Friday, March 19, 2010

A Loaf of Hopeful Expectation: Spiral Cinnamon Raisin Bread . . .

Despite the fact that I have been immersed, every week since the start of January, in the making of a wide variety of yeast doughs in school, I still feel some of the old familiar hesitancy and trepidation as a home-baker when faced with a new yeast bread recipe. My fears, generally speaking, are fading, but slowly. Somehow I doubt they'll ever completely vanish. It's almost like a kind of stage fright. You know that you can do it, because you've done it successfully before. You've become fairly well versed in the typical pitfalls and how to avoid them, and yet the niggling sense that calamity may be just around the corner still lingers.

Perhaps, though, that's as it should be? Going back to the stage fright analogy, they say if you're not nervous before a performance then you're probably not a very good actor. Maybe it's the same way for a baker who feels she has a personal stake in turning out good bread. After all, overconfidence doesn't seem to be a very welcome characteristic in a kitchen--it just has no place.

Cautious optimism, I figure, is probably the best posture to adopt. And, an affection of sorts also comes into play. I've noticed that, among my fellow culinary students, those who seem to view baking as an exercise in boredom (not everyone loves to bake, just as not all bakers like to cook!) produce the saddest looking goods.

As for me, I love the way yeast dough smells, the way it feels, and the way it changes. I love everything about it. The same sense of mystery that accompanies a garden, accompanies the creation of bread. You have to approach it with a sense of hopeful expectation, and you have to be grateful for the reward when all goes well.

About this recipe . . .

Though today's recipe is one I'd never made by myself before, I can vouch for the fact that it's time tested. This cinnamon raisin bread was my mother's go-to formula; she baked bread regularly and this recipe dates back decades. At the bottom of the sheet of creased and stained loose-leaf on which she'd typed the recipe, she notes that it came from the April 1976 "anniversary issue" of McCall's magazine. I would have been 15 years old at the time she first gave this a whirl.

She also noted, "This raisin bread is very good. Have made this bread often. We like it toasted and buttered." She was brutally honest in all of her little post-production recipe notes, so that one's pretty benign. Her neat handwriting peppers the pages of her cookbooks and recipe cards. Some of the comments are kind of funny ("not good, tastes like hairspray" . . . or . . . "better than Martha Stewart version" . . .). Only if she felt something was really worth making again would she give it a positive recommendation.

I adapted the recipe by rewording it, and slightly modifying the directions here and there.

So, you heard it here. This is truly good cinnamon raisin bread. Give the dough the love and kindness it deserves, and you'll be rewarded with a couple of truly fine loaves.

Spiral Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes 2 standard size loaves.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Grease 2 loaf pans, approximately 9" x 5" x 3".

For the dough:
1 and 1/2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1 and 1/2 cups dark raisins
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 packets active dry yeast (this is equal to 1 and 1/2 Tbsp.; each standard packet contains 2.25 tsp.)
3 eggs, large
7 and 1/4 cups All Purpose flour (plus a little more for dusting your work surface when the dough is rolled out)

For the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

To make the dough:
In a small saucepan, over low heat, bring the milk just to a simmer; don't let it boil. Add into it the sugar, salt, butter, and raisins. Stir until the butter melts. Take it off the heat and let it cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixer bowl, sprinkle all of the yeast over the warm water. Stir slowly with a spoon until the yeast has dissolved. Stir the milk mixture into this. Put the bowl onto the mixer.

Using the paddle attachment, add in the eggs, and 4 cups of the flour. Beat on low speed until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Gradually add in the rest of the flour to combine; now switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook. On your mixer's lowest speed, knead the dough for 6 minutes. When it's done it should be stiff and not too sticky.

Dump the dough out into a large, well-greased bowl.

Turn the dough over to bring up the greased side. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and a dish towel, and place it in a warm spot (about 85 degrees is perfect). The dough should double in bulk within about 1 and 1/2 hours. Check it early to see how it's doing. (If necessary, create a warm and moist environment to help the dough rise, using your oven. Set the oven on "warm" for a few minutes, then shut the oven off. Place a pan on the floor of the oven, and boil some water. Pour the boiling hot water into the pan. Set the bowl of dough, still lightly covered by the plastic wrap and the towel, on a middle shelf. Keep the oven door closed so the warmth and moisture stay inside.)

While the dough is rising, mix together the filling: combine 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Set this aside, with the melted butter in its own bowl, along with a pastry brush.

When the dough has doubled in size, gently dump it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a bench scraper, or a sharp knife, divide the dough in half.

Roll out one half of the dough into a 16" x 8" rectangle. (This dough is very easy to handle and roll out.)

Sprinkle the entire rectangle evenly with 3 Tbsp. of the cinnamon sugar.

Starting at one of the narrow sides, snugly roll the dough up jelly-roll style.

Pinch the edges and ends together to seal them. Tuck the ends under to give the loaf a nice smooth shape.

Place the loaf, seam side down, into one of the greased loaf pans.

Brush the top of the loaf lightly with a little of the melted butter. Cover the loaf with a towel while you roll and shape the second piece of dough.

Let the two loaves rise, again in a warm spot, until the sides of the dough comes out to meet the sides of the pan, and the rounded top of the dough rises above the top of the pan. This should take about one hour.

About half an hour into this rising period, preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and put a rack in the middle of the oven.

When the two loaves are ready to go in the oven, brush the tops again with the remaining butter, and sprinkle them with the remaining cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If, after 25 minutes or so, the loaves are starting to look too brown, cover them loosely with foil and place the pans on top of a shiny cookie sheet. Keep in mind that the tops of the loaves, when the loaves fully baked, should look browned and not just golden.

Remove the finished loaves immediately from their pans, and cool them to at least lukewarm before before slicing.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Chele said...

Fantastic looking loaf Jane. I love cinnamon raisin toast so maybe its about time I gave making it from scratch a try! Thanks to you and your Mum for sharing ;0)

Jane said...

Hi there Chele,
Thanks so much! My husband and kids had mentioned a number of times that they wanted me to make cinnamon raisin bread, and I'm really glad I finally got around to it. It's been a long time since I've had it, and I was so glad it turned out well, given that my mom made this all the time.
:) Jane

Snooky doodle said...

oh this bread looks simply mouth watering :) divine!!

Stella said...

Hey Jane, these loaves look awesome. I've never made cinnamon raisin bread-odd since I bake yeast bread a lot. I might have try this.
Oh, and I like the 'Cautious Optimism' thing...

Flirting with Flour said...

These are beautiful. I just bought some yesterday and made a grilled breakfast sandwich - stuffed it with cream cheese and topped it with sliced strawberries and maple syrup, Next time I'd love to try making the bread! it would be divine!

Aveen said...

Thanks for sharing this! It looks gorgeous, and I'm definitely going to try it out (just as soon as I eat up all the brioche I made yesterday!).

Katrina said...

Oh my! This looks sooo good. Thanks for the post!

Helen said...

This looks so yummy. I can't wait to try and make it!

Nadji said...

Un pain roulé à la cannelle : une merveilleuse idée.
Merci beaucoup. Je note ta recette.
A bientôt.

ARUNA said...

wow looks good, awesome presentation!!!

Ms. Meanie said...

What a lovely bread! It definitely looks as good as your mother says. :)

~~louise~~ said...

Those cinnamon swirls may just be the most perfect whirls I have ever seen!!!

Your love and respect for baking shines in this recipe Jane. Thank you so much for sharing...

I must add, as a cookbook collector for many years, I do believe those dollops of messages found on the side lines would produce one heck of a book! Your mom's are priceless...

Donna Olendorf said...

Hi Jane,

It's Donna Olendorf, your old colleague from Gale. I had lunch with Andy today and he told me about your Blog. Wow! You've really found your niche. What a wonderful outlet for your creative talents. Best of all, you get to eat your work.

With all the photos, this recipe is doable even for a novice baker like me.

You've got a new fan.

Cindy said...

Oh Janie that looks DELICIOUS!! You make me want to try my hand at the breadmaking!! :D

Annemarie said...

Jane, just came upon your site and while I make variations of this loaf frequently, never have I thought to mix in the raisins with the dough. They appear to be better lodged in the bread so not as to drop out in the toaster. My mother taught me and she rolled out the dough and sprinkled the cinnamon sugar and raisins on the dough and rolled it up. I will try your way.

Julia @Mélanger said...

I am with you. There's nothing quite like the way that yeast dough smells and feels. I love working with it. I have a fairly "standard" sweet dough recipe that I use for many different things, but will have to give this a try!

Anonymous said...

I made this bread and it is perfect. The recipe was clear and precise, which I find not always the case from these cooking websites! It made the most delicious french toast we have ever eaten!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Jane, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I had to drop by and get a look at your Cinnamon Raisin Bread - how beautiful! I love your comparison of making bread to that of a garden. Looking forward to sampling more of your lovely baked goods!

Tony said...

Pretty cool that i am randomly looking for cinnamon raisin bread recipe and i find this blog entry on the exact 1 year anniversary of the post. must be kismet

Sabine Rogers said...

Wow! That is a beautiful loaf of bread. It looks delicious.

Preeti said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have made this bread this weekend and my guest loved it. There are few things I have changed from this recipe 1. I don't eat egg so I have used egg substitude 2. I have added apple sauce and orange extract. It turned out great!

Anonymous said...

What is the calorie content?

Anonymous said...

Hello Jane!
So enjoy your blog and want to thank you for sharing all your wonderful recipes and beautiful photos. You always inspire me and I also love to "play around" with recipes. Today I made your Spiral Cinnamon Raisin Bread which turned out delicious!! Your dough is wonderful and very easy to work with. The possibilties with it are endless! I did make a few "adjustments" that I thought I'd share: Firstly, I didn't have enough raisins on hand so I made up the difference with dried cranberries. Secondly, I used half all-purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour only because I try to incorporate whole grains/wheat flours whenever I can. Thirdly, I used half granulated sugar and half brown sugar in the filling. And lastly, I sprinkled several generous handfulls of King Arthur Flour's Cinnamon Chips on top of the filling before rolling it up to get a real boost of cinnamon. If you haven't tried these chips, they are lovely! Thank you for a delightful day of baking!!! Kindest regards, Natalie

Jane said...

Hi Anonymous,

I'm so glad you liked this recipe, and I love all the ways you customized it! Thanks very much for letting me know and for the very nice comments!

:) Warmly,