I've had this recipe on my mind for quite some time. I found a recipe that looked and sounded good...but, of course, I wanted to make only one loaf...and I wanted to use some whole grain flour. Then I ran into the problem of being out of milk - so I used Half and Half...it just got to the point that it was a totally new recipe before I was finished!
Here's how it happened....
Braided Cinnamon Bread
Based primarily on a recipe from Diana's Desserts
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
1 1/4 cup Half and Half - warmed to 115 degrees
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Quick Rise Yeast
1 large egg - room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons natural vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten with a bit of water - for brushing top of loaf
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons Half and Half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm Half and Half and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes. (Mine didn't get very bubbly - maybe it didn't like that it was Half and Half instead of milk)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the remaining Half and Half, sugar, egg, salt, the melted butter and a small amount of flour. Beat until smooth with paddle attachment.
Add the yeast mixture and all but 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and allow it to knead for you until it is pulled away from the sides. Add flour as needed to reduce stickiness and allow the dough to come together on the hook and away from the side. (I used all the flour and actually had to add a couple of tablespoons more.)
Remove dough from hook and sprinkle with a bit of flour, cover the bowl with a cloth and allow it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk (2 hours).
Turn dough onto a lightly floured counter or board and knead until smooth.
Divide dough into three equal parts (each piece of dough weighed about 15 ounces!).
Roll each part into a long rectangle (mine were 15 inches long by 8 inches wide).
Brush melted butter over each rectangle to cover.
then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar (I combined the two before sprinkling). You can add raisins or nuts if you desire - or even chopped dried fruit.
Roll each rectangle of dough into a long rope, seam side down.
Braid ropes together and seal ends by tucking under and pinching.
Place braid on a cookie sheet on parchment paper or on a Silpat. (I worked directly on the baking sheet so I didn't have to move it) Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk (this is a heavy loaf!). This rising took about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Brush top of loaf with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. I baked mine for 18 minutes. That's what the original recipe said to do. I think I would have reduced it to 325 or 350 and cooked for longer. The bread between the cross-overs looks a bit "doughy" still - but it was getting too brown to leave it in longer. Lower and slower would likely have done the trick.
Some of my filling leaked out so I was glad to have had a Silpat underneath the loaf.
Allow to cool completely before frosting with a glaze.
Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla bean paste, and Half and Half until smooth. Drizzle over completely cooled loaf.
Oh my goodness - I can't say how delicious my house smells. Yeasty bread...cinnamon...vanilla...just the best smells in the world.
I'm thinking I'll allow it to cool until I go to bed and I'll glaze it in the morning before serving for breakfast (hmmm...wonder if it will make it until morning...maybe a midnight snack? Yep - overnight is not going to happen - I can tell already)
Because of all of the rising times it isn't something I would get up early enough to make fresh for breakfast. I'd have to get up at dawn...or earlier...and that is just NOT going to happen! I get up early to cook on Thanksgiving morning and Christmas morning and that is IT!
This, however, does work quite nicely with a cup of decaf before bed (I know I'll regret it later and have to do extra Zumba to pay for the badness). The taste is delicious - the buttery cinnamon filling is wonderful...I'm not happy with the pockets of undercooked dough - but you know what - I didn't leave a bite on my plate so can't say it bothered me too much! Next time, though, slower and lower.
It's yummy - I'll surely make it again!
Bon Appetit, Y'all!