I’m not usually one for sweet cravings. I’ll take a salty bag of potato chips over chocolate nearly any time the opportunity arises. However, one day a couple weeks ago, I woke up with a HUGE desire for cinnamon rolls. As in I almost rolled myself out of bed and immediately went into the kitchen in a near-panic on the hunt for yeast, flour, cinnamon, and sugar. Almost.
The more likely version of what followed after I awoke with this devouring, insatiable desire for cinnamon rolls, is my non-morning-type self lazily flopped my head over, pulled my hair up into a waaay-messy bun, trudged downstairs towards the kitchen, grunted lovingly at the two dogs waiting at the bottom of the staircase to bombard me with licks anywhere they could, said good morning to my husband, then poured an enormous cup of coffee. Cinnamon rolls became an afterthought.
Later in the day, however, I remembered Joy Wilson’s cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread recipe I had seen many times before, but hadn’t yet tried. The best part about a cinnamon roll is definitely the center. Its soft, ooey-gooey-ness, delicious caramel-y cinnamon-laced sugar. This bread, which you can pull apart in sheets, has the equivalent of the magical cinnamon roll center, but in larger quantities. The real trick though, is not eating the whole loaf of bread by yourself in one sitting. Good luck.
Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Makes one 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
For the Dough
3 tablespoons warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Filling
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Set aside until the mixture is bubbly and looks frothy. Stir in 2 cups of flour and the salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and then set them aside.
In a small saucepan, melt together the milk and butter, until the butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the temperature reduces to about 115 to 125 degrees F.
Pour the milk mixture into the flour/yeast mixture, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter. The eggs will seem soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs aren’t going to come together… just keep stirring. Add 3/4 of the remaining cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be sticky.
Place the dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Set aside. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a saucepan until browned. Set aside. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan then line with parchment paper, so any extra length hangs over the edges. Lightly spray or brush with oil, then set that aside too.
Deflate the risen dough and knead the remaining 1/4 cup of flour into the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be about 12-inches wide and about 20-inches long. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough. Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again. You’ll have six stacks of six squares. Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown. The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw. A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board. Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.
The bread is best served the day it’s made, but it can also we wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.