Panera has nothing on this bread recipe! Soft, homemade bread makes up the base of this cinnamon crunch braided bread. Homemade cinnamon chips fill the inside and it's topped with a cinnamon crunch streusel.
Warm the milk in a bowl in the microwave for just about 1 to 11/2 minutes until it is warm. Add in the sugar and salt, then stir the mixture. Allow it to sit until it is warm, but not too hot (if you have a thermometer, it should measure about 105-110 degrees in order to proof active dry yeast). Add 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of yeast right to this milk. Allow the yeast to proof for about 5 minutes. It should get nice and frothy.
Add the softened (almost melted) butter and 2 eggs. Stir this well until it is all blended together.
Gradually add in the flour,1 cup at a time. Add in the last 1/2 a cup and start to knead the dough with your hands until the last 1/2 cup of flour is incorporated in. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and continue to knead the bread for about 7 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Add a bit more flour as you need to during kneading. The dough should still feel sticky, but it will not stick to your hands. During needing, I added less than 1/4 cup of additional flour. If you add too much flour, your bread will be dry.
Place this dough in a greased bowl and cover it. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it has doubled, about 1 hour.
Split the dough into two balls. Knead 1/2 cup of homemade cinnamon chips into each dough ball. They made be hard to stick in initially, but as you work the dough, they'll stick. Split each dough ball into three pieces. Roll those 3 pieces out into a snake about 12" long. Braid the three ropes together and tuck/pinch the ends so that the braid does not come undone. Place each braid on a greased baking sheet.
Beat the remaining egg and brush the tops of the loaves with this. This is what gives the bread such a lovely golden color!
In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon for the streusel. Continue to cut in the butter until the mixture is in coarse crumbs. Split this mixture between the two loaves, patting the sugar on top of the braids.
Cover the loaves and allow the dough to rise for another 1/2 an hour, then bake the bread dough for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with butter or cinnamon butter.