I have an obsession/culinary love affair/addiction to cinnamon.
I am not joking or even exaggerating. We always purchase the giant containers of ground cinnamon at Target, never the dainty little ones that I would polish off in less than a week.
I put cinnamon in everything. The sweet spice is an addition to my morning coffee (you should really try black coffee with a touch of ground cinnamon sprinkled on top!), as it has been since I started guzzling coffee each and every day. I sprinkle cinnamon into my morning oatmeal as I make it, and my sprinkle I mean I probably add easily 2 teaspoons worth. I laugh when recipes call for ½ teaspoon and double if not triple the amount of my favorite spice. It’s added to pancakes, waffles, chilis, cookies, and squashes; even it’s savorier cousin nutmeg ventures regularly onto our roast chickens and meatballs.
At least my undying culinary obsession is something that offers health benefits (although I’d argue the same thing about my love of beer and chocolate). Cinnamon adds flavor and depth without adding extra calories or any sugar. This makes it a great addition to oatmeal or coffee in place of sugar. Beyond helping you cut a few unnecessary calories, cinnamon protects against diabetes by encouraging healthy insulin sensitivity, balances your blood sugar, and promotes better brain and heart health.
Most of all, cinnamon is super delicious, which brings me to today’s recipe: vanilla cinnamon swirl bread.
After cinnamon, vanilla is one of my other all-time-favorite spices. I don’t add it to as many dishes, but our pantry is never bare of the little bottles that make pancakes, cookies, and oatmeal so delightful. Vanilla adds a touch of something different to this cinnamon swirl bread, that extra special depth that makes you pause mid-bite and savor the flavor. Plus, this bread is whole wheat, which adds a touch of heart-healthy goodness to the deliciousness.
This vanilla cinnamon swirl bread is surprisingly simple to bake, although it will require a few hours of rising. The hands-on time of this bread is only a small percentage of the entire process, so this bread is perfect for baking on a lazy Saturday morning. Make the dough, and by the time you return from your weekend long run, it will be ready for you to add the delicious cinnamon-sugar.
After proofing the yeast, kneading the dough, and letting it rise, you roll out the dough until it’s about ¼ inch thick. You want it to be thin enough to roll the dough but thick enough to hold the filling without ripping.
Next, you beat together an egg and vanilla and coat your rolled-out dough with the egg wash. This creates a sticky surface for your cinnamon-sugar to hold onto as the bread bakes.
Finally, you sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar filling (to which I added a bit of nutmeg as well) on top of the dough. This filling is heavy on the spices and low on the sugar, so resist the temptation to eat some of it (I learned this the hard way).
Once this is done, you slowly roll up the dough, put the loaf in the pan, and return it to the oven to rise one more time. (As a note: that’s Essie nail polish in Lilacism, and I highly recommend as I did taking off any wedding and engagement rings so you don’t get cinnamon or dough into the crevices).
This ensures a fluffy, soft, and tall loaf. After it rises, preheat the oven and use the remaining egg wash to coat the loaf for a golden brown crust.
Once it’s done, be sure to let it cool before cutting into it! It will smell oh-so-good, but cutting hot bread too soon can lead to ripped slices. Not that they’re any less delicious that way.
This bread is best served fresh, toasted, with butter, with peanut butter, with apple butter…it’s really just plain and simple amazing cinnamon swirl bread no matter how you serve it. Although it is probably best enjoyed warm after a chilly winter run, but that’s my personal preference.
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (divided)
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- Add the honey, olive oil, and yeast to the warm water. Allow the yeast to proof for 5-10 minutes.
- In a stand mixer, combine the flours, salt, 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract, and proofed yeast. Knead using a dough hook on medium speed for 7-10 minutes.
- Once the dough is smooth and sticky, place it in a large oiled bowl, cover the bowl with damp paper towels, and place in a warm place to rise (see my note below).
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough out on a flour surface until it is roughly 1/4 inch thick. Beat together the egg and remaining vanilla and gently brush approximately half of the egg wash onto the rolled-out dough.
- Mix together the brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough.
- Use both hands to slowly and evenly roll the dough into a loaf. Put the loaf in an oiled loaf pan and let rise for another 45-60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is preheating, spread the remaining egg wash onto the loaf.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before serving.
- To maximize the rising time, I boil water while the mixer kneads the bread. I then place the dough on the top shelf of the oven (which is off) and the pot of boiled water on a lower shelf. The moisture and warmth helps the bread rise.