Simple pleasures often catch us unawares. They're unexpected delights, the little flourishes that bring a sudden smile. Slicing into a loaf of bread and finding a swirl of cinnamon curlicuing through its crumb is one of those pleasures. And trust us, making this treat really is simple, thanks to an easy trick.
Cinnamon swirl bread is made to be toasted, the scent of warmed spices mingling with the aroma of morning coffee. But the bread also is an inspired choice for a sandwich with good Cheddar cheese, either plain or grilled. A school lunch sandwich with a swirl can be the hit of the cafeteria table. Chicken salad is a natural pairing for such gently spiced slices.
Using a filling, of course, presumes that the cinnamon and sugar swirls through the bread without creating a gap. Even popping a slice in the toaster is easier when the slice holds together.
To increase the likelihood of gap-free bread, you will need to help the sugary mixture meld to the dough. While bakers instinctively brush everything with butter, water is the secret ingredient here. Brushing the rolled-out dough with water helps create a bond between the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the dough.
To further ward off crevices, we also take care while rolling up the dough to make sure that the "top" of the cinnamon mixture sticks as well. This is simply a matter of brushing away any excess flour clinging to the dough as we roll it and brushing the curving edge of the dough with more water.
The folks at Cooks Illustrated suggest misting the dough with a spray bottle, but we found that using a brush is just as easy; you can even just use your hand, patting the dough with dampened fingers.
Final tip: Make sure that you roll up the dough with even pressure to create a cylinder with no slack. The result should be uniform slices that can't help but inspire a smile as a knife reveals the bread's simple pleasure.