Raisin Bread for Raisin Lovers
I know there are people who don’t like raisins. I happen to think that’s crazy.
But that just means more raisins for those of us who do.
This bread is for raisin lovers and for those of us who can appreciate the sweet, wrinkly, dried fruit. I said I wasn’t going to make bread from scratch in Aruba because I don’t have a stand mixer here, it’s humid here and damp air and bread dough aren’t friends, and because well, bread takes time and effort. But I was going through a hardcore case of yeast withdrawals after making four bread recipes in November and just had to make bread.
I missed the yeasty smell of bread dough, the feeling of warm soft dough in my hands, and the satisfaction that comes from turning out a homemade loaf. Most of all, I missed the taste of homemade bread so I got to work.
To make the bread, combine half a stick of melted and slightly cooled butter, warmed milk, a beaten egg, a tiny bit of sugar, cinnamon, and optional salt with one packet of instant dry yeast and two cups of bread flour in one big bowl.
The milk can be warmed in a heat-safe glass measuring cup or small bowl in the microwave for about 30 to 45 seconds. I aim for 125F because I use Platinum Red Star Yeast. I brought some with me in my suitcase because I strongly believe in the results and had a feeling I’d want to make bread and came prepared. Milk for most other instant dry yeast should likely be in the 95 to 105F range, but always reference the packaging recommendations.
Mix everything together with a spoon or just get in there with your hands for the fun known as hand-kneading. No stand mixer, no dough hooks, no bread machines, just elbow grease. You don’t need the gym if you knead your own dough. It’s a workout, but a much more enjoyable one than the lat pulldown machine.
Knead the dough for five to eight minutes or until it combines into a soft, smooth, supple ball. If you’re a turbo-kneader, five minutes will probably do the trick, but I’m not. I’m a little pokey, and it took about eight minutes before I called it a day.
When kneading, add up to one-third of a cup of additional flour, for 2 and 1/3 cups total (12 ounces by weight), in order for the dough to become smooth. Add only as much flour as necessary because the more flour that’s added, the denser the dough and finished loaf becomes. Generally with bread-making, the least amount of flour you can get away with adding, the better.
I used bread flour rather than all-purpose because the slightly higher gluten content provides extra structural integrity and the dough will rise better and be more forgiving in case my kneading wasn’t prefect.
Shape the dough into a ball, place it back into the mixing bowl, cover with plasticwrap, and allow it to rise in a warm and draft-free place until doubled in size, about two to three hours. Rising times are variable and will, among other things, depend on room temperature. I went to the pool while the dough was rising and came back two and a half hours later and it had puffed nicely.
Punch the dough down, turn it out onto the counter, sprinkle one cup raisins on top of it, and knead them in. Knead for about two minutes and the raisins will try to sneak out, but just poke them back in. Flatten and stretch the dough into a large rectangle about 8-by-12-inches; no rolling pin necessary. Starting with a short side, roll up the dough into a log, place it seam side down into a sprayed 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and allow it to rise until almost doubled in size. I went for a run, took a shower, and about two hours later, it had almost doubled in size.
I baked the bread for 26 minutes at 375F but my oven runs hot and it’s uneven. Baking times will vary, but anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes are my estimates. When the bread is done, it’ll be golden on top and when removed from the loaf pan, and tapped sharply on the top and bottom, it should sound hollow. As tempting as it is to cut into bread when it’s still warm, don’t. Bread isn’t considered done until it’s fully cooled because the carryover heat continues to cook the bread while it’s cooling on a rack so just be patient. Easier said than done with the intoxicating smell of freshly baked bread and sweet raisins perfuming your house.
The bread is hearty and chewy, with a thicker outer crust that peels away to reveal a softer and very moist interior. The raisins and their moisture serve to tenderize the soft and dense crumb. The bread is excellent toasted and I like it with plenty of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar.
There’s raisins, and plenty of them, in every bite. There’s nothing worse than raisin bread with like five raisins in the whole slice, which isn’t a problem here. Calling all raisin lovers, this bread is for you.
Calling all Raisin Lovers, this bread is for you. There's nothing worse than raisin bread that is skimpy on the raisins and this version is anything but and is chock full of raisins in every bite. The bread is chewy and has a hearty outer crust with a dense, soft, and moist interior. It's excellent toasted with butter and sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar.
Bread can be made entirely by hand, no stand mixer required. Time investment is approximately 5 hours from start to finish, with very little active work time. This includes 10 minutes to make the dough, 2 to 3 hours for first rise, 2 hours for second rise, and 30 minutes to bake.
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk (5 ounces), warmed to 95 to 125F (see instructions below)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (half of one stick)
2 1/4 teaspoons (one one-ounce packet) instant dry yeast (I use Red Star Platinum)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
2 cups + up to 1/3 cup bread flour (12 ounces)
1 heaping cup raisins
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg; set aside. In a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl, warm the milk to temperature, about 30 to 45 seconds. Based on the type of yeast used, temperatures will vary. Red Star Platinum yeast calls for warmer temperatures than most, 120 to 130F; other brands and yeast call for much lower temperatures, about 95 to 105F. Warm the milk according to the yeast manufacturer's recommendations on the packaging. Taking the temperature with a digital thermometer is recommended, but if you're not, make sure the milk is warm, not hot. Err on the cooler rather than hotter side so you don't kill the yeast. Add warmed milk to the egg.
Add melted butter, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, optional salt, and stir to combine. Add 2 cups bread flour and using a spoon and then your hands, form the dough. Turn dough out onto a floured work-surface or Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat and knead for 5 to 8 minutes, or until smooth and supple. Kneading may be done in a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment (knead for 5 to 8 minutes), but I kneaded by hand. If necessary, add up to one-third cup additional flour, for 2 and 1/3 cups total (12 ounces total by weight), in order for the dough to combine and become smooth. The more flour that’s added, the denser and heavier the bread will be; so add it only as necessary.
Mound the dough into a ball. Spray mixing bowl (the same one used to make the dough is fine) with cooking spray or lightly grease it, and place dough into bowl.Cover bowl with plasticwarp and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about two to three hours. Punch dough down, remove it from bowl, and place on Silpat or floured work surface. Sprinkle raisins over the dough and knead them in, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Raisins may have a tendency to come out of dough but just poke them back in.
Flatten the dough into a large rectangle, about 8-inches-by-12-inches. I used my hands and just stretched it and finger-massaged it into the rectangle shape, but use a rolling pin if preferred. Starting with a short side, roll dough up into a log. Pinch off ends and place dough log into a sprayed or greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, seam side down. Cover pan with plasticwarp and place in a warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, about two hours.
In the final minutes of the second rise, preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden on top. When bread is removed from loaf pan and tapped sharply on the top and bottom, it should sound hollow. Place bread on a wire rack to finish cooling completely before slicing and serving. I wrap bread in plasticwrap, then place it in a large ziptop plastic food storage bag, where it stays fresh for about 5 days. Bread freezes very well and can be made from start to finish, cooled, and placed in a freezer-safe airtight container or a ziplock for up to 3 months. I prefer this bread toasted and with butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or Cinnamon-Sugar Butter
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Do you like raisins?
Feel free to link your favorite raisin recipes or any great bread recipes you have.