Many people have turned to baking as a stress reliever or fun activity during a time when efforts to “flatten the curve” have kept us cooped up in our homes for weeks at a time, myself included. This week, I’ve decided to share with you the easiest, most delicious recipe for bread that I know.
If you’re a fan of sticky buns or cinnamon rolls, this sliceable loaf is sure to be one you make again and again. Each bite of this rich, buttery brioche bread is filled with bubbly caramel and topped with crunchy chopped pecans.
What makes this bread most impressive upon a first glance, however, is how the loaves are shaped. Instead of rolling up a dough log and stuffing it into a loaf pan, Cinnamon Swirl Loaves are made so that streaks of the filling are exposed in layered stripes across their tops by slicing filled dough vertically and twisting the two sections together. It comes out looking like something straight out of Rachael Ray’s kitchen.
Maybe that sounds overly complicated — it isn’t!
Though I do recommend spreading the baking process for this particular recipe over two days, it is surprisingly easy to recreate. Make your dough the night before you want to serve the bread, let it sit overnight in the refrigerator and roll, slice, shape and bake the following day.
If you really want to impress, take the bake a step further and turn a few slices of this loaf into French toast. Few things are better.
Want to make your own Cinnamon Swirl Loaf? Here’s what you need:
For the bread dough:
♦ 4 large eggs
♦ 3/4 cup water
♦ 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
♦ 1 large egg yolk
♦ 1 cup sugar
♦ 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
♦ 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
♦ 6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
♦ 12 tablespoons unsalted, softened butter
For the filling:
♦ 2 1/2 cups pecans
♦ 3/4 cup butter
♦ 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
♦ 3 teaspoons cinnamon
For the egg wash:
♦ 1 egg yolk
♦ 1 tablespoon milk
Here’s how you make it:
- Start by making the dough. Combine water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add the milk, eggs, yolk, sugar, salt and vanilla into the mixer. Whisk until the yolks are combined, then add in flour and stir with a stiff spatula until a shaggy dough forms.
- Use a dough hook to work the dough until it comes together and is no longer floury. Keep the mixer running and slowly add in the butter, one tablespoon a time. Do not add the next tablespoon until the first is fully incorporated.
- After the butter has been added, knead for another five minutes or until the dough is silky and elastic. It should wrap around your dough hook and clear the sides of the bowl completely. Add an extra 1/4 cup of flour as needed if the dough seems to be sticking.
- Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Cover and allow to rise at room temperature for an hour, until it has doubled in size. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill overnight.
- When you are ready to bake, begin by preparing the filling. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the pecans for about 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and slightly darkened. Transfer to a cutting board and finely chop them. Then, mash together softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the nuts and continue mashing until a sandy paste forms. Line three loaf pans with parchment, then spray them liberally with non-stick spray.
- Sprinkle your workspace with flour, then remove the dough from the fridge. Cut the dough into three separate pieces. These will become your loaves.
- Set one of the sections of dough out on your floured workspace. Use your hands to shape it into a rectangle, then roll out until it is about a foot wide and a food long. Don’t be afraid to go thinner if you can — the thinner you roll, the more layers you’ll have in the final loaves.
- Spread a cup of filling out over the dough in an even layer, leaving an inch of dough around the borders empty. Then, carefully roll the dough into a tight log. Tuck any filling that falls out back into the dough. Once finished rolling, use a sharp knife to slice the log vertically down its length, creating two halves with exposed layers.
- Turn the halves so that the layers are facing up, then press them together at the top. Twist the halves around each other slowly, creating a spiral, and press together again at the bottom. Carefully lift the loaf into the parchment-lined loaf pan. Repeat with the other loaves. This recipe makes three. Allow to rise on the counter for an hour.
- Preheat the oven again to 350 degrees. While it heats, whisk together an egg yolk and milk to create the egg wash and brush over the surface of the loaves. Transfer them to the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes. The loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean of any dough.
- Let the loaves cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pan, then use the edges of the parchment to gently lift them free and serve while still warm. Loaves can be kept safely on the counter for up to a week if covered and can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to three months.