We hustle and bustle in and out of cars over snowbanks and through doors decked with clamoring little bells. Stomping off our shoes we are greeted warmly with the smell of cinnamon and the sounds of merry Christmas and Bing Crosby wishing for snow. We expect the month of December to feel like a scene out of Home Alone 2. A few years ago Pat and I realized that “Christmas” felt more like an insurance commercial where a guy in a white coat kisses his mannequin family and sends them rapidly into a cement wall. I think sometimes we are in such a rush to enjoy all the peaceful things that we create chaos for a whole month. Then for the rest of the winter we are so bored we wish with our lives that it would just end. We still celebrate Christmas but now we put less importance on the holiday and more importance on enjoying winter. Here are some of the ways we are making an effort to enjoy all of winter in a more peaceful way.
Creating more cozy and less chaos this winter season
1. We don’t rush to put up decorations
Also, we don’t rush to take them down. We listen to what feels good for the flow of our family and home. We keep winter decor simple and in more neutral colors and use lots and lots of candles and lights.
2. We create weeknight parties just for us.
A cheeseboard and a bottle of wine make any old night a festive one. We like to have a cheese board in place of a regular dinner and play a card or board game.
3. We brunch!
I love getting up earlier than my family on cold Saturday and making some sort of kitchen wizardry and letting the smell of it wake the boys up. They come down the stairs and ask what we are doing for the day. When the answer is eating this cinnamon bread, reading and maybe going for a walk nobody does much complaining.
Before you get started on this cinnamon bread I highly recommend investing in a kitchen scale. Most baking problems occur when ingredients are measured by volume instead of weight. Many bread recipes call for a dusting of flour on the surface of your workspace. We are going to butter our surface as in this recipe an additional amount of fat is more desirable than an additional amount of flour. We are also going to use what seems like a ridiculous waste of cinnamon. It is important to use this much cinnamon as the moisture in the dough will absorb some of it and we want very clear layers of cinnamon in the final loaf.
Swirls of cinnamon tucked into soft brioche make this cinnamon bread perfect for fresh eating, toasted with butter or as the best ever french toast.
- 8 oz whole milk
- 4 oz butter unsalted
- 1 egg
- 1.75 oz sugar
- .5 oz active dry yeast
- .05 oz salt
- 16 oz bread flour
- cinnamon ground
- 1 egg white whipped for wash
- decorators sugar
Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter is just melted. Do not let boil. Cool to lukewarm. (hot milk will burn the yeast and scramble the egg)
Add sugar, yeast, and egg into a medium bowl. Mix well. Add the butter mixture and mix well. Let the yeast bloom*.
Add the salt to the flour and incorporate into the butter-egg mixture. Mix until all the flour is wet. Turn out dough onto a lightly buttered surface. Knead 3-5 minutes until dough is elastic and smooth. It will be a bit sticky. Shape dough into a ball, place into a buttered bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, let rise in a warm place 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a buttered counter. Divide it into 3 portions that are roughly the same size. Roll each portion out into a 12×8 or so rectangle and sprinkle enough cinnamon on the surface to cover the surface and make little paths with your fingers. (see video) Roll each rectangle into a tight roll and pinch the seams closed.
Lay all three rolls parallel to each other with seam sides down. Starting at one end bring the tops together and pinch them together to hold their place. Fold the strand on the right over the strand in the middle. Fold the strand on the left over the new middle strand. Fold the strand on the right over the new middle strand. Repeat until you have come to the end of each strand. Pinch the bottom ends together and tuck them gently under the braid. Tuck the top end gently under the braid. (see video)
Place a sheet of parchment paper on your baking tray and gently place your braid on top. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 30 minutes or until at least doubled in size.
Wash with an egg white wash and sprinkle generously with decorators sugar. Preheat oven to 350f and bake for about 35-45 minutes. The braid may pull apart in the middle, allow the bread to cook until the top of the braid is a nice deep golden brown and the lower parts are a honey golden brown.
Let cool and garnish with a powdered sugar glaze or leave unglazed for perfect cinnamon toast for breakfast all week!
Yeast has “bloomed” when it has dissolved and has created a layer of foamy bubbles on the surface of your mixture. Yeast is a microscopic living organism (fungus) that can get old, or die. Allowing the yeast to bloom lets you know it is fully dissolved and is working.