybe a tablespoon of extra flour, but really, that ½ cup is probably the right amount, and sometimes the dough will be perfect and there will be a bit of that ½ cup of flour still left on the counter.
Remember, dough is not an exact science. Trust your instincts.
When you’re satisfied with your dough, stretch it out to about a 6 by 8 inch or so rectangle, spread with cinnamon-sugar, and then roll up to create a swirled loaf of bread. The seam goes on the bottom, and tuck the two edges in and under a bit. Place the dough in a well-greased 4 by 8 loaf pan and let rise for 30 minutes. I like to grease with butter, but you can also use oil or non-stick spray. Add more cinnamon-sugar mixture to the top of the bread once it’s in the pan. Remember that some of it will fall off the top and stick to the sides of the loaf, and that’s ok; it just gives your bread character!
Let the dough rise in a warm-ish part of the kitchen underneath a clean kitchen towel. The rise is 30 minutes in total.
At the 20 minute mark, remember to preheat the oven! This way, the bread finishes the rise just as the oven comes to the correct temp 🙂
Bake the bread at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. It will be perfectly brown on top and will not stick to the loaf pan. If you think it needs 2 more minutes, then give it 2 more minutes in the oven.
Cool for 10 minutes in the loaf pan, then put on a cooling rack or cutting board to finish cooling. The longer you can resist temptation to cut into it right away, the more evenly-baked it will be (carry-over cooking is real!) and the easier to cut it will become.
Enjoy as fresh bread, as toast with butter, or even as French toast. Buon appetito!