There’s nothing like a little draft in the air to inspire me to bake. I’ve been having a little bit of a baking cold spell lately. I had a few things planned for the last couple of weeks but life got in the way. Since the summer heat has generally died down, I am ready to go full-on into fall baking.
I plan a list of things I want to bake during the fall every year, but never seem to go through with it. Even in the winter, concerning the American tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies for Christmas. I’ve never been one to make cookies anyway, but I digress.
One of the things that always appears on the list is bread. I’ve been on a bread kick as of late and it’s all I want to make. My last two attempts at bread loaves ended with lots of disappointment. They both came out flat and tasted off. I ate both loaves by myself over several weeks. I worked most of my meals around my flat and tangy bread failures. I couldn’t even make a proper sandwich! I knew what went wrong both times but hoped it wouldn’t matter. The culprits were the lack of bread flour and the size of my loaf pan. Accepting my failures, I caved for one of the two items; a smaller loaf pan. I was obviously unaware that the standard loaf pan size is 9″x5″. My first loaf pan, aka my Behemoth, is more like 12″x6″. After noticing that most (ahem, more like 99%) of bread recipes called for a 9″x5″, I gave in and bought one.
My family is a big fan of anything high in cinnamon and raisins. They usually buy those Pepperidge Farm loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread at Sam’s Club and gobble it up within days. I planned on breaking in my new pan with this cinnamon bread. Even after reading and re-reading the recipe several times, I neglected the fact that the original recipe called for two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Thank goodness I had my Behemoth as backup because it suited this recipe perfectly. Despite reading the recipe reviews, laden with rise failures, I trekked on and hoped for the best.
Everything worked perfectly fine, even with a few modifications. To combat the rising problems many of the reviewers had, I used my toaster oven as a proof box. I turned my toaster oven on while I kneaded and formed the dough after the first rise. Turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly, before placing the plastic covered loaf pan in there for its second rise. I made sure the oven was warm and not hot because I didn’t want the bread to bake prematurely.
The loaf came out tall, fragrant, and fluffy. It tastes exactly like the packaged stuff, if not better. Yeah, the swirl was missing but it doesn’t even matter when you have bread as easy and as fresh as this. It’s great warm out of the oven but tastes even better toasted the next day.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes one 12″x6″ loaf, or two 8 1/2″x4 1/2″ loaves
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
- 1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
- Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins or other fruit, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough if using two loaf pans, shape into loaves and place into your two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- I used half soy milk and half 2% milk, with good results. If you’re using alternate milks, please let me know what you use and how it turns out!
- Chopped nuts, or other dried fruit can also be incorporated into the dough.
- Make sure your water is not too hot for your yeast! The water should be warmer than body temperature (about 110F/45C) but not too hot to the touch. Use a food thermometer if you have one, and would like the reassurance that you won’t kill your yeast.
- If you don’t have a toaster oven to use as a mock proof box, use your regular stove oven. Preheat the oven and then shut it off before placing your bread in there for its second rise. Just make sure it isn’t too hot!