This all started last weekend when hubby went to the store with me and put a loaf of bread into the cart. It was that red package from my childhood with the cinnamon, raisins and the Sun Maid Raisin girl on the package. We came home, made dinner and went on with our lives until I had a slice of that bread toasted. With butter. And it was gooooooood! Feeling guilty I scanned the ingredients and felt even more guilty. I saw too many chemicals to count and that dreaded high fructose corn syrup.
Fast forward to today, laundry day. What better way to procrastinate than making bread, right? Besides the kids and I scarfed down hubby's pick when he was at work. So...
Here's the regular white bread, as the recipe was written.
And here's the cinnamon raisin version. Aka: A gift from above.
See there hubby and I had a taste? We told the kids we needed to save some to bring to the new neighbors. We don't have new neighbors... This bread may bring out the worst in me. Ha ha.
Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 C Warm water, divided
1T Yeast (dry active)
6-7 C All purpose flour
2t Salt (Julia uses a whole tablespooon but this is too much for us)
1/4C Butter (half a stick or 4T), melted
Cinnamon sugar and small raisins to taste (optional)
Place a half a cup of warm water (It should feel like nice bath water- not burning hot but not tepid.) in a large mixing bowl or your mixer bowl. Add the sugar and yeast. Let sit for five minutes or so until it gets bubbly.
Add the rest of the warm water, 3C of flour, the salt, and the melted butter. Mix by hand or use the dough hook of your mixer. Let the mixer run on a low speed adding a cup of flour at a time until the dough is elastic and smooth. You may not use all 7 cups. Bread is kind of like that. If doing this without a mixer you'll need to take the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand adding the flour slowly as it gets incorporated into the dough.
Cover the dough in the bowl with a dampened kitchen towel until it has doubled in size. The time will vary depending on the weather and the temperature in your kitchen. It usually takes about an hour.
Punch the dough in the bowl. Take it out and knead a few times by hand. Bread trick from my grandmother: If you leave the dough to rise too long just punch it down and let it rise again. You'll know because it'll be HUGE and too airy.
Split the dough using a knife or kitchen shears into two even balls. (Or not as I did with my cinnamon raisin edition because one loaf was larger than the other.) Pat out the dough and gently stretch until it is a a rectangle shape with the short side the same length as your pan. (So using a traditional 4"X8" pan the short side should be about 8".) Fold the dough into thirds starting with the short side, like you're folding an old fashioned business letter. (Does anyone do that anymore?) Place the dough seam side down in your buttered or greased pan. Please don't forget to grease your pan!!!!!!!!! You will be sad if you do. :(
If you're making cinnamon raisin bread sprinkle the top 2/3 of the dough with cinnamon sugar and soaked and dried raisins before folding. (Julia goes into how to prep the raisins. Basically you let them sit for about 10 minutes in hot water, drain, and dry really good.) I didn't do this and the raisins are falling out all over the place. But I'm cool with that. Slathered butter solves this problem.
Cover with the kitchen towel again for another hour or so. When the loaves have doubled again preheat your oven to 375. When it's ready place the loaves on a middle rack and bake 30 to 40 minutes. You'll know it's done because the tops will be a beautiful golden brown and the house will smell like freshly baked bread.
Take the loaves out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack. The bottoms should sound hollow if tapped. If not put them back in directly on the oven rack for another 5 minutes or so. Julia goes into using a thermometer to check for doneness but I've never missed with the bottom tapping method.
Here's the original recipe from the 1996 edition of Baking With Julia. She's a bit wordier than me. Go figure.
The kids eventually got a taste so don't call the authorities. They took a break from their busy summer activities (Video games when I let them, drawing when I don't, and puppy playtime any time the pups are awake.) and devoured the what was left of the little cinnamon raisin loaf, half of a plain one, and 3/4 of a stick of butter. I hid the big raisin loaf in the freezer. Julia says it freezes well for a month so this will be a special first day of school breakfast if no one finds it.