I first started Joy the Baker because I wanted partners in baking. Strange really, considering that when I started Joy the Baker I was working as a baker in a rowdy kitchen. Still, I would find myself coming home in the middle of the afternoon, still looking around for people to bake with. Maybe I was a little obsessed…
Where do obsessed people go to find friends that understand them? The Internet… obviously.
(What feels like) ages ago I joined an online baking group called The Daring Bakers. Every week a different member would bring the group a new and challenging recipe, we’d all make it, post the results and photographs on our respective blogs, and otherwise totally dork out on our accomplishments.
Being part of The Daring Bakers was instrumental in helping me grow my blog audience, helping me make great baking friends online, and helping me realize that I really should never attempt to make a baguette in my home oven ever again… all really important things.
Now, I wanted to bring some of that community spirit back to Joy the Baker! I want us to take on baking challenges, get in the kitchen, and share all the goodness that comes out! We’re partnering with King Arthur Flour on a 4- part baking challenge called BAKING BOOTCAMP! You guys… this is going to be good! The goal is to learn the differences between the most popular flours we use in the kitchen, and to get in the kitchen (each and every one of us) and take on 4 different baking challenges with new knowledge and confidence under our apron strings!
Four Flours + Four Recipes Challenges + One Instagram #bakingbootcamp
+ Four Awesome Sets of Prizes!
The idea is simple!
• Make this braided Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread (it’s sooooo good!) and take a picture of your creation!
• Photograph your beautiful braided bread and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #bakingbootcamp
• When you submit a photo, you’ll be entered to win a one year supply of King Arthur Flour and a Baking Essentials box valued at $250!! Official rules and details can be found here.
I’ll be answering questions and sharing your photographs here on Joy the Baker. By entering the challenge you’ll also have amazing cinnamon swirl bread in your kitchen, so… you really can’t lose.
Let’s get started!
Here’s what you’ll need for our Cinnamon Swirl Bread Baking Bootcamp:
1 • King Arthur All-Purpose Flour is perfectly soft and reliably sturdy for this braided bread.
2 • I use this King Arthur Flour Bench Scraper just about everyday in my kitchen. It’s perfect for scraping little dough bits from the countertop… something a sponge just pitifully attacks. You might also use the bench scraper as a knife to slice though the center of the rolled dough. It’s sharp too! I love this tool!
3 • Kitchen fashion is important to me. Hedley & Bennett understands my needs for a functional, durable, totally chic apron. Not too frilly. I always want to be more badass than 50’s housewife-y in the kitchen.
4 • My Cast Iron Skillet are a staple in my everyday kitchen. Some are more successfully seasoned than others, but I try to keep some cast iron specifically for savory and other just for sweets.
5 • Having Colorful Mixing Bowls is the kitchen equivalent of having a great black dress in your closet. Necessary treat.
6 • Powdered Sugar Sifter because dumping it straight from the bag onto our finished bread is way more dramatic and clumpy than we want it to be.
7 • I inherited a Marble Rolling Pin from a family friend and now I don’t know how I’ve gone without one for so long! This piece has great weigh and can be chilled in the refrigerator prior to rolling to keep our doughs more amiable.
8 • Don’t skimp on Good Silicone Spatulas. The ones that melt along with the butter are just infuriating.
9 • Is it normal to have a completely mismatched set of Measuring Cups, or should I just treat myself to a matching set like this? Don’t answer that…
10 • Same goes for the Measuring Spoons… it’s nice to have a full matching set.
First up in our baking bootcamp: All-Purpose Flour. All-purpose flour is the flour is have stocked in your pantry at all times. It’s super versatile! It can tackle everything from yeasted breads to tender cakes. The moderate protein levels in the flour makes it ready to handle most every baking task. King Arthur All- Purpose Flour is milled from the heart of the red winter wheatberry. It has a protein content of 11.7% which is pretty moderate when you consider the higher protein content of whole wheat flour at 14%. We going to talk about the nitty gritty of flour tomorrow so stay tuned!
Now… let’s bake together!
This bread is a challenge, but that’s the whole idea! We’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone (Even me! I am too!!) to create a braided loaf that’s completely unique and we’re learning to work this all-purpose flour in the process.
I start by assembling all of my ingredients. Measuring and setting ingredients before baking helps me ensure that I haven’t forgotten a vital ingredient.
A towel is also helpful, always.
I first measure and lightly stir and toss the all-purpose flour.
I add sugar to the warmed milk.
I add active dry yeast over the warmed milk and sugar.
Time to stir!
Stirring yeast into warm sugar milk will help activate the yeast in two ways. Yeast is activated by the heat of the milk and eats the sugars added to the milk. It will bubble and froth over the course of five minutes.
That’s when we stir in the egg yolk…
And the butter.
The yeasted, sweet, buttery milk is poured into the all-purpose flour.
I made this recipe with just a bowl and a wooden spoon just to ensure that this recipe was approachable to all of us… even without a fancy stand mixer.
It totally is!
To start, I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon. It comes together it a rough ball. That’s about right!
A good dusting of all-purpose flour for the countertop.
It’s about time to knead!
I start by placing the dough on the floured counter, flipping and rotating it to lightly cover it in flour.
I knead using the heel of my hand to press the dough vertically and forward into a fold.
King Arthur has a really helpful video about how to knead dough by hand. It’s super approachable!
Sometimes a bit more flour is necessary.
After five minutes of kneading, the dough will be soft and smooth. It almost has a creamy quality to it.
To test the gluten development in the kneaded dough, I simply press my finger into the formed dough ball. If the dough springs back, I’m in business!
I lightly grease a large bowl.
Lightly covered in plastic wrap, this is where our dough will rest and rise.
While the dough rests in a warm place (I usually choose next to the oven somewhere), I stirred together softened butter, ground cinnamon, and sugar for the filling.
Stirring the filling together in a small bowl ensure that it will spread onto the dough evenly.
Look at this!
I gently hold and knead the risen dough on a lightly floured surface. Just two kneads will do.
A light dusting as we prepare to roll.
I’m going for a rectangle shape knowing that yeasted dough has a mind of its own and nothing is perfect.
I’m going for 18×12-inches.
Buttery cinnamon filling is added in dollops across the dough. Adding the filling in dollops will help in its even spreading.
Also… fingers are often necessary.
I spread the filling as evenly as possible, leaving about 1-inch of clean dough on all sides.
Whole berries are added! I pressed them down just a bit, nothing too dramatic.
Rolling the dough is done with light but deliberate hands. I start on the left side of the longest side of the dough and gently roll the dough onto itself working from left to right and back again.
The roll is be lumpy and bumpy. That’s because it’s full of fresh fruit! Totally normal.
The roll is left seam side down and the ends are gently tucked under.
Ok. Here’s where things start to get a little crazy.
I slice the rolled dough in half lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch of dough attached (un-cut) at the top.
The doughy halves are then flipped upward.
Hang in there! This feels crazy, but it’s totally possible.
I carefully grab the left strand of dough and lift it over the right strand.
I take the left strand once again and gently lift it over the right strand. It’s normal to need to re-orient the entire strand to make sure it stays evenly twisted in the center of the table. The key is not to be afraid of the dough.
On and on creating a twist.
The braid is twisted arched into a circle and the two ends are pressed together.
I greased a 9-inch skillet.
This particular skillet has tall 3-inch sides. Don’t worry. That’s not entirely necessary. A traditional cast iron skillet will also work well.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, a 10-inch spring form pan will also work well. I always wrap the outside bottom of my spring form pans with foil just to prevent and sneaky leaks.
A 10-inch cake pan with 3-inch sides will also work. Just be sure to grease the cake pan well. Run a knife along the edges of the pan before inverting and removing the bread from the pan.
One deep breath and I gently lifted the dough into the greased skillet.
The fact that I have huge hands helps. There’s no hesitation in this move. The dough will smell my fear. I just go for it.
One large egg, beaten…
And lightly brushed on the the doughy edges of the unbaked loaf.
Off to the oven!
About 25 minutes later the loaf is golden brown and sizzling with berries and cinnamon sugar. It’s all very good news!
Because our dough was gently kneaded with all-purpose flour, eggs, and butter, the bread is wonderfully tender and rich. The sweet berries compliment the fragrant cinnamon creating a perfectly decadent breakfast treat. Also… I just braided bread so I basically feel like a superhero.
photographs by: Jon Melendez
Now it’s your turn! Take on the challenge!
Share your beautiful braided bread with us on Instagram #bakingbootcamp.
You have until June 22nd to submit your photos to be entered to win a one year supply of King Arthur Flour and a Baking Essentials Box valued at $250. Official rules and details here.
Leave any questions about the recipe in the comments below and check back here for all of your baking photos!