Orange Date Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This bread is an ode to wanting food around for easy breakfasts and the kind of overly detailed projects I often find myself in the middle of when life is busy and stressful, as it has been these last weeks…months…pretty much all of 2017 really. But I won’t belabor the complaining here, because things really are going pretty well at the moment, and also this bread is delicious (though it could benefit from a few tweaks, discussed below).

What began as a craving for white sandwich bread quickly morphed into cinnamon swirl bread, which got a boost from dates and orange peel because we did not have any raisins in the house (mostly because they are not very good, so why would I buy them?). It ended up with me learning an excellent technique for swirling fillings into breads: the Russian Braid technique. (That links to an extremely helpful video if that is your thing, as it is mine.)

This bread recipe is my adaptation of the America’s Test Kitchen Cinnamon Swirl Bread using the notes from My Year Cooking with Chris Kimball. The bread recipe uses the ratio from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, enriched with egg and a bit of butter (well, and dates and orange zest).

12 oz warm water
1 tsp yeast

Dissolve together

20 oz bread or all purpose flour
¼ c sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Knead with stand mixer w/ dough hook 8-10 minutes till smooth. While kneading, add flour 1-2 Tbsp at a time until dough is not sticking to the sides and is only slightly sticky to touch. In the last few minutes of kneading, add:

½ c chopped dates (pieces should be raisin sized or smaller)
Zest from one orange (in my case, 2 Mandarin oranges)

When nice and smooth, allow to rise for 1 hour, covered with a kitchen towel. It should be nice and puffy by this time. When you poke it with a fingertip, it should stay dented.

During the rising time, make the filling:

½ c confectioners sugar
1 ½ Tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla

After first rise, remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured counter.

Roll out into a rectangle that is 7”x18”.

Cover with filling, except for 1” of one of the 7” ends.**

Roll up tightly starting with the other 7” end until you end up with a 7” cylinder. Pinch the edge tightly to close.

Allow cylinder to rest on the counter for 10 mins with the seam down.

After the rest, cut the cylinder from the top down to the bottom where the seam is.

Lay the two halves cut side up. Pinch the ends together and braid the two strands, passing them over one another till you reach the other end. They will stretch as you go – just keep passing them over one another. (Link to video detailing the process)

Grease a loaf pan and place the braid in it. You will probably have to squash it a bit lengthwise.

Allow to rest, covered, for another hour.

Preheat oven to 375° F. When the oven is ready and the bread has puffed up at least 1” over the pan edge, bake for 40-45 minutes.*** Bread will be deeply browned on top and sound hollow when tapped on the top crust.

Let cool for 5 minutes and then unmold onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

*I’m still not 100% satisfied with this bread base. I really want it to be fluffier. I’m currently experimenting with the Tangzhong method.

**The source for this filling called for spritzing the bread with water before and after putting the filling on. I do not have a food grade spray bottle, so I brushed it with some water with my pastry brush. This was too much water. Next time, I will forego it.

***I did 35 minutes. The bread was still just a bit doughy. I would say at least 40 mins next time.