First of all, woo-hoo! I had figured it would be my turn to pick sometime this year but getting Laurie's email for June was a huge surprise. I spent a harried 24 hours or so flicking back and forth between recipes, trying to select something that I would not only love to bake but that said something about me.
My very first TWD post was for the Chocolate Puddings back on 15 July 2008. I wasn't even an official member at that stage but was playing along at home until I could order my copy of Baking. My blog was only a few days old and it was less than a month since my mum passed away. Baking and blogging seemed like a wonderful distraction at a really difficult time. Since then I have gotten married, had a baby and reached the 200 post mark.
All of this brings me to my reason for choosing the Raisin Swirl Bread this week. Baking bread is such a comforting, homey thing to do. There's nothing quite like the smell or taste of your own fresh bread and it is something I hope my kids remember from their childhood as I do.
I loved this bread and I hope anyone who was scared of yeast (or raisins!) had a go and was happy with the results!
Raisin Swirl Bread
pp 59-60 of Baking: From My Home to Yours
For the bread:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/4 cups just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons or 60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
Grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
For the swirl:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, softened to a spreadable consistency
To make the bread:
Put the yeast in a small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let rest for 3 minutes, then stir - the yeast may not have dissolved completely and it may not have bubbled, but it should be soft.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a 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, if you are using it, as well as the zest and nutmeg, if you're using them, and mix for a minute. In all likelihood, the mixture will look unpleasantly curdly (it will look even worse when you add the yeast). 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 - you'll have a sticky mix. If you've got a dough hook, switch to it now. Add another 1 cup of flour, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together and almost clean the sides of the bowl, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep the mixer speed at medium and knead the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it is smooth and has a lovely buttery sheen. The dough will be very soft, much too soft to knead by hand.
Butter a large bowl, turn the dough into a bowl and cover the bowl 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 large piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled easily. (At this point, you can instead refrigerate the dough overnight if that is more convenient).
To make the swirl and shape the loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and cocoa, if you're using it. Check that the raisins are nice and moist; if they're not, steam them for a minute, then dry them well.
Put the dough on a large work surface lightly dusted with flour, lightly dust the top of the dough and roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 x 18 inches.
Gently smear 2 tablespoons of the butter over the surface of the dough - this is most easily done with your fingers. Sprinkle over the sugar mixture and scatter over the raisins. Starting from a short side of the dough, roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, making sure to roll the dough snugly. Fit the dough into the buttered pan, seam side down, and tuck the ends under the loaf.
Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and set in a warm place; let the dough rise until it comes just a little above the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.
Getting ready to bake:
When the dough has almost fully risen, centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, and brush the top of the loaf with the butter. Put the pan on the baking sheet and bake the bread for about 20 minutes. Cover loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold. Invert the bread and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.
I have to confess to slicing my bread while it was still warm and I ended up with raisins scattered everywhere. But it was totally worth it ... it is sensational straight from the oven!
Oh and it also makes spectacular cinnamon toast the next day!
Thank you in advance to everyone who baked along with me this week and huge thanks to Laurie for creating such a wonderful group and Dorie for her fabulous book! :-)