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As a high schooler, I spent my summers working at a camp in northern Wisconsin. My job wasn’t anything as glamorous as camp counselor, art director or life guard. Nope, I cleaned toilets, did laundry, made coffee and set tables.
I also learned how to throw hay bales, hammer a nail in three blows (ok, it took more like 20, but I did get it in), and build a rock wall. It is no exaggeration for me to say that many of the practical things that I know how to do today and even trivial tidbits of information that are forever stuck in my brain (like knowing what oats look like and that the world for harvesting them is combining) come from the years I spent up north.
One of the many warm memories that continues to rattle around in my brain is of baking bread. During those days, the camp baked all their own white and wheat bread. Dozens and dozens of loaves at a time. As we would walk or ride around the grounds we’d find ourselves breathing deeply on bread day and would look forward to lunch, even if it was mystery meat day.
It didn’t take too long for the head cook to realize that bread disappeared at an alarming rate when it was served warm. We’d go through loaves of it at the table, leaving the food he (or she) had cooked sitting in the serving bowls.
So, one day things changed. The aroma of baking bread still teased us and we took our seats at the round tables full of anticipation. The bread came out. And was cold. Day-old cold. From that day forward, we were never served warm bread, but those wonderful loaves got shelved until they weren’t so irresistible. It sucked.
Fresh bread has that affect on people. I know. There are two loves of cinnamon raisin bread in my oven right now and I keep breathing deeply. In five minutes I’m supposed to go to an appointment with Hubby, but I can guarantee you that he’d rather be late than walk out the door with at least one slice of that bread; straight out of the oven, steaming hot and slathered in butter.
While the recipe calls for use of a stand mixer, it does allow for kneading the dough by hand, which is what I did. The process is relatively easy; mix dry ingredients, add wet. Mix together than knead until a nice, smooth dough forms.
What I do like about this recipe is that the raisins are incorporated into the dough, not the cinnamon filling. I’ve found in recipes where the raisins are in the filling that the spiral separates and my bread falls apart. With the raisins in the dough, that didn’t happen at all.
There are three separate rising times, two half hours and one hour and a half. Be prepared to stick around the house for a half day when making this bread.
I handed Hubby a plate with two hot pieces of bread covered in butter as we headed out the door. The only thing he said was, ‘Mmmmmmmm,’ which I’m assuming means it was good considering that he didn’t even ask if I wanted a bite but devoured both pieces entirely.
Once we returned home, Dudette and I both had a chance to try the bread. I have to admit that while I did enjoy it, I found it way to heavy on cinnamon. As I was making it I thought an awful lot went into the cinnamon sugar, and that proved true when I tasted it. Dudette enjoyed the bread as well but did say that she thought it was spicy.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I would halve the amount of cinnamon in the cinnamon sugar, using 2 tablespoons instead of 4. I think that would still give it a lot of flavor but not come across so heavy.
- 2 cups dark raisins
- Canola oil, for the bowl
- 18 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for dusting
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 packet (1/4 oz. or 2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 3-1/2 oz. (7 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
- Make the dough: Put the raisins in a small bowl and add enough hot tap water to cover them. Let sit for 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
- Lightly oil a large bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, 2 Tbs. each of the sugar and cinnamon, the yeast, and salt. Combine on low speed, about 1 minute. Add the milk, egg, 3 Tbs. of the butter, and ¾ cup room temperature water; mix on medium speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium high and continue to mix until the dough is smooth, slightly sticky, and clinging to the hook, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the dough hook with your hand, and remove the bowl. Gently knead in the raisins by hand, just until incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, roll it into a ball, and put it in the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the dough looks slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.
- On a well-floured surface, use your hands to flatten and spread the dough out until it’s about ¾ inch thick. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom, then in half again from left to right. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let sit until it has risen slightly, about 30 minutes more.
- Shape and bake: Generously grease two 8-1/2x4-1/2-inch loaf pans with butter. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 Tbs. each cinnamon and sugar; set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat (or in a bowl in the microwave), melt 2 Tbs. of the butter; set aside.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half and use a rolling pin to shape each half into an 8-1/2x16-inch rectangle that's ¼ inch thick. Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter on the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over both rectangles.
- Starting from the short side, gently roll each rectangle into an 8-1/2-inch-long cylinder. Put the cylinders in the pans, seam side down. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature until the dough has risen slightly and springs back when pressed lightly, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the loaves, rotating and swapping the positions of the pans halfway through baking, until dark brown and hollow-sounding when thumped on top and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves registers about 190°F, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the loaves in their pans to a rack.
- In a small saucepan over low heat (or in a bowl in the microwave), melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Brush the top of each loaf with the butter.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the loaves from the pans.