Lately, in my attempt to make a dent in the ginormous bag of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour (25 lbs to be exact) purchased by my Costco-loving husband, I’ve been making a lot of bread. At first, I was filled with dread as my past experience with whole wheat flour has not been great. I loved the fact that it was better nutritionally, much more fiber and much less processed, but it always left a bitter taste that I couldn’t get past. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Bob’s Red Mill is actually very mild in comparison, with all the nutritional benefits intact. I shouldn’t have been that surprised because all of their products (in my opinion) are very high quality. The fact that they’re a Portland area company is an added bonus – they’re practically local! My Bob even uses the whole wheat flour exclusively to make pancakes for the girls and they don’t notice the difference (I notice but they’re still good). For bread recipes, I combine the whole wheat flour with unbleached all-purpose because the dough rises a bit better and is not so heavy. All that said, I still don’t think a 25 lb bag was a necessary purchase but it’s the lot I’m left with so look forward to seeing it in more recipes.
Our family loves cinnamon raisin bread so it made sense to try to make a little healthier, less sweet version of the store bought (yes, Costco again) kind we’ve been buying. I used my grandma’s roll recipe as a base and made substitutions and additions as needed. (And, yes, I realize I have yet to include the famous Grandma’s Roll recipe in my blog. It’s coming, in its original form, don’t worry.). It turned out really well. There really is nothing like fresh, homemade bread. It’s comfort food at it’s best. And, it’s pretty simple to make once you have the basic rules of dealing with yeast and rising methods down. I’ve included very detailed instructions below. My favorite ways to eat this bread are warm from the oven, slathered with butter or toasted with peanut butter.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water
1 TB butter, soft
To begin, make a “sponge”. Heat milk over the stove or in the microwave until it’s warm but not hot to the touch, about 105-115 degrees give or take a few. The temperature is of utmost importance here because liquid that is too hot will kill the yeast while liquid that is too cool will fail to activate it. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and sugar and whisk in the milk. Stir until the yeast is dissolved then, gradually, whisk in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let mixture stand in a draft-free area for @ 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, soak raisins in hot water and set aside. We do this because dry raisins tend to suck moisture from the dough.
After 30 minutes, check the sponge. It should be risen, very bubbly and semi-firm. Sponge-like, hence the name.
Add oil/butter, egg, and salt to the mixture and beat until combined.
Using a dough hook or your very capable hands, gradually knead in the flour. (You may also add raisins at this time, make sure you dry them off first… in retrospect, I wish I would have)
Dough should be firm enough to work with but still sticky.
Form a round shape and place in a large bowl that’s been lightly coated with butter or oil. Cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until it’s doubled in size.
Check your raisins, make sure they’ve plumped nicely, and dry them on a towel so they’re ready to use.
In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon.
The dough should look like this after rising.
Add raisins and punch down the dough, kneading until raisins are well incorporated. (Or, save yourself some trouble and add the raisins with the flour as suggested above).
Stretch the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and spread with the soft butter,
then the brown sugar mixture.
Form loaves by folding over one third of the dough to the center…
Then fold the remaining third over.
Cut in half
Then form the individual loaves by pinching the dough together until it’s smooth all around
Place each loaf in a greased loaf pan
Allow to rise for @ another 45 minutes until almost doubled
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 – 45 minutes. They should be dark golden brown on top and should sound sort of hollow when tapped.
Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing
As my girls would say, bon appetit, you may eat!
The following is a quote referenced by “The Power of Now” author, Eckhart Tolle, in a recent Facebook post. If only more of us could remember this more often. Don’t worry, be happy :).
“There are more things that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”