This isn't your average loaf of bread. Beneath the golden crust are swirls of cinnamon and scatterings of dried cranberries, cleverly added to entice your household raisin-hater to try a slice. It is spectacular toasted, lends itself beautifully to a grilled cheese sandwich and – if any of the loaf survives long enough to go stale – makes a very festive batch of French toast.
Don't be intimidated by the length of the recipe, even if you are a bread-baking beginner: There are lots of details and some useful tips to send you on your way to a cinnamon success.
Servings: 2 loaves
Ready Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Cranberry cinnamon bread
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk
3 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tbsp canola oil or unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 tsp table salt
5 cups (740g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cups (74g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (235g) dried cranberries
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of your mixer, combine the 1/4 cup warm water and yeast. Let sit for two minutes.
In a separate bowl, add the cup of warm water and stir in the milk, sugar, oil or butter and the salt until completely combined. Set aside.
Kneading by hand:
Add the five cups of flour to the bowl with the yeast in it. Then pour the milk mixture on top. Stir with a large wooden spoon until a sticky dough has formed. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and turn the dough around in it a few times. Then tip the dough and the extra flour onto a clean counter top.
Knead the extra flour into the dough by pushing the dough away from you, folding it, turning it and then pushing it away again. Once the extra flour has been incorporated, use a bit of butter or oil to grease your hands and your work surface to stop the dough from sticking. Adding too much flour can cause your loaf to become dense so avoid adding additional flour at this point if possible. Knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes.
Flatten the dough into a square and sprinkle with 1/4 of the cranberries. Fold the dough over and repeat with the remaining cranberries until they have all been incorporated. Knead the dough for another 5 minutes until it is smooth, elastic and slightly tacky.
Kneading with a mixer:
Add the five cups of flour to the bowl with the yeast in it. Turn the mixer on low and pour in the milk mixture as the mixer is running. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and stir on low with the paddle attachment. Once a shaggy dough has formed, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and slightly tacky. Check your mixer’s manual for the correct speed to use with your dough hook.
With the mixer still kneading, pour in the cranberries and knead just until they have incorporated into the dough.
After dough is mixed, place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 – 1 1/2 hours). If your kitchen is cold or drafty, place the bowl with the dough in it in your oven and turn the oven light on. This will give the dough a warm, draft-free place to rise.
Once the dough has doubled, take it out of the bowl, briefly knead it to remove the air bubbles and then split into four equal sized pieces. Set two of the pieces aside. Flatten the other two pieces and sprinkle with 1/4 of the cinnamon. Fold each of the pieces in half and sprinkle with another 1/4 of the cinnamon. Roll and squeeze each piece into an 8-inch log. Cross one log over the other to make an X. Tuck the top piece under the bottom piece at the top and bottom of the loaf to make a simple twist. Repeat with the remaining dough and cinnamon to form the second loaf.
Place each loaf in a well-greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (grease your pans thoroughly! Nothing is sadder than bread stuck to the pan). Brush lightly with a small amount of oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise until the dough has domed an inch or two over the rim (1 to 1 1/2 hrs).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Once the loaves are doming 1 to 2 inches over the rim, bake at 350 (regular, not convection) for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes rotate, the pans and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes (40 to 45 minutes total). If the loaves are getting too dark on top, use a piece of foil with a crease in it to cover the top of the bread.
Remove loaves from oven. Remove from loaf pans and set on a cooling rack. Wait until loaves are completely cool (40 minutes to 1 hour) before slicing to allow the crumb to set properly.
The bread will keep at room temperature in a plastic bag for three to four days. For longer storage, slice the loaf, put into a large freezer bag and then freeze for up to two months. That way you can pop the frozen slices in the toaster as needed.