Cinnamon Sugar Swirl Loaf

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When I imagine rolling pins and sheets of dough, I think of my grandmother. When I was young, just tall enough to peer over the kitchen counter, I would watch her construct German dishes from scratch. A bowl of dough was her beginning—a blank slate. She would create her coveted bread rolls in the palms of her hands. A long cylinder would be cut into logs to create shoop noodles. Sheets were rolled, paper thin, and coiled for strudels (which were later unraveled by greedy, hungry hands).

The motions were practiced, repeated thousands of time over her many years, but the awe factor never diminished for me.

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I am learning to see dough as a blank slate, a starting point instead of an unfinished product. Though my motions may still be clumsy, inexperienced from my few years, I can feel the progress beneath my fingertips. This past weekend, I kneaded together a sweet dough, challenging myself to roll it into a shape new to me. I have long admired braided and swirled breads for their intricate designs and used the pattern as my inspiration.

Though braided and swirled loaves may often look beyond the reach of a home baker, I can assure that most are well within the realm. This dough begins as cinnamon rolls do—a rectangle, which is rolled into a coil. Instead of being cut into individual rolls, however, the dough is split lengthwise down the center and the inside is revealed. The dough is braided, the ends pinched together, and it goes into the pan to bake.

The complicated layers and swirls are revealed in the oven. Each time the pattern may be new, but you can count on the flavor to remain the same.

PS: Pastry Affair has been nominated for Saveur Magazine's 2015 food blog awards in the Best Baking & Desserts Category! It is your support that has brought me here. Again, I want to take a moment to say thank you. To vote, head over to Saveur's website, take a moment to register, and select your favorites

This Cinnamon Sugar Swirled Loaf falls somewhere between a breakfast roll and a slice of coffee cake in texture. Cinnamon and sugar are present in every layer, adding a spiced sweetness that pervades the loaf. Served with a cup of black tea or coffee, the loaf becomes a part of a weekend breakfast or mid-morning treat.

One Year Ago: Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Two Years Ago: Mango Lassi, Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffinsand Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Three Years Ago: Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart, Arborio Rice Pudding, Chocolate Marshmallow Whoopie Pies, and Hot Cross Buns
Four Years Ago: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Orange Scones, Strawberry Oat Parfait, and Honey Rolls

Cinnamon Sugar Swirl Loaf

Yields 1 loaf

Dough
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk 
3 tablespoons (43 grams) butter, melted 
2 to 2 1/4 cups (250-280 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt

Warm milk and butter until about 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), or until lightly warm to the touch. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add 2 cups flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Fold together until the batter forms a dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour by the tablespoonful until it begins to form a ball. On a lightly floured surface, place the the dough and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Form into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm environment until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Filling
1/3 cup (66 grams) brown sugar, packed 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
3 tablespoons (43 grams) butter, room temperature
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter until it forms a uniform spread. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to approximately an 11 x 15-inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread the brown sugar mixture uniformly on the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Starting lengthwise, roll the dough until coiled. Pinch together the edges to seal.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the coil in half lengthwise and face the inside upwards. Pinch together one end of the dough and braid the two long strands, facing the cut side upwards at all times. Pinch together the remaining end. Form the dough into a circular shape and pinch together the pinched ends. Transfer the circle to a lightly greased cast-iron pan or 10-inch round cake pan and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until dark brown and fragrant.

Run a knife around the outside of the pan and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

The air is cold, the skies are grey. I find myself admitting that fall is here and here to stay. After several rainy days in a row, I want to wrap myself up in a blanket and drink hot tea whenever I catch a glance out of the window. The trees are just barely taking on color, the leaves not yet gathering on the ground. The air is damp with fog and humidity, not with the crispness I love and remember. With a miserable weather forecast for the next few days, including a prediction of snow, I'm happy spending my time indoors.

I wonder if fall will feel the same in this new town, as it did back home.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

When I finally let my hold on summer pass, the warm scent of vanilla and cinnamon begin to fill my kitchen. Cinnamon is the feeling of autumn for me, the essence of the season all bottled up in a single smell and taste. While pumpkin or caramel or apples may define the season for others, it is this single spice that warms my soul.

Each fall, as soon as the weather grows cold, I like to buy myself a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. Toasted, with a spread of butter, is my version of autumn happiness. This year, instead of finding my loaf of bread on the shelf, I decided to make it myself.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

The dough is made with milk to give the bread tenderness and melted butter to add a richness. While I mixed in 3/4 cup raisins, I would recommend a few more if you are a raisin lover and a few less if you are not—it can be tweaked to your personal tastes. The swirl of cinnamon is what makes the bread for me. Though the cinnamon is only rolled throughout the dough, the scent and taste seems to pervade the rest of the loaf, giving a pleasant flavor to each and every bite.

Enjoy when the season beckons and cinnamon is on the menu.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread evokes feelings and flavors of autumn. Bread dough is scattered with raisins, rolled out, spread with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled together to create a cinnamon swirl. Even though the outside of the loaf may not be beautiful, it really is the inside that counts with this bread. Spread with butter, honey, or peanut butter, this bread is taken to another level and makes a perfect chilly morning breakfast.

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Mint Sugar

Mint Sugar

Mint Sugar

As a food photographer, I find myself buying mint periodically, popping it into the occasional photograph for a bit of color. While I like to add a sprig to lemonade from time to time, mint rarely gets much use in my kitchen. The leaves are often left in the refrigerator until they are forgotten (a fate of which I am not proud). Though mint leaves are ubiquitous in Indian cuisine, my Midwestern roots have offered me fewer uses for them. I am pointed in the direction of mojitos and like minded drinks, but rarely elsewhere.

After filling my refrigerator with mint recently, I decided I wasn't going to allow this batch to go unused or uneaten.

Mint Sugar Mint Sugar

After scouring the internet for dessert ideas, I came up empty handed. While peppermint complements sweets well, its minty cousin has a little less love on its side. Despite this, I challenged myself to find a way to use up the leaves. Crushing mint leaves allows the oils inside to release, creating an aromatic scent and a bright flavor. With this in mind, I grabbed a mortar and pestle, grinding the leaves together with a little granulated sugar.

Mint infused sugar seemed like a great place to begin.

Mint Sugar

Truthfully, after licking off the sugar that found its way onto the tips of my fingers, mint sugar was not only the beginning, but the end. I grabbed a few strawberries and blueberries from the kitchen, sprinkled the mint sugar on top, and called it a fruit salad. The mint sugar, while subtle, elevated the salad into something special. Later, I macerated strawberries in the sugar before spooning them over shortcakes.

The mint sugar has a range of uses, from sweetening fruits and salad dressings to adding a bright pop on the tops of sugar cookies, making it a versatile tool in the kitchen.

Mint Sugar

Mint Sugar is an infusion of mint into granulated sugar. The ratio of mint to sugar is 1:2, which means that the recipe can be made as large or as small as you choose. While the mint sugar will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two, it is best when it is freshly made. Whether you rim it around your next cocktails or sprinkle it onto your next fruit salad, mint sugar is a quick fix that can help your next dish sparkle.

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