I hope you are having a wonderful January! Matt and I just got back from a little ski break up in Sapporo. There was so much snow!!! It was soft, light, perfect snow. You see, Japan is an island country basically of mountains and coast. The clouds pick up salt water over the oceans and drop it in the mountains of Hoikkaido; because the powder is so light and fluffy, it is referred to as champagne powder as if the snow was filled with champagne bubbles.
It was incredible to be up in the mountains, just like my roots growing up in Montana. We had the best time. You see, Japan is an island country basically of mountains and coast. It was a nice break from Okinawa but my little oven missed me. You see, Japan is really good at a few things: ramen, rice balls, sushi. There is little fresh bread to be had. And I love bread as much as any carbaholic.
Since I bought Peter Reinhart’s book the Breadmaker’s Apprentice I’ve been eyeing every loaf of bread in the book. The cinnamon raisin loaf in particular made me nostalgic for home. Growing up I loved cinnamon raisin bread toast for breakfast. When I woke up this morning it felt like Christmas morning. It was 6 am and I just couldn’t wait to get out of bed to make bread. Nerd alert!
This bread is fantastic, I changed the original recipe a bit, added a little more cinnamon. Snuck a cinnamon swirl in there. A couple things to note. Make sure you have two 8×4 inch pans. Make sure you use milk that is somewhat warm or at least room temperature. Shortening does give better results than butter. Using an instant read thermometer to check the dough and bread will guarantee good results. Enjoy baking, enjoy eating even more!
- 3½ cups unbleached bread flour
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons shortening, melted or at room temperature
- ½ cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature to slightly warm****
- ¾ cup water, at room temperature to slightly warm
- 2 cups raisins, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- For the swirl and topping:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- ****do not substitute milk with lemon for buttermilk, use buttermilk or whole milk
- Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the egg, shortening, whole milk and water. Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball. Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.
- Sprinkle a little bit of flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook). The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Add flour as you knead, if necessary, to achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes). Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts if you are using them during the final 2 minutes of kneading to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much. (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly.) The dough should register 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Let dough rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into 5x8 inch rectangles. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon. Spoon a couple tablespoons of cinnamon sugar on one side of dough and roll, pinching as you turn to keep it together. Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8½ by 4½-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size. Spoon a couple tablespoons of cinnamon sugar over the top of each loaf.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished breads should register 190 degrees F in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.
- Immediately remove the breads from their pans. Mix together the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon for the topping in a shallow plate. Cool loaves on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.