I’ve got a huge list of things I’ve been wanting to make…not unlike most food bloggers. And since this list continues to grow, there are so many great things that get pushed down to the bottom. This bread is one of those such things. I can’t even tell you how long I’ve wanted to make cinnamon raisin bread and I finally pushed it back up to the top of my list last week. I had the week off from work, just like I do every year but in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this time I made a list of very specific things I wanted to make. I got to making only two things on my list but boy where they worth it!
Well this recipe was everything I hoped it would be and considering the cinnamon-raisin combo is one of my all-time favorite combos, the stakes were pretty high. The crumb was perfectly tender and full of cinnamony goodness. One of the options for this recipe was to add a swirl and I couldn’t resist. I mean really, what is cinnamon raisin bread without a gorgeous swirl of cinnamon through the center? If you’re in love with this type of bread as much as I am, you’ll know that it’s amazing toasted with some butter or even better…peanut butter. mmmm… However, if you’re going to toast this particular bread, I’d suggest toasting it in the oven on a baking sheet rather than the toaster because the swirl filling will easily ooze out. It’s not the kind of mess you want to try cleaning up in your toaster. If you’re thinking that this type of bread looks too difficult for you, I challenge you to make it yourself. It’s no more difficult than making cinnamon rolls and I’d go as far as saying that it’s easier than cinnamon rolls since you don’t have to cut the dough…and we all know what a PIA cutting cinnamon roll dough can be! So go ahead and give this recipe a shot – I promise that you love it!!
3½ cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) shortening, melted or at room temperature
½ cup (4 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
¾ cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature
1½ cups (9 ounces) raisins, rinsed and drained
For the swirl (optional):
1 egg and 1 tbsp water, lightly beaten together
¾ cup granulated sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the topping (optional):
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
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 achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes). Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts 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 walnuts evenly.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and 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. 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 if you don’t opt for the swirl. If you want the swirl, roll out one of the pieces of dough into an 12 by 10 inch rectangle, brush lightly with the egg wash, then sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll up the dough and form a loaf; repeat with the second piece of dough and remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture. 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.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F 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 F 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 allow them to cool completely on a rack before cutting.
For the optional topping: Mix together the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon for the topping in a shallow plate. Brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Cool loaves on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.