Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

As a kid, I remember I would get so excited when my mom would bring home a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin bread.  I remember smelling the slice before she put it in the toaster, how that cinnamon goodness would perfume the whole kitchen as I slowly waited those two minutes that felt like an eternity for the toast to spring up, and then another 30 seconds for her to smear some butter on it.

Last time I was in the States, I bought some, to relive my childhood memories, but I was very disappointed, quite frankly.  The bread was rather dry, and dull.   The smell was more enticing than the actual taste, and the raisins are almost miniscule!  It was a disaster.

As I have mentioned before, I have this amazing book called The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which I turn to almost weekly to churn out an amazing recipe every time I use it.  This time was no different, when I decided to make this Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread.   It is fairly easy, if you have a stand up mixer, and all you really need is time on your side.  So, it’s probably best if you tackle this recipe on a weekend, so that way you can have lots of options for breakfast.

I had these wonderful sultanas that I bought a while ago,

these aren’t your regular weeny raisins.  They are about an inch long, and super juicy and sweet.  If you can find some in your local grocery store, I highly recommend you make this bread with these.  My daughter, who isn’t a fan of raisins, or walnuts for that matter, asked for a piece of bread after it had come out of the oven.  I asked her to wait the requisite hour before slicing.  When she finally got her slice, she said to me “Mom, this is one of your recipes that should be illegal”.  She had about three more slices after that.

Need I say more?

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Makes 2 loaves

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s apprentice

3.5 cups unbleached bread flour

4 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tbsp shortening, melted or at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature

3/4 cup water, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups raisins, rinsed and drained

1 cup walnuts, chopped

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, buttermilk 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 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 (or mix), if necessary, to acheive this texture.  Knead by hand approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes).  Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final two minutes of kneading (or mixing) 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.)  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.

Ferment 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 loaves.

Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8.5 inch by 4.5 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.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  Rotate 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished breads should be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.  They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

*Note:  To add flavor brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in cinnamon sugar.  When the bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst!

From my kitchen to yours,



Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in about a year……but I got the fever again!  I just got back from easter holidays in Miami, and I ate so much glorious food that I though I need to start writing again.  But alas, I digress.

Focaccia…..who doesn’t love focaccia?  I do.  But I have always found it simply horrifying to make.  I have tried several attempts.  Some have turned out gummy and chewy, others too crispy and flat.  And then there were the rocks.  The ones that break your teeth.  So, I had kind of given up on that front.  But, since I have been back, I have been suffering from jet-lag.  And last night, at 10 pm, I was no closer to falling asleep, or even being moderately tired, than I would be at 1pm in the afternoon.  So, I decided, I have a few hours to kill, and I am craving focaccia.  Yes.  I crave focaccia, that’s just how I roll.  So, I pulled out a book that I hadn’t leafed through in about 2 years (since I bought it).  See, I have a gazillion cookbooks, but I rarely use them.  I tend to create my own meals, or just end up making the tried and true Cassia favorites. (Cassia is my daughter, by the way.)  So, since I got back, I have decided to use my cookbooks more often, because on Saturday night I had a dinner party, and made 3 recipes from 3 different cookbooks, and thought, wow….they were amazing, and second of all, if I hadn’t tried it I would have never learnt anything new.  So, I picked up “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” and went to the focaccia recipe.  It is pretty easy, but it is time-consuming.  Since I had a few hours to kill until I got tired, I decided to tackle it.  And was it worth it.  I really really recommend that you try this recipe.  It will probably be a weekend recipe since there is an overnight in the fridge factor, and you can do it by hand, but it is so much easier in the electric mixer.  But please try it!  I can’t tell you how perfect this recipe came out, gorgeously crispy on the outside, moist and just the right amount of sponginess on the inside.  Oh, and your kitchen is going to smell terrific!!!!  You are never going to want to leave it.

So, courtesy of my book, here is the recipe:

Makes one 17×12 inch focaccia

5 cups (22.5 oz) bread flour

2 tsp (.5 oz) salt

2 tsp (.22 oz) instant yeast

6 tbsp (3 oz) olive oil

2 cups (16 oz) water, at room temperature

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of oil for basting

3 sprigs of rosemary

20 pitted black or green olives.

Sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the oil and water and mix with a large metal spoon until the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment).  If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand.  Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further.  Do this for 3-5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed.  If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom of the bowl.  You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.

2.  Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 6 inches square. Using a scraper or a spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle.  Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.

3.  Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size.  Fold it, letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape.  Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

4. Let rest for 30 minutes.  Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover.  After 30 minutes, repeat this one more time.

5.  Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour.  It should swell but not necessarily double in size.

6.  Line a 17 by 12 inch sheet pan with baking parchment and drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over the paper, and spread it with your hands or a brush to cover the surface.  Lightly oil your hands and, using a plastic or metal pastry scraper, lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangular shape as much as possible.  Spoon the rest of the olive oil over the dough.  Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread to fill the pan simultaneously.  Do not use the flat of  your hands – only the fingertips – to avoid tearing or ripping the dough.  Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface.  If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for about 15 minutes and then continue dimpling.  Don’t worry if you are unable to fill the pan 100 percent, especially at the corners.  Use more oil as needed to ensure that the entire surface is coated with oil.

7.  Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough overnight (or for up to 3 days).

8.  Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking. Drizzle additional oil over the surface and dimple it in.  This should allow to you to fill the pan completely with the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Add your rosemary leaves, olives and sea salt, evenly over the surface.  Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of nearly 1 inch.

9.  Preheat oven to 500 deg. Farenheit (260 deg. Celsius) with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

10.  Place the pan in the oven.  Lower the temperature to 450 deg Farenheit (230 deg Celsius) and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown.  Continue baking another 5 -8 minutes, making sure it doesn’t get too brown.

11.  Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack.

12.  Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes (TRY REALLY HARD.) before slicing or serving.


From my kitchen to yours,