Remember that maple butter I talked about last week? Go make some right now, then make a loaf of this bread and you won’t be sorry. In fact, I’ll totally understand if the entire loaf miraculously disappears in under an hour. This cinnamon raisin bread is good, REALLY good. It’s even better as a vehicle for peanut butter and jelly. I have always been a fan of cinnamon raisin bread, but when I discovered I could make it from scratch a few years ago, everything changed. There is just nothing like a warm loaf of bread straight from the oven. In fact nothing beats the smell of bread baking in the oven. It makes the house so warm and cozy.
This recipe is fairly simple. The majority of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. Don’t you just hate that? It’s so hard to wait, but the result is worth it. A stand mixer does all the kneading for you. You then roll the dough out into a large rectangle and cover it with lots of cinnamon sugar. I usually throw the raisins into a pot of boiling water for just a minute, so that they plump up. I then spread them liberally across the dough.
The dough is rolled up tightly, starting at the short end of the rectangle. This is what creates that perfect swirl of cinnamon sugar heaven. The ends are tucked under to create that loaf shape and the dough is set into the loaf pan for its final rise.
Since this bread is usually best the day it is baked, I often freeze half of the loaf and use it later. If you wrap it tightly, it will stay fresh. This saves me from trying to finish the whole loaf in two days, even though I would like to. With the wintery weather that has begun in the Northeast, this is the perfect activity and treat for the next snowy day!
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Yield: one loaf
For the bread:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/4 cups just-warm-to-the-touch skim or whole milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
For the swirl:
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup moist, plump dark raisins
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to a spreadable consistency
Put the yeast in a small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let stand for 3 minutes and then stir. The yeast should be soft.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 cup of milk, the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix for a minute or two. Add the salt, egg and vanilla and mix for a minute. Add the yeast mixture and beat on low-medium speed for 1 minute more.
Turn the mixer off and add 2 3/4 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed, just until you work the flour into the liquids. Switch to a dough hook. Add another cup of flour and increase the mixer speed to medium. Beat dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep mixer speed at medium and knead about another 3 minutes.
Grease a large bowl with butter or olive oil and turn the dough into the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled.
Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon for the swirl. If the raisins are not plump, steam them or drop them in boiling water for a minute. Then drain and dry them well.
Flour a large working surface and roll dough out into a rectangle that measures about 12 x 18 inches.
Spread the two tablespoons of butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture (I don’t always use all of the cinnamon sugar. It depends on your preference). Then scatter the raisins. Starting at the short end, tightly roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, then tuck the ends under and fit the dough into the greased pan, seam side down.
Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and set in a warm place. Let dough rise until it comes just above the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.
When dough has almost fully risen, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If you want to, melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the top of the loaf with it. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake the bread for about 20 minutes. Then cover loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped.
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for five minutes, then unmold and cool completely.