Vanilla Swirl Bread

Recently, my dog went on a little field trip.

I’ve only talked about Loki a few times on here, but I’m sure that I’ve made it clear that I’m pretty much devoted to him.

I think that when it comes to soul mates, we don’t get just one. I mean, I think we just get one of each kind, but there’s, like, a variety of soul mates for each of us. You know, there’s the ever important spouse-y soul mate, and there’s the bestie soul mate, of course. I mean, those two are pretty much given. But I just know that we all get more than that. Like, there’s definitely the shopping soul mate. Some people might assume that this is actually one and the same with the bestie soul mate, but I’m pretty sure that I have another friend who isn’t actually my bestie, but who is the funnest person in all the malls to go shopping with.

I’m completely confident that Loki is my four-legged, furry, adorable, K-9 soul mate. No doubt about it. He’s not just awesome, either, he’s a really good boy. I mean, if he gets ahold of a tissue of any kind, he will shred it, but I don’t hold it against him. It’s like crack for him…he can’t help himself. Who am I to judge? I have my own bad habits, after all.

Anyway, he never runs off. The one and only time he ever left our yard without us, he was attacked by a big old German Shepard who was clearly PMS-ing. Loki just wanted to say hi, maybe play around in the yard a little bit, but she was eating and went all psycho on his ass. Look, I get it. I know when I’m PMS-ing that I’ll go all exorcist on you if you even look sideways at my chocolate. She can’t really be held responsible for her actions. Loki wasn’t really hurt, just shaken and scared, but he never left our yard alone again.

During my entire stay at my sister’s, he never once slipped out of the back yard with his furry cousins when the gate was inadvertently left open. It was always funny to walk outside and see him sitting just inside the gate, staring out and watching his cousins. I can just picture him saying, “You’ll get in trouble. I wouldn’t go if I were you.”

Then, one day, Piper squeezed out of the barely open gate. Loki loves Piper. She’s a pretty, white Westie, and he’s a handsome, white Bichon…they’re so cute running around together.

But she’s a bad influence. She escaped and she turned around and totally peer pressured the Lokmeister to go for a little run with her. She was all, “Come on, man. They’ll never know! We’ll be back before they even notice that we left. Don’t be a chicken…I have the coolest stash of cat poop to show you. It’s only two streets over. Come on!”

Well, unfortunately, she had him at “cat poop.”

It only took about five minutes of calling for them before they returned, but I swear to you, it was like five hours. Have you ever noticed just how long five minutes really is?! It’s insane. I was terrified. After all, it was morning time, and people were on their way to work, driving all half asleep while they put make up on, drink their scalding coffee, and text their kids about getting them after school. Who is going to notice two little white puppies out for a stroll on their own?!

Anyway, I turned the corner and there they are, running down this little side street, the sun rising behind them, big old toothy grins on their little faces like this was the most wonderful day EVAH.

In retrospect, it’s hilarious, but at the time, I was just so relieved, I didn’t laugh.

Fortunately, my naughty puppy niece apparently knows her way around, and kept my doe eyed little boy away from the harder parts of the neighborhood. I will never forget how funny they looked running towards me, though. Loki was all, “HI MOM!! I just had the BEST TIME EVAH! We went exploring, and I saw NEW yards, and DIFFERENT trees, and even a NEW sign post to pee on! And the sun is shining and my friend Piper showed me her cat poop stash! It. Was. AWESOME!!”

Meanwhile, Piper had slowed to a walk and veered off to hide from me behind a tree. She knew she shouldn’t have led her innocent cousin astray, and she wasn’t about to just walk up and be all, “Heyyyy, Aunt Darla. How’s it hangin’?”

I was so relieved to see them both safe, that I only grounded her for a little while, though. Then I wired the gates closed so that I would never have to go through this again.

And I ate some bread. Like, 12 or 14 pieces, but I think I deserved it. It was a scary morning.

Really scary. So I had super special vanilla swirl bread.

The bread is made up of pretty basic ingredients like unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, milk, water, instant yeast, with the addition of eggs, vanilla, and sugar or vanilla sugar.

If you’ve never had vanilla sugar, you are missing out. Big time. I had vanilla sugar for the first time a few years ago, when we ordered some from Penzey’s Spices. It’s so beautiful; it’s slightly cream colored with these pretty little specks of vanilla seeds sprinkled throughout. And it makes the most amazing toast in the whole world. I love a thick piece of toasted bread, slathered with salty, melted butter, and sprinkled with lots of fragrant vanilla sugar. So. Good.

Vanilla sugar is expensive, though. And this recipe requires quite a lot (1/3 cup, plus 1/2 cup). Fortunately, there’s lots of great tutorials all over the interwebs that show you how to make your very own vanilla sugar.

Just in case you want to save your precious vanilla sugar, though (and I can’t say that I blame you), you can also make this with just a little vanilla sugar, and a little plain sugar, plus some extra vanilla extract. I’ve included the substitutions in the recipe.

This recipe makes one nine inch loaf, but I decided to make three mini loaves instead. To do this, I just divided the dough into three equal pieces of about 12 ounces each.

After the dough has had it’s first rise, shape it into a rectangle about six inches wide by twelve inches long. If you’re making one loaf, then you’ll shape it to be about 12 x 18″ instead.

Brush the dough with a little milk and sprinkle on lots of vanilla sugar. The more the merrier. Trust me.

Roll the dough tightly, pinching it closed at the seam, and place it seam side down in a loaf pan.

Use the technique here for lining your loaf pan(s) with parchment.

These mini loaves only baked for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, but a full loaf will bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

I honestly wasn’t sure how this would be. I mean, one of my very favorite treats is vanilla sugar toast, so I was pretty sure it’d be amazing, but I had no idea it would be this good. I mean, it’s seriously delectable. It doesn’t need anything either. Slice it, serve it. Done. It’s that good.

The bread itself has a sweet, rich, light crumb, and the swirl of vanilla sugar that runs through the middle is irresistible. It’s not just a fantastic tasting bread, either. It looks beautiful when it comes out of the oven, and gorgeous inside when you slice it.

Just look at all those lovely little vanilla seeds. Had I used vanilla sugar in the main part of this loaf, then the crumb of the bread would be beautifully speckled with more seeds. This is a rich loaf of bread, not just in flavor, but in ingredients, so I save it for special occasions.  Vanilla sugar is expensive, so if you’re unable to make your own, then I highly recommend using regular sugar and adding extra vanilla extract instead. The loaves that I made with all vanilla sugar were more fragrant, and had a stronger vanilla flavor than the ones with regular sugar, but the plain sugar loaves were still absolutely delightful.

I never understood why people call dull things “vanilla.” I think vanilla is anything but boring. It’s delicate and understated, and completely classic, but never, ever boring.

Next time you want a special, unexpected treat, try this bread. You will be so very happy that you did. Enjoy!

Vanilla Swirl Bread [Printable Version]
Makes 1 9-inch loaf


3 1/2 – 4 cups (445 to 508 grams) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (67 grams) vanilla sugar (or plain sugar, for less cost)
2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry or instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup (125 ml) hot water
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla (double if using plain sugar)

1/2 cup (100 grams) vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk

To make the bread dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attached, combine 3 1/2 cups (445 grams) of the flour with the sugar, yeast, and salt.

In a small bowl, combine the butter pieces and the hot water. Stir until the butter is completely melted, then stir in the milk. Whisk the eggs into the mixture and stir in the vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer on low and add the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until a dough forms. Once the dough comes together, scrape the bowl, increase the speed to medium high, and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough just sticks to the bottom center of the bowl and the dough is smooth and elastic. If is still very sticky after 5 minutes, add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough is less sticky.

Spray a medium bowl with non stick spray and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled (1 1/2 to 2 hours).

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down the center of the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes (at this point, you can refrigerate the dough, covered, overnight).

Turn the rested bread dough out onto a countertop and flatten into a 12″ by 18″ rectangle. Brush the dough with milk, leaving a 1 inch border around the outside edge. Sprinkle all of the  vanilla sugar on the dough. Tightly roll the dough into a loaf shape, pinch the seam closed, and place seam side down in a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan. Cover with a clean dry towel and allow to double in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Once the dough has risen, bake for 30-40 minutes or until the bread reaches 190 degrees inside. Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before serving.

Recipe by Darla

Leave a comment


  1. Katie KaBoom says

    I got a jar of vanilla sugar (as well as a bunch of other Penzey’s spices!) as a bridal shower gift, and I use it in just about everything I bake (or try to)– just a sprinkle on the pie crust before it bake it, and some on top of the pie right after it comes out of the oven, or on cookies. Yum! My husbands loves it in his coffee, too, so I have to hide it, lol.

  2. says

    That bread sounds amazing. Anything with a vanilla-y swirl in the middle is pure heaven.
    I too have a bad infulencer cousin dog. She is a little slut dog. When I watcher her she actually walks by my little Winston and flaunts her butt to him..its actually a pretty funny sight. But she totally does it on purpose!

  3. says

    Darla I want to come and live with you so I can get fat and happy on all the amazing things you bake. We can watch Harry Potter and our dogs can play outside together (Oreo is my border collie soul mate, i totally get that). Ok Im in my happy place now, happy wednesday 🙂

  4. says

    I know how you feel! Biscuit-the-pug is my soul mate. He’s like a person in a dog suit. Unfortunately, he is not as well behaved as your adorable Loki.

    I bet the the aroma of vanilla-swirl bread baking is ridiculous!!

  5. Mia says

    Oh that looks yummy. Sorry I have the cat who loves to taunt dogs. From behind the safety of her fence of course.

    I would love to know more about the loaf pans you used. They look like they are the disposible ones I have seen in the fancy catalogs.

  6. says

    Beautiful bread Darla! It so looks soooooo good. I don’t seem to have very good luck with yeast breads for some reason. That is one of my 2012 resolutions. I will try this for sure. Thanks for sharing and glad you got your little guy back safe and sound.

  7. says

    I’m serious, my stomach is growling after seeing those photos and reading how delectable and scrumptious they are! Too bad I have to finish off some homework and the fact that it’s 11:12pm means I can’t make this bread tonight. Oh well there’s always tomorrow~ 😉

  8. Hanne says

    I know how that must have felt. I managed to lose my parents’ two dogs during Christmas, and it was a horrifying experience. I had just arrived at my parents’ place, and since they were both at work, I decided to let the dogs out into the yard. Turns out that someone had left the gate open, and soon I realised that the dogs were gone. I was so scared I almost started crying, because I was so sure they had already gotten run over by a truck. How on earth would I explain to my parents that I had managed to kill their precious dogs within 10 minutes of arriving home? Fortunately the dogs hadn’t gotten that far, and it only took me a few minuted to find them. Now I check the gate to make sure that it’s closed before I let the them out 😀

  9. says

    Definitely need to try this! But if the vanilla sugar is too expensive, I’m gonna’ have to make my own xD Thanks for putting alternatives. You always think of everything ♥

    ~ Kieli ~

  10. says

    This bread looks heavenly! I’ve pinned it and will be making soon.
    And I totally get the dogs and the “cat poop” scavenger hunt. On the rare occasions my dog gets out, the girls and I look like the crazy ladies, calling all over the neighborhood “Isabella, Isabellaaaaaaa” only she never comes to us, she just embraces her freedom. Luckily, she usually goes to her favorite neighbor who then nicely returns her to us.

  11. Sugarplum says

    Hi Darla, just wanted to say thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. As my family aren’t fond of vanilla, I’d adapted it to orange zest and it’s still yummy.

  12. Steph says

    Just made this for Christmas morning breakfast. My mom always makes an overnight-soaked baked french toast every year for brunch. She usually uses a regular challah or baguette, but this year I decided we needed to use a better bread so we decided to use this. Thankfully, we only did one pan of french toast so had a half of the loaf to snack on. This was AMAZING! The only thing differently I did was I added brushed some melted butter along with the milk and vanilla sugar and it was SO good! The bread was gorgeous when it was sliced too!

  13. Liana says

    I have to thank you for this amazing recipe! I have taken to cutting the roll of dough up into slices about the size you’d do for cinnamon rolls and drizzling them with a little vanilla glaze for the most amazing sweet rolls ever!! I absolutely cannot live without them, you are the best!

  14. Tash says

    These just got out of the oven. They smell so delicious, I can’t wait to try a piece…or two. But I was wondering if you had a certain technique to fold the bread. Mine certainly did not come out like yours lol! Thanks.