It was a cold, drizzly spring day in the Smokies when I made my first visit to Dollywood. I spent the first 16 years of my life in the Smokies every summer as well as many spring days, so I wasn't at all surprised to find it cold and rainy in May. But what came as a complete surprise were all the delicious foods to be had at Dolly Parton's theme park.
The food scene has grown exponentially since the park opened in 1986. One of the favorites is cinnamon bread.
So there I was, rather chilled and hungry, waiting for that first comforting bite of cinnamon bread sold at The Grist Mill in the park's Craftsman's Valley.
We were the first in line on that dreary day. Experts will tell you that you won't find a long line if you hustle to The Grist Mill first thing when the park opens and everyone else is at the entrance area. That's when you'll find the day's first batch of cinnamon bread fresh from the oven.
There are no tables at The Grist Mill. Fortunately, though, the park has ample seating all around — places where you can rest your feet after a day of walking the park or have a roof overhead if you're seeking shelter from the rain or shade from the sun. We found a seat in the open-air Valley Theater across the way. And there I consumed my first of two thick slices of cinnamon bread, warm and dripping with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Did I need to lather it with the cinnamon butter or apple butter that came with it? No. But I did. Did I need to scoop up more of the melted cinnamon, brown sugar and butter on the bottom of the loaf pan and drizzle it over the bread? No, but I did. Did I put on a pound or two afterward? Yes, I did. But I didn't care. The cinnamon bread at Dollywood is an experience. An adventure in comfort food.
If you leave the park and have cinnamon-bread regret not taking a loaf or two home with you, or if you happen to be staying at Dollywood's spectacular DreamMore Resort, you can buy it at the resort's DM Pantry, a Starbucks and market. Or you can make it at home. There are three loaves in my freezer right now. Here's the recipe from Dollywood.
Dollywood's Cinnamon Bread
For the dough:
1/2 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon plus a pinch of granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the topping:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
For the glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 to 5 tablespoons milk
Make the dough: Combine the warm water, yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar in a small bowl, and let sit until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the bread flour, the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and salt in a stand mixer.
Add the yeast mixture and melted butter to the flour mixture. Knead with the dough hook on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Punch down the dough, and transfer to a work surface; knead a few times. Cut in half, and gently shape into two 3- by 6-inch loaves (do not overwork the dough). Place the loaves 3 inches apart on the prepared pan. Lightly spray the loaves with cooking spray, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until puffy, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Make the topping: Whisk the granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small baking dish. Whisk the melted butter and corn syrup in another small baking dish.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Cut 4 deep slashes across the top of each loaf (the loaves will look deflated). Dip each loaf in the butter-corn syrup mixture, turning to coat, then coat with the cinnamon sugar, making sure to get the sugar in the crevices. Place the loaves in the prepared pans. Drizzle with any remaining butter mixture, and sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Lift the bread out of the loaf pans using the parchment overhang, and transfer to a rack. Let cool in the paper, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners sugar, salt, melted butter and 3 tablespoons milk in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in up to 2 more tablespoons milk as needed to loosen. Drizzle on the warm loaves, or serve on the side for dipping.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at annebraly.com.
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