Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Thanks Cinnamon Bread

In Nicholas Kristof’s recent article, “Girls Just Want to Go to School,” he tells the story of Vietnam’s Dao Ngoc Phung, a malnourished 14-year old girl who is raising her siblings. Her mother has died, and her father must travel long distances for work so she must be the family’s mother.

Yet, despite the odds, Phung gets up at 3AM to study each day. She dreams of being an accountant.

This story, like so many of Kristof’s stories, inspired me and forced me to question: How can we live a life where we keep Phung’s story in mind?

This year, I’m turning my Thanksgiving into more of a New Year’s box of resolutions. I want to give thanks for what I already have.  I want to complain less and appreciate more. And I want to slow down and weed out the things that really don’t matter like un-vacuumed floors and responding to every email. (Those are on the same plane for me.)

Instead, I want to make more time for my family. And for patience. And for thinking of people like Phung. And for baking bread like this one below.

Andy and I like to make this cinnamon raison bread and give it out to friends. I call it happiness swirl bread. My friend Cindy calls a cinnamon bun in disguise. Whatever you call it, I hope that you find time to make it and to do whatever else truly matters in your life. We’ve got it pretty good….

Brown Sugar-Raisin Bread (adapted from William Sonoma Bread)
Makes two 9-by-5- inch loaves

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus a bit more for greasing
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
6 cups bread flour, plus a bit more for kneading
1 ½ cups raisins

For the filling:
2/3 cup brown sugar mixed with 4 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon

Mix the yeast with a ½ cup of the water and a sprinkle of sugar. Let rest about 10 minutes or until bubbly.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine yeast mixture with remaining water, remaining sugar, salt, egg, milk, and 2 cups of flour. For about 1 minute, beat on medium speed. Add ½ cup flour and raisins. Beat in remaining flour, ½ cup at a time. Dough should be moist and pulling away from the sides of the mixer

Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low for about 4 more minutes. Hand kneed for a few more minutes and turn dough into large greased bowl. Cover bowl loosely in plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

Grease two 9-by-5 inch bread pans. Divide dough in half and roll each piece out onto floured surface into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle rectangles with cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll into logs, pinching ends to seal sugar in. Place each log seam-side down in a prepared pan. Let rise for an hour or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Bake for about 35 minutes or until loaves are golden. Turn bread out onto racks. When cool, slice into and spread with butter. Think happy thoughts.


  1. Ok, cant you just make this for us?!? Quit the writing and just bake full time : ) Seriously, I read his article as well and it has inspired me to appreciate the things (like school) that we so often complain about. Great post!

  2. I am always thankful for good friends...especially good friends willing to share one of their very best recipes. Thanks, Em, for the recipe and for the reminder to be thankful for those things that we sometimes take for granted.