I believe that all of life’s problems would be solved (well most of them) by breaking bread with others. Ok, well first you’d need to make and then proceed to bake the bread in order to share it with others… and as hard as it might be to keep these loaves all to yourself, you will be rewarded with instant gratification and lots of fawning from friends and loved ones when you indeed– do the giving.
The air in your home will be perfumed with cinnamon as this bakes up. The golden, crusty exterior yields a soft and tender crumbed slice of bread chock full of goodies: toasted walnuts and jeweled golden and plum coloured raisins. The sweet cinnamon- sugar crust dances on your tongue.. .slathered with some tangy cream cheese, it’s great with a cup of joe on a lazy Sunday morning.
The cinnamon-sugar crust gives the alluring experience of eating warm cinnamon buns from the oven, but without using copious amounts of butter to attain that euphoric state. Not that there’s anything wrong with the sweet creamery stuff, but this loaf is a perfect, everyday sandwich kind- of -bread.
At the moment, my favourite dish to make with this is to cut 1- inch thick slices, spread a thin veneer of salted butter on the outsides and nestle some sharp cheddar cheese between the slices, then slide some granny smith wedges right in between that. I then use a Panini press (or a cast iron skillet) and toast it to crispy perfection. Et voila!.. you have an awesome grilled cheese sandwich that hits all the right notes: sweet, sour, salty, crunchy, and creamy. It’s a rather simple item, but aren’t most things that are so fantastic usually the most humble?
Thanks to Peter Reinhart for another amazing recipe (which I got from his book: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice).
My suggestions and/or modifications are in italics.
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour (didn’t have it on hand so I used Robin Hood all-purpose flour. It worked just fine)
4 tsp (.66 ounce) granulated sugar (I actually used the recommended amount and didn’t up the amount of sweetness!HA)
1 1/4 tsp (.31 ounce) salt (I used kosher, so I upped the amount to 1 1/2 tsp)
2 tsp (.22 ounce) instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp (.16 ounce) ground cinnamon (upped it to 2 tsp)
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten
2 tbsp (1 ounce) shortening, melted or at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature (I used buttermilk)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) raisins, rinsed and drained (I used a combination of golden and sultana)
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts (I toasted them in the oven at 350F for 12 minutes. I cooled them completely, then added them to the dough)
Optional: Additional granulated sugar and cinnamon for swirl, and sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter for topping (I didn’t do the swirl this time around, but did make the cinnamon sugar crust that went on top of the loaves)
Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk, and water. Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball. Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.
Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook). The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6-8 minutes). Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the last 2 minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and avoid crushing them too much. (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly). The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces (if you have a kitchen scale, use it) and form them into loaves. If desired, before rolling the loaves, sprinkle the dough with a mixture of 1/2 c granulated sugar and 2 tbsp ground cinnamon, creating a cinnamon-sugar swirl. Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.
Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished breads should register 190F in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
Immediately remove breads from their pans. If desired, brush the tops of the warm loaves with melted butter and roll the tops in cinnamon sugar (I used a 2:1 ratio of sugar to cinnamon). Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2, before slicing or serving.
Yield: 2- 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch inch loaves.