Monday, June 21, 2010

A First Rate Debut

Raisin Bread is right at the top of my quintessential comfort food list. In my younger days, the perfect breakfast or snack--heavily buttered Raisin Bread toast. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. Both DH and Bella have an affinity for Raisin Bread, as well. Bella like hers with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top of her butter. DH likes his any way he can get it.
For some months I’d been half-heartedly working on a Raisin Bread recipe. I’d make it, take notes, adjust, tweak, and on it went. A few weeks ago while preparing for my upcoming summer vacation, I decided to bring a loaf of Raisin Bread. (The area we vacation in has many attractions, but decent bread isn’t among them.) This was the perfect opportunity for the Raisin Bread to make its debut. After some thought, I decided one loaf would last the week. I was, after all, bringing several other loaves.

Saturday morning breakfast, out comes the Raisin Bread. Within moments of consuming her first piece, Bella was asking for the recipe. Everyone had a slice, and then another. I’m not sure exactly how many pieces of toast everyone had for breakfast, but Monday morning we were negotiating for crusts! That is what I call a first rate debut.

Hints for this recipe:
1. Flour--I use only King Arthur Flours, period. You don't have to, although I encourage you to. When it comes to bread, for the best results do use bread flour, it is specially formulated for bread and will produce a superior loaf.
2. Yeast: Instant yeast is specially formulated for bread machines. It is less heat sensitive and gives an excellent result. My instant yeast of choice: SAF Red Instant Yeast. It can be found in a 16 oz. bag at most Whole Foods stores and at King Arthur (click for link).
3. Manual rising tip: Place a rack over a 9x13 inch pan. Fill the pan with boiling water. Set the bowl or loaf pan containing the dough on the rack, cover with a towel.

Raisin Bread
2 c. white bread flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/4 c. water
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 c. raisins

Bread Machine Method:

Measure all ingredients into the work bowl of your bread machine. Place work bowl in the machine and set on regular bread cycle with a light crust.

Watch while bread is mixing, adding enough water, if necessary, to form a smooth and elastic dough. Close lid and allow cycle to complete. When the bread is baked, remove from work bowl to the counter to cool.

Manual Method: Lightly grease a bowl and set aside. In another large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Lightly flour a smooth flat surface (a counter top or cutting board), and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough with your hands until it is a smooth and elastic, re-flouring the surface as necessary to prevent sticking—about 15 minutes. Place the dough in the greased bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise. When dough has doubled in volume (it should be light and puffy and when poked leave an indentation), about 60 minutes, punch down and remove from bowl onto a lightly floured surface.

Grease a regular loaf (9x5) pan and set aside. Shape dough into a 9 inch log. Place in prepared pan. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in volume, about 60 minutes. Loaf should be nicely domed. Again, when poked is should leave an indentation that is slow to close. Preheat oven to 350. Bake loaf for about 30 minutes or until it is golden brown. To test, thump lightly on the bottom of the pan, it will sound hollow. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Then remove loaf to wire rack to cool completely.

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