This past week, my friend Laurie asked my advice about a cinnamon bread recipe she’d found. To be exact, she said her mother found it and thinks it is a recipe that her grandmother used to make one of her favorite childhood breads. She’d long thought that it was lost forever. They tried the recipe and it was a failure, so we sat down with the original recipe to take a look. Here it is:
You can see where my friend started taking notes as we read the recipe together and I answered questions and made suggestions. If I’d only had one more day with her, we’d have baked it together but, alas, I had to go home, so I camscanned this page and promised I would bake it and send her a tutorial, so here it is. 🙂
These old recipes were written for bakers who knew their way around yeast bread. I’ve been baking bread for 40+ years, and discussing this recipe with my friend made me realize just how many nuances there are to bread baking, things I just do naturally, without thinking. So, today I rewrote the recipe using the same ingredients, but creating a simple no-fail method for a non-baker. I warn you that this post is picture-heavy, but you just have to see how things look to know what to expect.
First, here’s a picture of the finished loaf. Farmer Bob pronounced it delicious as he cut himself a second slice. It is tender and light and I can’t wait to have some toasted in the morning!
Ok, the mise en place comes at the beginning. That means that you get all your ingredients measured and lined up in the order they appear in this list:
Room temperature water: 1/2 cup
Instant or Rapid rise yeast: 1 pack
Whole milk: 1/2 cup
Crisco shortening: 3 tablespoons (not cooking oil)
White granulated sugar: 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt: 2 teaspoons
Large egg: 1 cold from fridge (Fox Trot Farm eggs work best, of course!) 😉
All purpose flour: 3 cups (spoon into dry measure cup and level with knife)
Ground cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Chopped nuts: 1/2 cup
Raisins or currants: 1/4 cup
Large loaf pan, well-greased with shortening (see note at end for preparation if you have a dark, nonstick pan)
Proof Yeast: Sprinkle the packet of yeast over the 1/2 cup of room temp water and stir to moisten with a teaspoon. It will be really watery looking, like this. Set it aside, uncovered.
Scald milk: In a glass bowl or measuring cup, scald the milk by putting it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until it foams up all bubbly. Remove it from the microwave, and stir in the shortening, sugar, and salt until the shortening is melted.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle beater. (I use a stand mixer, so that’s what the instructions will reflect here.)
Combine the flour and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Whisk to combine.
Then add one cup of this flour mixture to the scaled milk mixture and beat on low till combined. This will cool down the milk mixture, but it will still be warm, just not scalding. Add the cold egg to this, and beat till it’s all combined.
Now check your yeast. It will have “bloomed” and will be bubbly, puffy, and smell nice and yeasty. It’ll look like this:
Stir the yeast and water mixture into the egg mixture. Slowly add the remainder of the flour until it’s all dissolved and the batter is smooth. It will be sticky and moist. Still using the mixer, beat in the nuts and currants or raisins until they’re well-distributed. Set aside.
I LOVE these silicone mats. I got mine at Aldi and they’re very inexpensive there. If you don’t have one, your counter will do. Just dust it lightly with flour.
Then plop your dough into the middle. Be sure to scrape the bowl. Use your fingers. This dough is soft and moist, but isn’t too sticky and really has a great feel!
Toss a bit of flour over the top, and then start folding the dough over on itself. Just keep doing that, pushing and folding, for maybe 15 times. Not too many. You’ll feel when the dough is “just right” because you can make it into a ball like this:
Dust your rolling pin with some flour and roll the dough out into a kind of oval or as much of a rectangle as you can get it. We’re “forming the loaf” now. It should be about as wide as your loaf pan is long.
Roll it up, starting at the end nearest you, until you come to the end. Then pinch the seam and the ends together
Turn the loaf over seam side down and place it into your loaf pan. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with Pam and place it sprayed side down over the loaf pan. No need to tuck it in or anything, just place it loosely on top.
Now, fill a 9×13 inch sheet cake pan with your hottest tap water and put it on the bottom rack of your cold oven. Then put another rack right above it and place your loaf of bread on that rack, directly above the hot water, and close the door. This is how my oven looks right before I put the bread in to rise.
Set your timer for 50 minutes, and keep the oven door closed. You’re giving the yeast a nice warm place to grow, and it’ll get toasty warm with just that much hot water. After 50 minutes check to see how much the dough has risen. You want it to be double what it was to begin with, or not more than one inch higher than the sides of the pan. When it’s ready, gently remove it from the oven and tuck it into your microwave and close the door to keep it cozy. Like this:
Remove the pan with water from your oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. When it’s nice and hot and up to temp, take the loaf out of the microwave, remove the plastic wrap and put the loaf into the hot oven. Set your timer for 55 minutes. When the time is up, take your loaf from the oven and brush the top with butter, then tip the loaf onto its side on a cooling rack. Brush the sides and bottom with butter, then leave it to cool. If you can. 🙂
Or, if you have a Farmer Bob, when it’s cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to cut a slice off to try. It’s soooo good warm.
Now, isn’t this worth the work? Tender, not too sweet, cinnamon, nuts, raisins…
Laurie, I hope this is the bread your mom remembers from her childhood but, even if it’s not, it’s worth baking!
Note: If you have a dark pan, turn it upside down and use a piece of foil to cover the outside so the crust won’t get too dark, like this:
Now I have to go fix supper, but I’ll try to post an abbreviated recipe without the pictures on another day and will put it under the recipe section of our website. Until then, I hope this inspires everyone to get in the kitchen and bake. This one is definitely going into my regular rotation here at Fox Trot Farm, and I’m going to try the cheese version, too. I hope all these pictures help, and let me know if you try it.