It seems rather inappropriate to call this a face-off– two recipes, each from giants of cookery and baking- but for the purposes of pleasing my obsessive-compulsive tendency to categorize all my blog entries, I will label it as such. However this is more of a look back at my experiences in making both recipes, as well as my thoughts on the results, rather than anything else. There are no winner or loser recipes here, only bread. And lots of it.
That both carry the descriptions “delicious” and “homey” do not even need to be mentioned. They both have their unique set of charms that make them worth a try. But more importantly, making yeast breads to me is always a fun challenge. While you’re in the process of doing it, there’s a certain nervous anticipation of whether or not it will rise and even bake well. That’s why every time I make yeast breads and they end up looking beautiful and perfect fresh from the oven, I like to jump around the kitchen and declare whatever bread I’ve made as “the most beautiful bread you’ve ever seen”, so much so that my Dad started joking about putting them up on a shelf to display rather than eat.
That’s the good thing about making your own bread- the immense satisfaction at succeeding. Now I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t mind if I failed. The truth is I do mind (and would probably come dangerously close to throwing a kitchen tantrum ala-Amy Adams from Julie & Julia), but I’ll be damned if I don’t try making bread anyway.
So let’s start off with Dorie’s bread as it was the first one I made.
I’ve been seeing this particular recipe make it’s rounds in food blogs, mostly through the Tuesdays With Dorie network. I’ve bookmarked it even before I got a copy of her book (which is amazing of course!) but I only got around to doing it after weeks and weeks of being “too busy”.
I have to say, this bread is certainly lovely and light. Just from the appearance, it screams homemade elegance. Obviously my favourite part about this was the swirl, because not only does it contain cinnamon and raisins, there’s the presence of a surprise ingredient- cocoa powder- which, although labeled as optional by Dorie, I believe contributes to the overall flavour, along with the slew of other optional ingredients in the recipe.
When you bite into the swirl, although the cocoa flavour isn’t that prominent, it adds that hint of some other flavour that will keep people unfamiliar with the recipe guessing. And also, the mildness in flavour of the bread makes it good for turning into a sandwich or slathering with jam, which I’m guessing was what Dorie had in mind for this.
The only problem I had with this recipe was how quickly the bread became kind of tough and stale. I’m not sure if I had left it to cool on the counter for too long before wrapping it in an airtight container, but the next day, it was certainly advisable to pop the bread slices into the toaster before eating them. Nonetheless, I can honestly tell you I’d make this recipe again if only to trace if this was indeed the problem (because from what I’ve read in other blogs, it was supposed to be kind of cakey in texture, so that’s probably it).
Raisin Swirl Bread
Makes one 9X5-inch loaf
For the bread
- 1 envelope, 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch for the yeast
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk, just warm to the touch (about 110 °F)
- 4 tablespoons 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
- Grated zest of 1/2 orange, optional
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
- 3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
For the swirl
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to a spreadable consistency
To make the bread
- 1. Put the yeast in a small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let rest for 3 minutes, then stir - the yeast may not have dissolved completely and it may not have bubbled, but it should be soft.
- 2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 cup of milk, the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix for a minute or two. Add the salt, egg and vanilla, if you are using it, as well as the zest and nutmeg, if you're using them, and mix for a minute. In all likelihood, the mixture will look unpleasantly curdly (it will look even worse when you add the yeast). Add the yeast mixture and beat on low-medium speed for 1 minute more.
- 3. Turn the mixer off and add 2 3/4 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed just until you work the flour into the liquids - you'll have a sticky mix. If you've got a dough hook, switch to it now.
- 4. Add another 1 cup of flour, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together and almost clean the sides of the bowl, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep the mixer speed at medium and knead the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it is smooth and has a lovely buttery sheen. The dough will be very soft, much too soft to knead by hand.
- 5. Butter a large bowl, turn the dough into a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
- 6. Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled easily. (At this point, you can instead refrigerate the dough overnight if that is more convenient).
- 7. Butter a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan.
To make the swirl
- 8. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and cocoa, if you're using it. Check that the raisins are nice and moist; if they're not, steam them for a minute, then dry them well.
- 9. Put the dough on a large work surface lightly dusted with flour, lightly dust the top of the dough and roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 x 18 inches.
- 10. Gently smear 2 tablespoons of the butter over the surface of the dough - this is most easily done with your fingers. Sprinkle over the sugar mixture and scatter over the raisins. Starting from a short side of the dough, roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, making sure to roll the dough snugly.
- 11. Fit the dough into the buttered pan, seam side down, and tuck the ends under the loaf. Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and set in a warm place; let the dough rise until it comes just a little above the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.
Getting ready to bake
- 12. When the dough has almost fully risen, centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
- 13. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, and brush the top of the loaf with the butter. Put the pan on the baking sheet and bake the bread for about 20 minutes.
- 14. Cover loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold. Invert the bread and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.
On the other hand, I had bought Martha’s Baking Handbook a few weeks after buying Dorie’s book because I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about it too. I was aware that Martha also has her own version of this type of bread in this book, and I was eager to try it to be able to make some sort of comparison. I guess you could say I wanted to know which bread I’ll be making again next time.
While the raisins and cinnamon-sugar in Dorie’s recipe are found in only the swirl, Martha’s will have you knead the raisins and some ground cinnamon into the dough even before the first rise. I like that I get raisins in the bread itself rather than just the dough.
For the same amount of yeast, Dorie’s recipe creates one giant loaf, where just one large slice is enough to fill you up; as opposed to Martha’s recipe which creates two regular sized loaves (though I must say, one slice makes me feel full as well). And while I like the mildness of taste of Dorie’s version more, Martha’s bread maintained a softer and chewy texture even after one night in an airtight container in room temperature as compared to what I had experienced with Dorie’s recipe.
The only complaint I have is that I find it a little too sweet once I bit into the swirl. There were pieces of hardened sugar here and there within the swirl which I did not find so pleasant, so smoothing out the sugar filling thoroughly is a must. As for the rest of the bread however, I have no complaints. I loved seeing the dark specks of cinnamon and raisins on the bread as I munched away.
Makes two 9X5-inch loaves
For the dough
- 1 envelope, 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm milk, about 110 °F
- 2 pounds 2 ounces, about 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
For the filling
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
To make the dough
- 1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk. Whisk to combine. Add the flour, butter, sugar, 2 eggs, and salt. Attach the bowl to mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until all the ingredients are well combined, about 3 minutes. Raise the speed to medium-low, and continue to mix until the dough is uniformly smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes more.
- 2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat out dough into a 9-inch round, about 1 ¼ inches thick. Sprinkle with raisins and cinnamon, and knead until they are just incorporated. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with oiled plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- 3. Return the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and pat into a round. Fold in the following manner: Fold the bottom third of the dough up, the top third down, and the right and left sides over, tapping the dough after each fold to release excess flour, and pressing down to seal. Return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.
To make the filling
- 4. Combine the sugar and cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Return the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide the dough in half. Roll out one half into a 12×10 inch rectangle. Brush it with beaten egg, and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar filling. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- 5. Generously butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans and set them aside. With a short end of the rectangle facing you, fold in both long sides of the dough, about 1 inch. Then roll the dough toward you, gently pressing as you go to form a tight log. Gently roll the log back and forth to seal the seam. Place the loaf in a prepared pan, seam side down.
- 6. Repeat with the remaining rectangle. Cover the pans loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place until the dough rises just above the rim of the pan, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C).
- 7. Brush the tops of the loaves with beaten egg, and transfer the pans to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet*. Bake, tenting the loaves with aluminum foil and rotating pans halfway through, until the loaves are golden brown, about 45 minutes. Turn out the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. The bread can be kept, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for up to 4 days.
I thought Dorie’s bread was a lot easier to make than Martha’s despite the longer instructions. Kneading the raisins into the dough was surprisingly a little more difficult than I was expecting, but the result was worth it enough.
In hindsight, if I were to merge these two recipes to create the “perfect” cinnamon swirl bread, I would probably go with Martha’s dough (and kneading the raisins and cinnamon into it and all) but with Dorie’s filling, because I don’t particularly like to eat a lot of the sweet things (ironic, I know, but I just like to make them), but hey, that’s just me.
And before I go, I have to say, I had a lot of fun putting this whole post together. I hope the photos I took will help make those nervous first-time yeast users a little more at ease. In my case, seeing some guide photos of the procedures in a recipe I feel unsure of helped me feel more confident about making it. I hope these will also be of use somehow. 🙂