How to Make Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread

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We bet you're already thinking about how great the French toast will be...

We still have a few more days of summer on the calendar, but kids all over the country are trading in their swim trunks for backpacks and I am slowly shifting my baking to more fall-flavored fare. For me, that means more comforting spice-laden recipes like this cinnamon-raisin swirl bread. It is a perfect treat for cool fall mornings, toasted and slathered with butter--or, make it into outrageously tasty French toast or bread pudding.

A lot of cinnamon bread recipes use simple white bread dough (without any dairy or eggs), but I prefer sweet breads with a bit of richness. For this version, I started with a brioche-inspired dough with a generous amount of butter. Then, I tossed in a handful of raisins because I love their texture--raisin avoiders can, of course, leave them out. I was tempted to add butter to the filling, but in a loaf like this, the butter will create gaps between the dough and filling and eventually leak out of the dough and burn in the oven. Instead, I brushed the dough with milk before sprinkling cinnamon-sugar over the top.

Make sure to roll up your loaf tightly, and be careful to not let the loaf rise too much in the pan or you will get big gaps between the filling and dough.

Makes one 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf

For the bread dough:

1/2 cup water, at 110° F

1/2 cup milk, at 110° F

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but cool

1 1/4 cups raisins

For the filling:

5 tablespoons sugar

5 teaspoons cinnamon

Milk, for brushing

Combine the water, milk, and yeast in a bowl. Let sit until foamy. Add 4 1/4 cups of the flour and the salt to the bowl of a standing mixer, then use the dough hook to stir the flour into the yeast mixture on low speed.

Stop the mixer a few times and use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very shaggy and dry. Add the eggs. Mix gently to combine, then add the sugar.

Turn the mixer up to medium-low and mix for about 4 minutes. The dough should be soft and sticky, but if is more batter-like than dough-like in texture, add more flour, a couple tablespoons at a time.

Turn the mixer back down to low and mix the butter into the dough in 2-tablespoon chunks, beating until each piece is almost completely incorporated before adding the next piece. Make sure to take this step nice and slow to ensure that the dough is evenly mixed and kneaded.

To ensure even mixing, stop periodically to pull the dough from the hook and scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very soft and billowy. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, continue to knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl a bit, about 10 minutes. Finally, mix in the raisins until just incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate overnight. The dough will double in size, then will eventually stop rising once it is chilled.

When you are ready to bake, grease a 9- by 5- by 3-inch baking pan. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a roughly 8- by 18-inch rectangle, with the short edge facing you. Brush the dough with milk, then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the top, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the far edge.

Starting at the short edge closest to you, tightly roll the dough into a loaf. Pinch the edges together to seal. Tuck the sides of the loaf in so that none of the cinnamon sugar is exposed.

Transfer the loaf to the prepared pan and let it rise until it is about 1-inch over the edge of the pan, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the loaf until golden brown and cooked through, about 40 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 200° F.

Photos by Yossy Arefi