I like being home. Traveling the world is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I will happily go on adventures like the one to Vietnam any time. But there is something about coming home to your own bed, your own shower, and your own kitchen. I feel like I need to give all my kitchen tools little hugs and tell them I’ve missed them. Which, at this point, I’ve basically done, because I’ve been cooking up a storm this week.
Portland, however, is being slightly less welcoming than my kitchen. Mostly just in its weather-related mood swings. Seriously, this whole week has been days of sporadically alternating sunshine and rain. Sometimes each lasts 5 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s making it awfully hard to cook. What I’m going to make is always determined by my mood, which is often influenced by the weather. Between the rain and sun breaks, I can’t decide if I should be making spring recipes or winter recipes.
This cinnamon raisin bread is the perfect balance between spring and winter, though I already know I’ll be making it year round. It’s homey and warming thanks to the springy crumb and the way it fills your kitchen with the most comforting smell. But the raisins and cinnamon bring a little fruitiness and fun to the mix, a little surprise if you will. This isn’t just plain ol’ bread, you know. This has a beautiful swirl of cinnamon sugar and beautifully juicy pops of fruit throughout it.
This recipe made two loaves, and I thought for certain I’d freeze one loaf, because my roommates just don’t usually eat that much bread (unless it’s beer bread). But I was wrong. In two days, we are down to half a loaf left. Everyone has been enjoying this bread, toasted, slathered with butter, or raspberry rhubarb jam, or nutella for breakfast and dessert and a snack here and there.
Point is, make this bread and your house will smell like heaven, your friends will love you, and you’ll be perfectly toeing the line between the seasons.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 1/4 tsps (1 package) dry instant yeast
2 1/4+ cups warm water
3 Tbl and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 Tbl salt
3 Tbl butter
6 -7 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins
1 Tbl cinnamon
In the bowl of an electric mixer (or not. If you don’t have one, this can easily be made with the strength of your own two arms.) combine 1/2 cup warm water, the yeast, and 1 Tbl of sugar. Set aside and let sit until it’s foamy. In another bowl, cover the raisins with warm-hot water, at least 2 cups. This step is optional, but it will plump the raisins, making them a bit juicier in the bread. After about 3 minutes, pour 1 3/4 cups of the raisin water off into a measuring cup and discard the rest. Pour the raisin water into the mixing bowl with the yeast, in addition to 2 Tbl sugar, the salt, 2 Tbl melted butter, 3 1/2 cups of flour, and all of the raisins. Mix with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined, adding up to 3 more cups of flour until the dough is smooth enough to handle, but still moist. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook, and knead for about 7 minutes (10 minutes if you’re kneading by hand). Dump the dough out onto a floured surface, coat the mixing bowl with canola or vegetable oil, and put the dough back into the bowl, turning it to coat, and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set the bowl in a warm spot (I like to turn on the light over my stove and set it under that) and let it rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbl of cinnamon and mix well. Butter two bread pans. When the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl onto a floured surface and punch it down, then divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangle that measures roughly 16 by 8 inches. Once rolled out, sprinkle the dough with 1 Tbl of water, and half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the dough up starting from the short end, and pinch the seam shut. Drop the roll of dough into one of the greased loaf pans. Repeat with the second half of dough. Brush the top of both loaves with the remaining 1 Tbl of melted butter, and cover them again with a clean dishtowel to let them rise for another hour in a warm spot.
About 15 minutes before your bread is done rising, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until the loaves look beautiful dark brown on top. Remove the loaves from the pans (beware, as cinnamon sugar may have oozed and become rather sticky – aprons are your friend) and set on a cooling rack. I recommend slicing into one of these bad boys when it’s still pretty warm. You can toast it and put a nice layer of cream cheese on top, like I did with my cinnamon raisin bread when I was younger, but a little butter will do nicely as well. Enjoy.