Friday, 28 March 2014

Whole Wheat Raisin Bread

Whole Wheat Raisin Bread

Seduced by the idea of raisin bread toast, we purchased a regular loaf of raisin bread at the grocery store.  The scent of cinnamon enticed, but the taste?  Not so much.  Bland and mushy, it was.  Not worth the calories, for sure.

Remembering my favourite all time raisin bread from Lorabies’s bakery in Flushing, Queens, I dug out my old New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook.  I knew I could at least come up with a bread that’s got some texture, taste and worthy ingredients.  While Lorabie’s raisin bread was a nearly black pumpernickel, and I had no such flour on hand, I had some amaranth, and got creative.  The amaranth grains add tiny crunches here and there, but you can leave it out if you prefer a smoother bread.  

This recipe makes two loaves, and it involves at least four hours in the kitchen, although you don’t have to be involved the entire time.

Soak 1 cup raisins in a ½ cup boiled water for thirty minutes.
Proof Yeast with Warm Water, never hot!
Liquids need to be warm to wake up yeast, never hot!

¾ cup milk, scalded
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons jaggery (aka raw Indian sugar, Punjabi Shakkar)
4 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup molasses, reserve a teaspoon

1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet dry active yeast

6 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup dried milk powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1/8 cup amaranth grains (optional)

butter for greasing proofing bowl, and bread pans

In a large microwave proof bowl, scald the milk.  Add the butter, jaggery and salt.  Reserving one teaspoon, pour in the molasses.  Drain the water from the raisins, and add that water as well.  Stir and leave it to cool down somewhat.  (My kitchen was cold, so it cooled off faster than the butter could melt.)

In a small bowl, mix the teaspoon of molasses, lukewarm water and dried yeast.  Set aside to wake up the yeast, which takes about ten minutes.Turn oven on, but let it heat to just under 100 F.  Turn off, but turn on the oven light to keep a steady warm temperature.

Begin with stirring paddle.
Dough is shiny, elastic and not sticky when right.
In a mixer, add two cups of flour.  Pour in the warm milk mixture, then the lukewarm yeast mixture.  Set the mixer to stir for at least three minutes.  You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time.  Turn off the mixer, and add another two cups of flour, then the dried milk powder.  Turn back onto stir.  Add another cup of flour, along with the cinnamon powder, amaranth and raisins.  At this point take off the stirring paddle and replace with a dough hook.  Turn machine back on and slowly add the next cup of flour, but be cautious.  Some flours are drier than others, so add enough flour to take the stickiness out of the dough.  When it starts to look shiny and feel elastic, it’s good.  If you lose the shine, you can add a tiny bit of water, and put the mixer back on, but have flour on hand in case you add too much water.  The final amount of flour and liquid depends on your humidity levels.  Let the machine knead the dough for about eight minutes. 

Use different pans for varied shapes.
Butter a large proofing bowl.  Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, and shape it into a ball in the proofing bowl.  Rub it around so the entire surface of the ball is lightly coated with butter.  Place a clean tea towel over the bowl, and an old, but thick tea towel on the oven rack.  Place the covered bowl over the thick tea towel in the oven.  (You don’t want the bowl to touch a hot surface, so be sure the oven is just nicely warm.)  Let proof till doubled in size, about an hour.

Remove from oven.  Punch down, and divide dough into two balls.  Butter bread pans generously.  Put one ball in each pan.  Shape to fit pan.  Cover with tea towel, and put back into warm oven. 

Let proof for another hour.  Dough should rise up to look like loaves during this time.  Remove all dough, pans and towels from the oven.  Preheat to 400 F.  Put bread pans back in oven, and bake 25 to 30 minutes.  Bread will sound hollow when knocked.  Let rest a few minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks.

After cooling, slice and enjoy.  

Never mind dinner tonight, we just had this bread with butter and cheese.  Now I can’t wait for tomorrow morning, when it’s time for toast! 

Whole Wheat Raisin Bread  still warm and melting the butter!
Yum.  Who needs anything more?

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