Brown sugar! How come you taste so good? (Rolling Stones, 1971). Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk bread baking. How do you feel about working with yeast?
I absolutely love it. I find any excuse to mooch around the house for extended periods of time pretty great, to be honest, but there is something particularly cosy and rewarding about baking a loaf of bread.
This particular loaf is an awesome place to start. It’s based on my Swedish Vanilla Bread recipe, and it’s so forgiving – perfect if you’re a little freaked out by yeast.
And then there’s the brown sugar cinnamon swirl. Brown sugar and cinnamon is the ultimate comfort-combo. There is no smell more reminiscent of a happy home, than a loaf of caramelly, spiced bread baking in the oven. And the joy of biting into a still-warm slice 0f buttery soft bread, heady with sugar and spice, it just cannot be beat.
This is the loaf you bake if you need to sell your house, or make a guest feel incredibly welcome. It’s perfect for Christmas, chilly weather, or eating in a little early summer sunshine with a cup of tea.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how good the French Toast that you make with this will be. It would be worth making the entire loaf just for that! In fact, this first loaf has already been completely devoured, so I’ll be whipping another one of these up tomorrow. What are you baking this weekend?
- 1 cup (250ml) milk
- ½ stick (50g) butter
- 1 vanilla pod (or 2 tsp vanilla extract or paste)
- 3 + ⅓ cups (500g) plain flour
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- ¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks, whites reserved
- ¾ cup (170g) brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- Place the milk and butter into a medium saucepan and bring up to just under a boil.
- Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan along with the pod. Set aside to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the flour, yeast and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Fish out the vanilla bean from the milk, and add it to the mixer (it should be only just warm by now - if it's still too hot, leave it for longer), along with the egg yolks and begin mixing on a low speed until the dough comes together and looks smooth.
- If mixing by hand, start with a wooden spoon and then knead until the dough is smooth and combined.
- Cover the dough with plastic, and set aside for an hour or until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and roll it out into a large square, about 15in/40cm.
- In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and a tablespoon of water - it should be the texture of damp sand.
- Brush the dough with the reserved egg white, and then spread the brown sugar mixture over the dough. Roll the dough up tightly, like a swiss roll, and then fold the swiss roll in half onto itself and twist it together a few times. Place the twisty dough roll into a greased loaf tin, and set aside to rise again for about 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Brush the loaf with more reserved egg white (if desired), and place into the hot oven for 10 minutes, before turning the temperature to 400F/200C and baking for another 35 minutes, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the base.
- Carefully remove from the tin while still warm from the oven, and then leave to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.