Friday, February 5, 2010

Cinnamon Raison Swirl Bread

I keep on meaning to make a yeasted bread, but with the exception of a failed pizza, and several successful focaccias, it’s one of those things that I manage to put off. After reading tons of recipes for cinnamon raisin bread, I decided to take the plunge! First I had to choose a recipe. I looked through my Sweet Breads folder (yes, I am that organized) and found about 7. I knew I wanted a bread with both raisins and cinnamon. I also wanted a swirled bread. So by process of elimination, I found a recipe on Steph Chows that fit all of my requirements.

I followed the recipe exactly with a few exceptions. I used 1 packet of active dry yeast – I didn’t bother to measure. I used whole milk (her recipe didn’t specify what kind she used). I didn’t have agave so I used honey. And I don’t have amaretto, so I soaked my raisins in a combination of Torani Gingerbread Syrup and water. I didn’t add cinnamon to the dough since I wanted to have a pure white bread – but I did add extra to the filling. I love cinnamon!

This bread was really not that difficult to make. I also keep my apartment pretty cool, so I used her technique of heating water in the microwave to create a warm, humid environment. It worked like a charm. I don’t have a stand mixer so I mixed everything by hand, but it still seemed to come together pretty nicely. There were a few moments of concern when my “softened” butter was broken up in chunks in the liquid mixture. But once I added the flour and continued mixing, it all became incorporated.

So if you are like me, and keep on thinking about baking bread but haven’t yet tried it, use this recipe! It’s easy and the bread is oh so delicious. I may invest in a second loaf pan just so I can double this recipe. Or I’ll have to make it once a week! I’m probably going to freeze half of the loaf, since I would love to be able to toast a slice for breakfast when I’m short on time, so I’ll have to let you know how that works out.* When you live by yourself, you have to freeze everything or give it away. Or just get really fat from eating all of your food.

I noticed that once I got to the middle of the loaf, there was a gap between the filling and the bread. Perhaps I didn’t roll it tightly enough? Of course these slices still tasted just as good, they just weren’t as pretty.
Also, the filling remains moist and gooey, even after several days. I decided to put it in the fridge after a day.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread: (adapted from Steph Chows)
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar + ¼ cup
¾ cup warm (not hot) milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp + 2 tbsp honey (use agave if you have it)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 ¼ cups bread flour, plus additional for rolling
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½-2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a medium sized bowl if you don’t have a mixer), whisk together yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and warm milk until well combined. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture starts foaming. (If you don’t see any foam after 10 minutes, start over with a new packet of yeast. Either the yeast was too old to work, or the milk was too hot and killed the yeast.) Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, egg, 3 tbsp honey, vanilla, salt, and butter, and mix using a dough hook (or wooden spoon), until well combined – about 1-2 minutes. Add flour, ½ cup at a time, and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes (or with the wooden spoon for several minutes).

Remove dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for an additional 8 minutes. (Before kneading, this is when I started heating the water in the microwave.) Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Lightly cover and allow to rise in a warm area for 1 ½ hours.

At this point, soak the raisins in whatever flavorful liquid you have. Worst case, just use water. I used a combination of Torani Gingerbread Syrup and water. Steph used amaretto, which I’m sure was amazing. After an hour, drain the raisins. You can start the soaking process before this if you want.

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins until well combined. (Start heating water again in the microwave, if necessary.) Roll dough out using a rolling pin, into a rectangle, ¼-inch thick. I tried to make it so that the shortest side was about 8-9 inches long. Drizzle remaining 2 tbsp honey over the dough. Sprinkle raisin mixture over dough. Roll up, starting with a short end. Pinch and tuck the ends under, and place seam-size down in a greased loaf pan. Lightly cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If desired, whisk together an egg and a tsp of water and brush over the top of the bread. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until deep golden brown, well risen, and it sounds hollow when tapped. Cover with foil if bread browns too quickly. Cool for 30 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

* Update: I have reheated some of the frozen slices and they were great! They turned out as good as fresh either in the toaster oven or the microwave.

No comments: