Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin Bread


Growing up one of my favorite baked goods was my mothers homemade cinnamon rolls. They were soft and gooey with a hint of yeasty smell to them. She didn't make them very often, and because of that they were even more special. Since growing up, I have made her cinnamon rolls many times. However, for some reason, I actually hate cutting the dough into rolls. I feel like no matter what I do they are shaped funny and cinnamon leaks all over. I can never get them even and neat. Consequently, I have decided that I prefer making cinnamon raisin bread. I first started making cinnamon bread one lovely day when I was feeling lazy and I made my mother's cinnamon rolls and just did not cut them up. I rolled up the dough full of cinnamon and sugar goodness and stuck it in a bread pan. Sadly, the dough that my mom uses for cinnamon rolls is too heavy for cinnamon bread and the whole thing collapsed on itself once it was taken from the bread pan. Then I had to set out to find a recipe that would be appropriate in bread form. I have tried several different ones and have come to the conclusion that the one listed below is my favorite. I love the addition of oatmeal. It makes the bread so soft. There is also a touch of wheat flour in the recipe which gives added sturdiness, beautiful color, and contributes to the enticing aroma of this bread when it bakes. This recipe also is amazingly simple to make. It is a direct method dough and all of the ingredients are stirred together from beginning. There isn't the challenge of trying to incorporate a cup of raisins into your completed dough.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread adapted from
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup raisins
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp instant yeast
4 1/2-5 cups bread flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 stick melted butter

Put the wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, butter, oatmeal, and raisins in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture. Stir until all the butter is melted. At this point I allow the mixture to cool a bit, sometimes adding a cup or so of my bread flour before I add my yeast. Add yeast and then finish adding the flour. Knead for about 6-8 minutes with your dough hook and longer by hand. Allow the bread to raise until double.

Once the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl and divide it into two equal parts. Take the first section of dough and roll it out. I like to use melted butter as the "glue" for my cinnamon/sugar mixture, but I have also used water and it works just as well. Brush melted butter or water over the rolled out dough. Then generously sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the dough. Take the two sides of the dough and fold them in. Then take one end and start rolling. You can use a little melted butter or water to seal the dough to itself when you are finished rolling. Place rolled dough into a greased loaf pan. Repeat the above process with the second portion of dough. Allow dough to raise until double. Bake the loaves at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Notes: I use instant yeast in my recipe. If you choose to use active dry yeast, you will need to proof it in warm water and consequently you will have more liquid in your recipe that I typically do and you will probably need to increase your flour. Also, I find it helpful to place a layer of parchment paper on the bottom of my loaf pans before putting the dough in. I find that even if I have a good seal, frequently some cinnamon and sugar leaks out of the bread and I have a sticky mess on my hands without the parchment paper. I sometimes use an egg wash on top of this bread too. It makes the top nice and brown and shiny. It also will make it burn like crazy if you do not pay attention.

In the photos my wonderful husband took of making cinnamon raisin bread I chose to get rowdy and braid my bread into one big loaf. Quite honestly, it did not look as pretty as I had imagined it in my head, but if you want to try it maybe it will work better for you. What I did was to take three 10 ounce portions and fill them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture and roll them up. I then braided these rolls together. After that I took three 4 ounce portions of dough and did the same thing, making a smaller braid and placing it on top of the large one. I allowed them to proof together and then baked as usual. I had a bit of leftover dough that I just made into a normal cinnamon raisin mini loaf. I was hoping for some really beautiful swirls, but I did not get them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bothersome Bagels

For my very first post, I was hoping to have created something magnificent. Sadly, all I got was flat, goofy shaped bagels. Bagels have been something that I have wanted to try for a long time. I eat one for breakfast almost every morning and I find them to be an immensely satisfactory breakfast item. I was lucky enough to received Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" as a gift for Christmas this past year and have had fairly good success with his French Bread and his Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread. With both of them I had decent success. These bagels, however, were quite troublesome.

Unfortunately, this was a very busy weekend. I had to work and I had a co-worker's housewarming party as well as being assigned to bake two pies for my aunt's 50th birthday. For some reason, I then felt compelled to also make bagels. These bagels take two days to create. Normally that is what I love about baking bread. The creating of the dough and the beautiful swollen mass it becomes after proofing. I love kneading the dough and shaping the loaves and watching them become delicious treats. I love that really good bread takes a long time and immense patience. Homemade bread is a delectable reward for all of your efforts. However, with the craziness of the weekend, I failed to pay proper attention to my poor bagels and consequently, they were visually unsatisfying but they tasted good!

Here is the recipe I used adapted from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"

1 tsp (.11 oz) instant yeast
4 c. (18 oz) unbleached high gluten or bread flour (I only had bread flour so that is what I used)
2 1/2 c. (20 oz) room temperature water

Stir ingredients together until they form a batter. Cover and leave at room temp for about 2 hours or until the sponge becomes foamy and bubbly

1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
3 1/2 c. (17 oz) unbleached high gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 ( .7 oz) tsp salt
2 tsp (.33 oz) malt powder

First add the yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of flour, the salt, and malt. Stir slowly until the mixture forms a ball adding the additional flour to stiffen the dough. Knead the dough until developed. (about 10 minutes by hand and 6 minutes with a mixer)

Divide the dough into 4 1/2 oz pieces for regular bagels, cover and rest for 20 minutes.

Shape bagels (The cookbook shows two different methods for shaping the bagels. I chose one way by poking a hole through the middle of the dough ball and gently widening the hole. My husband chose the other method where you roll out the balls and shape them into ropes and then shape them into circles. Unfortunately for me, his bagels turned out to be prettier and much teasing about his "superior" shaping method ensued. Use whichever shaping method strikes your fancy.)

Place bagels on sheet pans covered in parchment. Cover and let rest for another 20 minutes. Your bagels are ready to be retarded when you place one in a bowl of water and it floats within 10 seconds. If it does not float, rest them until one does.

Cover and place over night in the refrigerator.

The next day boil the bagels for 2 minutes on each side. After boiling you can put toppings on and then bake for 5 minutes at 500 degrees and then lower the temp to 450 degrees for 5 minutes (longer if you want darker bagels)

Notes: Because I did not follow the cardinal rule of baking and read my recipe all of the way through first thing; I let the dough proof in the bowl for an hour before dividing the it into pieces. I believe it was this mistake that led to my flat bagels. When I went to boil them, they degassed quite a bit when I picked them up. The toppings I chose were sesame seeds, which worked wonderfully, and onion flakes, which shriveled up and burned. The onion flakes may have worked much better if they were incorporated into the dough. Next time I might also consider egg washing the tops before baking for a shiny look. Hopefully, better luck next time :)
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