Thursday, September 15, 2011


Time to up the culinary game.  How you ask?


That's right, no banana quick bread here; I brought out the big guns (well, more like the unicellular).  Sure, it doesn't go from bowl to belly in less than an hour. Sure, you're working with a fickle, living, breathing organism. But nothing makes a house smell more cozy and inviting than fresh baked bread (close second: roast chicken or roaring fire). Tossing in raisins and cinnamon just ups the comfort level by a factor of 10!

Fresh out of the oven, this loaf is killer. Toasted with butter - whole new experience. Home made is so much heartier than those flimsy Pepperidge Farms slices you buy at Costco. Make it yourself and you can saw off giant slabs, unraveling the fluffy goodness from the napkin on your lap. Getting out a plate is wasted effort because this won't be eaten at a leisurely pace. 

But be warned: this bread disappears fast. I had grand plans for Saturday morning french toast, but little did I know this bad boy would only survive a couple of days on the counter of a busy kitchen. Oh well, guess I'll have to make it again!  

(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Raisin Swirl Bread)

For The Bread - 
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 and 1/4 cups just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1/2 and orange
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
3 and 3/4 to 4 cups flour
For The Swirl - 
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (I made mine heaping)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa (this is optional, I added only 1/2 tsp)
1 cup moist, plump raisins 
3 Tbl unsalted butter, softened to spreadable consistency

Make the Bread -
Put yeast in small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of warm milk.  Let rest for 3 minutes, then stir.
With a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine remaining 1 cup milk, the butter and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Mix on low speed for a minute or two.  Add the salt, egg, vanilla, orange zest and nutmeg and mix for a minute; mixture will look curdled.  Add the yeast and beat on low speed for 1 minute more.
Turn the mixer off and add 2 and 3/4 cups of the flour, mix on low until you work the flour into the liquids.  Now is the time to switch to the dough hook attachment.  Add another cup of flour and increase speed to medium, beating dough for a couple of minutes.  If the dough does not come together and clean the sides of the bowl, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour, 1 Tbs at a time. Keep the mixer at medium speed and kneed the dough for 3 minutes, or until dough is smooth and has a nice buttery sheen.  The dough will be very soft, much too soft to knead by hand. 
Butter a large bowl, turn the dough into bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1.5 hrs.  
Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and but in freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled easily (I instead refrigerated the dough overnight because there was not enough time for the second rise and baking ... also it meant fresh bread for brunch!)
Shape the Loaf - 
Butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Whisk together sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. 
Roll dough into a 12x18 inch rectangle on a lightly dusted surface.
Gently smear 2 Tbs of butter over the surface of the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle over cinnamon sugar mixture then scatter the raisins over the surface.  Starting from short side, roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, making sure it is nice and snug.  Fit dough into buttered pan, seam side down, and tuck ends under loaf. 
Cover pan loosely with wax paper and set in warm place; let dough rise until it comes just a little above the edge of the pan, about 45 minutes.
Bake the Bread -
When dough has almost fully risen, center rack in oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment.  Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and brush on the top of the loaf. Put the pan on baking sheet and bake bread for 20 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil tent and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan in tapped.  Transfer the pan to rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold. Invert the bread and cool to room temperature right side up on rack. 

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