One of my favorite things about cooking is creating foods wherein the smell of whatever’s on the stove or in the oven infiltrates my nostrils instantly. If I leave for an hour, come home and open my front door — the smack in the face with deliciousness to come — YES, please. Things like the smell of slow cooked beans that sit on low heat for hours and fill our home with warmth and something hearty or the scent of overnight oats that creeps upstairs while I’m half asleep and half awake, filled with brown sugar and sweet apples, those are the best.
Another homemade delight that instantly leaves a person feeling invited and at home the second it passes their nose is the scent of fresh baked bread. For some, myself included, homemade bread has always seemed tricky or challenging. It’s one area of baking I forced myself into learning to not be afraid of. Yeast? They’re just little microorganisms. Nothing to fear when you learn some basic things about working with them. My foster father taught me, when I was 17, that one — yeast are most happy being proofed in liquids that are 75-80 degrees F. And two, adding sugar to that warm liquid gives the yeast something to feed on, speeding up their reaction, causing quicker proofing for the dough.
When I saw the following recipe, my first reaction was one of awe at the beauty of this bread. The fresh berries and cinnamon swirl are both visible in the final product, offering a pop of color. The other thing I genuinely loved was how all the ingredients could be worked by hand and didn’t require my stand mixer and a dough hook. This bread isn’t overly sweet so it’s easy to enjoy as part of breakfast, or a mid-day snack. When I made it, just my husband and I were around. Between the two of us, we ate nearly 3/4 of the whole loaf in one day. If you want, you can lightly dust the top of the bread with powdered sugar once it’s completely cooled, and serve.
Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Yields 1 loaf.
For the Dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk, warmed to lukewarm
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
a bit of olive oil for greasing the bowl
For the Filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh sliced strawberries,
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
Stir the yeast and sugar together in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the warm milk, egg yolk and melted butter. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Allow mixture to rest for 5 minutes. It should froth as the yeast works.
Whisk together the flour and salt in another large bowl. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and start kneading until it pulls away from the edges of the bowl. Place the dough on a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 10 more minutes. The dough should be smooth, but not too sticky. Shape dough into a ball. Grease a large bowl with a bit of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turn once, then cover. Allow the dough to rest at warm room temperature until doubled in size (about an hour).
While the dough rises, whisk together the butter, sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Set aside.
After the dough has doubled in size, place it on a lightly floured counter and knead twice. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to a rectangle of about 18×12 inches. Spoon the cinnamon filling over top, spreading evenly, leaving a clean 1-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the fresh berries over the cinnamon filling.
To roll up the dough, start by rolling the longest side of the dough. The roll will be a bit lumpy because of all the berries. Do your best. Use a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise, leaving 1-inch of the edge uncut, then carefully turn the cut side face-up.
Start braiding the two pieces, by carefully lifting the left strand over the right strand. Repeat this motion until you reach the bottom of the dough. Press together to seal. Join the two ends, creating a circle with the dough and press together.
Swiftly lift the dough with both hands and transfer the dough ring to the prepared cast iron skillet. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
Allow to cool for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.