Some food, some drink.
Al’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread: All-Kansas, all-good.
Whether you swear by a bread machine, or merely semi-automate with a stand mixer, you absolutely need to try this cinnamon raisin bread recipe, courtesy of Stafford County Flour Mills. Every batch produces a big ol' loaf of soft, golden-brown cinnamony goodness with jam-textured raisins in every bite. It's simply sacrilege to make a peanut butter sandwich with anything else.
Though my significant other would beg to differ, I'm not one to keep piles of cookbooks. I have a few standards that are dog-eared, and of course those community cookbooks are always great to flip thru as they also stand apart from the recipes they contain as pieces of cultural history. I like a recipe with a history. I like recipes that mean something to people. I also like ass-random recipes off the backs of packages.
Sometimes, when I know I want to cook, but don't know what to cook, I spin the wheel of chance and peruse the packaging of whatever ingredient I happen to have in my mitts as I look for inspiration. On one such occasion, as I was putting a five-pound bag of Hudson Cream bread flour into my shopping cart, I spied a recipe for cinnamon raisin bread. It took a second to process the title of what I had just read, and after turning the sack right-side up, I read the recipe for as long as the four-year-old in the cart would let me. I could just about smell the bread as I read the recipe; I had to make this loaf. But first, as I didn't feel like unearthing an almost-never used (anymore) appliance from the catacombs, I'd need to undo the bread machine method for the recipe as wrote.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
For the bread machine:
Place Raisins in a bowl, cover with warm water. Set raisins aside to soften for 5 minutes, drain. Place ingredients in the pan in the order specified in your bread machine's owner's manual. Recommended cycle: BASIC/WHITE cycle; light setting. Check the consistency of the dough after 5 minutes of mixing. The dough should form a soft ball around the kneading blade. If it is too dry, add liquid 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon at a time; if it is too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time.
For the stand mixer and oven:
Add milk butter, eggs, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, yeast, and flour to the stand mixer (in that order). Bring it together with a dough hook, and continue to knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky and soft as it comes together. If it's not doing that, add flour in Tbsp increments until it does. After kneading, cover and let sit for 2 hours in a warm place to rise. The dough should at least double in size.
After the rise, place raisins in a bowl, cover with water and nuke for 30 seconds. Set raisins aside to soften for 5 minutes more and drain. Move the dough to a liberally-floured work mat and roll out into a rectangle approximately 11x13 inches. Distribute soaked raisins evenly across the mat-o'-dough and then roll it up, tuck under the ends, and place the proto-bread seam-side down in a gently-greased 1.5 qt loaf pan. Let rise covvered with a tea towel in a warm spot for another 30 minutes. After the proof, preheat oven to 350F and bake for 35 minutes or until bread is a rich golden brown. Let rest 15-20 mintes before de-panning and then wait at least another 15 minutes before slicing (torturous to be sure).
- The raisin soak is mandatory. As a raisin is filled with sugar which makes said fruit hygroscopic, the pre-soak ensures that the fruit doesn't suck moisture out of the loaf. Just to be certain the raisin's had plenty to drink, I like to hedge my bets and take the raisin soak for a short trip in the microwave.
- If you really wanna turn the aroma up to eleven, grind your cinnamon fresh. Nine times outta ten, a cheap cinnamon freshly-ground beats the hell out of an expensive bottle of the pre-ground stuff.
- As it comes together, this dough is pretty loose. Don't sweat it. By my reckoning, the whole reason they use bread flour in this recipe is for the extra gluten, which provides a bit more structure to an otherwise wet and sticky mess. ... and well, whadayaknow? At a time when it's trendy to be hatin' on gluten, it can still play the good-guy.
- While we're on the subject of a wet and sticky dough, you'll need a fair amount of flour on the bench to handle this dough. If it sticks, just add more flour to whatever surface the dough sticks to.
- I'm not a savvy enough baker to figure out on my own that rolling the raisins into the dough ensures plenty of raisins in every slice. It's actually one of many dough-handling tricks I picked up from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (just a swell book for a novice baker, really).
- If you're gonna bake your own bread you're gonna need the next first best thing to sliced bread. It needs to be better than ten inches and serrated.
While talking to the good folks at the Stafford Mills to get the blessing to share this with y'all, I got the impression that the folks at the mill were quite proud of this particular recipe, and they had every reason to be: It makes an absolutely splendid loaf of bread. I slice mine from the loaf as I need to use it, otherwise I invariably find myself consuming every piece that hits the cutting board. On the day it's baked, the cinnamon is super-fragrant, the crumb is soft, and the nutty, brown crust is just firm enough to contain it all. Butter is totally optional. Over the next couple of days, I'm quite sure I had the best peanut butter and banana sandwich ever; and all the while I was looking for excuses to have toast with every meal. Bread machine, or stand mixer: either way you wanna put it together, Al's Cinnamon Raisin Bread is just tops.
With my living in The Wheat State and all, it'd be a damn shame not to be able to get decent flour. There aren't too many products that I can pick up at the supermarket knowing full well that the bag-in-hand finished product only had to travel an hour and forty-five minutes to get there. That said, I'm sure the folks at the Stafford Mills wouldn't mind if your particular bag had to travel a bit further (it's worth it).
Gotta give a proper shout-out to the good folks at the Stafford County Flour Mills for the permission to republish such an excellent recipe. Please enjoy!
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