I would really like to better my bread making skills. Which means I wanted to find a good instructional book and I also need (no pun intended) to bake a lot of bread.
The book I purchased was “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice – Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread”, by Peter Reinhart. This book covers it all. Differences in types of flours, weighing vs measuring your ingredients, tools and wonderful recipes.
I decided to start with the Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread and see how it goes. The only substitution I made was pecans for walnuts.
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
3 1/2 c unbleached flour
4 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tblsp shortening, melted or at room temperature
1/2 c buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 c water, at room temperature
1 1/2 c raisins, rinsed and drained
1 c chopped walnuts – I used pecans
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 to 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 achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes). Sprinkle in the raisins and nuts during the final 2 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 nuts evenly.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees. 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.
The most reliable method to determine when gluten development is sufficient is called the windowpane test, sometimes referred to as the membrane test. This is performed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently stretching, pulling and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane. If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue mixing for another minute or two and test again.
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 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Forming the loaves: Flatten the measured piece of dough with your hand, folding in the edges to make and even-sided rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6-8 inches long. Working from the short side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. the loaf will spread out as your roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8 to 9 inches. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends. Keep the surface of the loaf even across the top. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan. The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise.
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 350 degrees 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 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 in the center and 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 1 hour, preferable 2 hours, before slicing or serving.
Another trick that adds flavor is to 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 the cinnamon sugar. When they bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst.
I used my mixer for kneading the dough and then kneaded in the raisins and pecans by hand. My bread didn’t quite pass the windowpane test, but it was close. In the future, I would knead the dough a little longer. Mixing in the raisins and pecans was a bit messy, but fun! And the smell of melted butter poured over hot bread? Pure heaven. This recipe made two loaves, so I was able to give one away for a yummy birthday present. This bread is worth the time and effort needed.
Oh, and then husband and I made french toast with this bread… (coming on Friday)