A's grandma made cookies for every family holiday. It was kind of "her thing," the dessert she was known for in the family. They were something of a cross between an oatmeal raisin cookie and a brick, but no one ever complained because dipped in tea, they were divine, and the leftovers had a multitude of uses (hammering nails, scaring squirrels out of the lettuce beds... kidding, kidding!). The point is, she always brought the cookies, and somehow, we always looked forward to them. Such is the magic of grandmas, I think, that whatever they make becomes an indelible part of the family lore.
This will be a year without the requisite plate of cookies on the Thanksgiving table, and our hearts are very heavy. I think because of that, I've been craving the flavor of these cookies and eating everything in sight that even slightly reminds me of them. I made this bread having very few expectations and no idea how it would turn out beyond that it would have cinnamon and raisins in it, and I have to say that the flavor is simply wonderful. Like other Peter Reinhart's breads, the texture was more like that of a hearty bread rather than a decadent dessert, which is exactly what I was looking for, and the crunch that comes from brushing the top with melted butter and sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar is OUT OF THIS WORLD good. Like, wow. When this came out of the oven, all tall and golden, we couldn't wait for it to cool and cut thick slices of it to have with a cold glass of milk. Even though this bread is nothing like cookies, it carried the same feelings of home, of a sturdy family tradition that tastes like it's made with love. I really think A.'s grandma would have approved.
Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread
The Bread Baker's Apprentice
recipe can be found here
Makes two 1 1/2 pound loaves
For the bread
3 1/2 cups (16 oz) unbleached bread flour
4 teaspoons (.66 oz) granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon (.31 oz) salt
2 teaspoons (.22 oz) instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp (.16 oz) ground cinnamon
1 large (1.65 oz) egg slightly beaten
2 tablespoons (1 oz) shortening, melted at room temp. (I used butter)
1/2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temp.
3/4 cup (6 oz) water, at room temp.
1 1/2 cups (9 oz) raisins, rinsed and drained
1 cup (4 oz) chopped walnuts (optional - I omitted)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
In a large bowl or a bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon. Add the egg, shortening/butter, buttermilk and water and stir together with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a ball. Adjust flour or water if the dough is too sticky or too dry/stiff.
Knead by hand for 10 minutes or with a stand mixer for 6-8 minutes on medium speed. The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. [My dough was very sticky, so if your dough is sticky, add more flour at this point.] Knead in the raisins and walnuts by hand to distribute evenly. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81F.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to cover lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest until the dough doubles in size, 1-2 hours (mine was ready in 1 hr).
Divide the dough in 2 equal pieces and lightly oil two standard size loaf pans. These are mine. Gently roll each piece of dough into a 5x8 rectangle. Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon together and reserve about 2-3 tablespoons for the tops of the loaves. Sprinkle half of the remaining mixture on one rolled out piece of dough and sprinkle the other half on the other rolled out piece of dough.
Starting at the short end, roll each loaf tightly, pinching the ends together as you are rolling. The dough will expand in length as you are rolling. When finished, place the loaves seam side down into the loaf pans, spreading the dough gently so that it's touching all four sides of the pan. Mist the tops lightly with oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes, until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350F with the oven rack in the middle shelf. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pans 180 degrees and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the breads register 190F in the middle. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
Remove bread from the pans onto a cooling rack. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, brush the tops of the loaves with butter and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon sugar.
The instructions say to wait 1 hour before slicing or serving. I'm telling you now that, considering the way this bread looks and smells, it's not going to happen. I'd give it at least 10 minutes, though, just to make sure you don't burn your fingers while cutting the bread.