Life. It repeats itself. Even the bad parts. There exist days when it seems like ONLY the bad parts repeat. But you can take hold of the good parts and make sure that they repeat themselves as well.
Like this cinnamon raisin bread, for example. I’ve made it before, I’ve eaten half the loaf by myself, warm from the oven. So I made it again. Because there are things in life that you can’t control, and you’ll never be able to control them. And that’s ok.
Because you have the ability to put together flour and yeast and honey and milk and cinnamon and sugar and raisins. Your hands can knead the dough and you can preheat your oven and bake this bread. You have complete control over the presence of cinnamon raisin bread in your life. And by god, isn’t that nice?
Cinnamon Raisin Loaf
from the Bread Bible
Dough Starter (Sponge):
2 1/4 cups plus 2 1/2 tbsps all-purpose flour
scant 1 3/4 cups water at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
2 tbsps plus 1 tsp honey
3/4 tsp instant yeast
Make the sponge. In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine the flour, water, honey, and instant yeast. Whisk until very smooth to incorporate air, about 2 minutes. The sponger will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
Flour Mixture and Dough:
2 cups plus 3 tbsps
1/4 cup dry milk
3/4 tsp instant yeast
9 tbsps butter, softened
2 1/4 tsps salt
1 cup raisins
Combine the ingredients for the flour mixture and add to the sponge: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour (reserve 1/4 cup if mixing by hand), dry milk, and instant yeast. Sprinkle this on top of the sponge and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (I let mine sit out for 1 hr then refrigerated overnight)
Add the butter to the bowl and mix on low speed with the dough hook for 1 minute or until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle on the salt and knead the dough on medium speed for 7 to 10 minutes. It will not come away from the bowl until toward the last minute or so; it will be smooth and shiny and stick to your fingers. With an oiled spatula, scrape down any dough clinging to the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to relax for 10 minutes.
Add the raisins and mix on low speed about 2 minutes to incorporate them evenly. But don’t worry too much about how well they distribute because deflating and folding the dough after the first rise will distribute them more.
Let the dough rise: Using an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into a 4-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly oiled with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the surface. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to rise to double in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Using an oiled spatula scrape the dough onto a floured counter and press down gently to form a rectangle. It will be full of air and resilient. Try to maintain as many of the air bubbles as possible. Give the dough 1 business letter turn and set it back in the container. Oil the surface again, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour to firm the dough for rolling.
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps
4 tsps cinnamon
1 lightly beaten egg
Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon.
Shape the dough and let it rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut it in half. Keep one piece covered while you work on the other.
On a lightly floured counter, roll out one piece of dough to a rectangle 7.5 x 14″ and about 1/4″ thick. Using your fingertips, gently press the dough all over to deflate air bubbles that result in gaps in the spiral. Brush the dough with the lightly beaten egg leaving a 3/4″ margin all around.
Sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough, leaving a 3/4″ margin on all sides. Starting from the short end closest to you, roll the dough up tightly; brush the top of the dough with the egg and squeeze the dough gently all along the length of the roll with each roll so that it will adhere well to the filling. When you come to the end, make a seam by tightly pinching the edge of the dough to seal in the filling. Push in any inner coils of dough on hte sides that make have worked their way out and pinch the ends of the dough tightly together to seal. Tuck them under so that the load will fit into the pan. Place the loaf seam side down. Repeat for second loaf.
Cover the pans with a large container, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 1 to 2 hours or until the center is 1 1/2″ above the sides of the pan. When the dough is pressed lightly with your fingertip, the indentation will remain.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 45 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating (I put my baking sheet on the bottom of the oven).
Bake the bread: Quickly but gently set the pans on the hot baking stone and immediately shut the door. Bake for 50 minutes or until the bread is medium golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Glaze and cool the bread: Remove the pans from the oven and set them on a wire rack. Brush the tops of the breads with melted butter. Unmold and cool top side up on a wire rack until barely warm, about 1 hour.