If you're a cinnamon toast aficionado, keep reading.
If you don't love light, crunchy toast slathered with butter and topped with a shower of crunchy sugar and aromatic cinnamon—why ever not? Keep reading, I'll convince you.
We all know cinnamon toast. Sliced bread, popped in the toaster, buttered, sugared. What I'm talking about here, though, is a different animal. Known by an array of names.
Zwieback. Korpu. Trenary Toast.
As Shakespeare might have said, had he thought to put down his bowl of breakfast cornflakes and pick up a pen, “A toast by any other name would taste as sweet.”
For those of us who remember Nabisco Zwieback Toasts—and our number is legion, I'd presume—you might notice that they're no longer on the grocery store shelf. Sadly, they've gone to that Big Sam's Club in the Sky, same place you'll find Turkish Taffy, Burry Fudgetowns, Royal Lunch crackers, and Hostess Choco-Bliss.
Discontinued. Dropped. "No longer available," as the marketing arm of their various parent companies will tell you.
But—what about the pie whose crust calls for Zwieback crumbs? The perfect coffee go-with?
And what about the baby?
Because that's who Zwieback Toasts were originally marketed for: teething babies. It was only after moms started enjoying the leftover crumbs that we adults began enjoying Zwieback, with its faint sweetness, haunting hint of nutmeg and cinnamon, and ethereally light texture.
Gone, all gone. But not forgotten. And now, recreated in a slightly different guise, but with the same delicious flavor and compelling texture.
Finnish Korpu, and Trenary Toast (a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula), are both thin-sliced bread, spread with cinnamon sugar and oven-dried to stay good for months. Rather than mimic Nabisco's thicker Zwieback (which would take a lonnnnnnnng time to dry out in the oven), I decided to clone these, instead.
The result: Zwieback taste and texture, enhanced with cinnamon-sugar. What could be better?
Aside from banana Turkish Taffy, not much.
If you want to follow along with the recipe as you read, here it is: Zwieback.
Here's one of my favorite ready-made ingredients: our Cinnamon-Sugar Plus, a combination of superfine sugar and Vietnamese cinnamon. You can certainly make your own—with our Baker's Special Sugar and Vietnamese cinnamon. But however you do it, I'm sure you'll love this blend of lightly crunchy sugar and super-fragrant cinnamon.
Let's start with a basic rich yeast dough: King Arthur Flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; milk, eggs, and butter. And a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Knead till smooth. Notice that the dough is slightly sticky—see it clinging to the bottom of the bowl? That's fine. Never try to make a sticky dough perfectly smooth; all you're doing is impeding its ability to rise, and encouraging the final loaf to be dry.
Put it in your favorite rising vessel. As always, mine is this 8-cup measure.
Let rise. This isn't an enthusiastic riser, due to the fat and sugar, but it'll puff up.
And notice that it's lost its stickiness. As dough rises, the gluten continues to develop, and the flour continues to absorb moisture, changing a sticky dough into one that's easily handled.
Divide the dough in half, and shape it into two 12” logs. Space them on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. A half-sheet pan is just the right size. Cover and let rise for about 90 minutes.
Again, they won't double, but will definitely get puffy.
Place in a 350°F oven.
Ah! There's the rise. Bake for about 22 minutes. Just 22 minutes, really? Yup.
The loaves will get nice and brown, like this. Their internal temperature will be about 190°F. Let the loaves cool overnight, uncovered, on a rack. Yes, uncovered. You want them to start drying out.
Next day, use a ruler to measure out 1/2” slices. Picky, picky... Well, in this case it pays to be picky. If all your slices are pretty much the same thickness, they'll all dry out at the same rate.
1/2” seems to be the optimum thickness.
Here's one loaf, cut up and ready to dry in the oven.
At first I thought, ah, just like biscotti. Stand them on end, dry both sides at once.
Problem: They were so finely balanced on their 1/2” width, any small movement in the kitchen—an adjoining oven door slamming, someone with heavy feet—caused them to tumble like dominoes.
Plan B: Just lay them down. One loaf will fit one half-sheet pan perfectly. Minus the little end nubs.
Notice how these are all the same thickness. Nag, nag...
For the MEREST hint of cinnamon, dust with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for an hour in a VERY low oven—about 225°F. The bread will start to dry out.
Remove from the oven, and turn all the pieces over. For cinnamon toasts—remember Korpu and Trenary Toast?—sprinkle each piece with about 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar. Bake for another hour, until the toasts are very dry and crisp.
And here they are—plain, and cinnamon.
See all the holes? That's what gives this toast its ethereally light, crunchy texture. Minus the cute kid on the box, I think we've got this clone nailed...
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Trenary Home Bakery, Trenary, MI: Cinnamon Trenary Toast, 32¢/ounce
Nabisco Zwieback Toast, 6-ounce package — formerly 60¢/ounce, but since it's no longer made: priceless!
Bake at home: Zwieback, 8¢/ounce