Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Baking Frenzy: Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I think baking bread might be my calling. At least, it's my current obsession. There is something magical about the smell of yeast and getting my hands in the dough during the kneading process, and the heavenly scent of bread baking that really soothes and detoxifies me. This is a very good thing for my stress levels, but maybe not so much for my time management.

Karl bought me a 9x5 inch non-stick loaf pan in exchange for my promise to bake him some delicious breads. I started off with one of his favorites: cinnamon raisin bread. Why should he pay for a mediocre loaf of sugar-fied Pepperidge Farms cinnamon raisin bread when I can lovingly craft a delicious, hearty loaf from scratch?, I thought to myself.

I found this recipe through Project Foodie, a recipe search engine. There were a few changes I had to make to the recipe. For one, it called for way too much milk. I cut it down to 1 cup (instead of 1 cup plus 2 TBSP) and still needed to add about 3/4 cup more flour because the dough was too wet. I also added more raisins than the recipe called for, and used canola oil instead of cooking spray (which can be difficult to remove from nonstick cookware).

The bread turned out gorgeous: it's heavier than it looks, and dense, but somehow it is also light in texture. It makes great toast, and promises to hold up for the better part of a week (if it lasts that long!). I highly recommend it!

Miller’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Yields 1 loaf

1 cup raisins
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
2 ½ TBSP unsalted butter
3-to-4 cups bread flour, divided
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
¾ tsp salt
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
canola oil

Place raisins in a small saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Drain well.

Heat milk over low heat in a small, heavy saucepan to between 100°F and 110°F. Remove from heat. Add butter to pan, and stir until butter melts.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 ¾ cups flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ¾ tsp salt, and yeast in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the warm milk mixture and eggs to flour mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Add more flour, ¼ cup at a time, if necessary (you don’t want the dough to be very wet). Add raisins. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 TBSP at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated lightly coated with canola oil, turning to coat top. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts. I like to put the bowl on top of the stove and turn the oven on to about 200˚F, since my apartment is not that warm. Allow the dough to rise 1 hour or until doubled in size. To test if dough is ready, gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough. Punch dough down, then fold the sides into the center. Cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Roll dough into a 14x7-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets. Pinch seam and ends to seal. Place roll, seam side down, in a 9x5-inch loaf pan lightly coated with canola oil. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.