Of all the calendar months, November is a pretty big one when it comes to food. But before we rush to Thanksgiving banter, it’s only right that we pay homage to the most important matter at hand--November is National Cinnamon Raisin Bread month.
That’s right. Good ol’ cinnamon raisin bread. Sort of like that stuffed animal you outgrew or the TV show that used to make you laugh, but now you barely even crack a smile, cinnamon raisin bread is incredible because of it’s nostalgic appeal, rather that it’s face value quality. We all ate it from the bag distinguished with a purple lable growing up, but as we got older, we moved on to wheatier, seedier breads that boasted maturity and complexity.
Upon learning that this month is a national celebration of such an integral component of the average American child’s upbringing, we thought we’d play around with some slices of this sweet carby icon of innocence in the kitchen. But this time, we attempted to bring some added sophistication to the traditionally youthful food, and the results were pretty darn impressive.
We thought we’d start things off pretty harmlessly and make croutons, an obvious solution to using up any surplus of bread. Using a whole loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, smear a thin layer of butter on each side of the slices, and cut into 1-inch squares. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together ⅓ cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, toss your sugar mixture with your buttered bread cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet, making sure that the cubes aren’t clumped on one another, and bake until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 to 25 minutes at 375°F. Let them cool for at least 5 minutes on the baking sheet to harden.
We tossed them in a leafy salad with goat cheese, toasted nuts, and a simple olive oil, honey, and lemon vinaigrette. We also fully support a cinnamon raisin bread fruit “panzanella” with these crunchy cinnamon delights. Toss a handful of croutons with fresh fruit, olive oil, and a dollop of greek yogurt. #salad #eatclean #healthy
Now, we can’t write about creative things to do with a loaf of bread without talking about breadcrumbs. And if we’re talking about breadcrumbs, then there’s pretty much no way around the fact that we’re about to fry some chicken. To make the bread crumbs, arrange slices of bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes at 200°F, or until toasted. Rip into pieces and toss into a food processor, then pulse until crumbs have formed. Add extra cinnamon and a dash of salt to the food processor and pulse to combine.
To fry the chicken, make sure you’re breading thin chicken breast fillets. Dredge in all-purpose flour, dip in an egg wash, and then coat with bread crumbs. Heat canola oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat, and add chicken fillets, cooking 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until crumbs are crispy and chicken is fully cooked through. Say hello to the great sweet/savory chicken dish you have ever prepared. Aromatic, cozy, and crunchy, this fried chicken can take care of all the cravings at once.
The fun doesn’t stop there! We then used slices of cinnamon raisin bread in a croque madame, which is basically a ham and cheese sandwich drenched in a cheesy bechamel sauce, and topped with a fried egg. There’s nothing else that I can say except that this was the ultimate comfort food. And I don't use the word U-word lightly. So. Damn. Tasty.
While we were in a sammie-making mood, we went ahead and made a grilled Brie sandwich because cinnamon raisin is basically asking to be paired with warm, gooey Brie cheese. Topped with bacon and a smear of raspberry jam, this is a grown-up grilled cheese that is sweet and savory in all the right places. For another savory, yet slightly lighter, sandwich on cinnamon raisin bread, make a rosemary chicken salad it and smear it on some lightly toasted slices for an easy and extra-special packed lunch.
Also, did you know that there is a holiday this month called Thanksgiving where you will more than likely end up with an overwhelming amount of leftover turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy? You should take all of these things and put them between two slices of cinnamon raisin bread for an epic leftover lunch on Black Friday.
Moving towards some sweeter options, it'd be a damn crime for us not to suggest a pull-apart monkey bread with a cinnamon raisin twist for this month. Swirl in an extra cinnamon glaze, and toss in bourbon-soaked raisins for an adult take on your favorite, butter-laden dessert (and/or breakfast?). Or if monkey bread isn't your thing, go for a more traditional dessert dish that's got bread spelled out in its name, and swap the ciabatta for (preferably stale) cinnamon raisin bread in your favorite bread pudding.
Lastly, but so not leastly, we ended things on a (sort of) light(ish) note with some goat cheese toast. We mixed goat cheese with 2% greek yogurt to thin it out just a tad, and spread it on a piece of toasted cinnamon raisin. We then topped this with chopped toasted hazelnut and walnuts, shaved dark chocolate, and a drizzle of honey. Who says cinnamon raisin toast can’t be classy, sassy, and maybe even a little bit bourgie?
Basically, we learned a valuable lesson today. The most seemingly childish and kid-friendly foods can serve as the basis for some of the most fun, grown-up kitchen creativity. That said, we're def not above popping a slice of it in the toaster, then spreading a thin layer of butter on it, and calling it a day. Because sometimes it's best not to complicate what is already great.