Posted by Katie Lane
Attention everyone: I have fallen in love — head-over-heels in love.
I am in love with baking bread.
First, there is the heavenly smell of rising yeast that fills every inch of the house and welcomes you home with a big, bready hug as soon as you walk in the door.
Second, there is the endless variety of bread-making options. Rye, wheat, white, swirled, loafs, rolls — it never ends! I bet you could make a different type of bread every day of the year.
Third, there is the undeniable comfort that comes from eating a large hunk of carbs. All toasty warm. Slathered with a nice pat of butter.
Do you know how cool the process of making bread can be?
I am not talking ‘toss some flour and yeast in a bread machine and call it a night.' I am talking about stirring, kneading, rising, punching, steaming, baking. I am talking about enzymes and glutens and fermentation. I am talking about flour and water and muscle and patience.
Okay, I am not sure if there is such a thing as a bread nerd ... but I would like to be one.
As a New Year's present to myself, I bought Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Bakers Apprentice." It is a one-way ticket to bread obsession, let me just say that. My older brother and I are baking through the entire book one recipe at a time.
I read through the 100+ pages of introduction – all about the science, technique and history behind bread making before diving in to any recipes.
I thought, like a good college girl, that studying up would make bread-baking a cinch. Not quite.
I am here to tell you that bread is hard work.
After 10 minutes of kneading a tough blob of gluten, I start to get a little sweaty — I will not lie! But the satisfaction of opening the oven and pulling out a beautiful golden loaf of cinnamon raison walnut goodness is worth it.
I have only made a couple recipes so far but each time I just feel extra proud — more so than I ever would with a plain old batch of brownies or cookies. There is something just complex enough yet still always comforting that makes bread a fascinating and rewarding art.
So if you want to fall in love, take a Saturday afternoon and spend some time getting to know bread.
For more yummy kitchen adventures, visit me at asprinkleintime.wordpress.com!
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
Recipe adapted from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart (note: there are a lot of extra skills and tips that I will not be publishing here – you have to buy the book!)
3 ½ cups bread flour
4 tsp granulated sugar
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tbs shortening or butter,
½ cup buttermilk or whole
¾ cup water, room
1 ½ cups raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1. Stir together flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add egg, shortening, buttermilk and water. Stir together until ingredients come together to form a ball. Add flour/water if the dough seems too stick/dry.
2. Turn dough onto floured counter and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final two minutes of kneading. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer dough to the bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Let rise for two hours, or until dough doubles in size.
4. Divide dough into two equal pieces and roll each out to a 5x8 rectangle. Stir together ½ cup sugar and two tbs cinnamon and sprinkle over rectangle. Roll up from short end, pinching ends together. Place each loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan, mist the tops with oil, cover with plastic wrap.
5. Let rise at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until the dough crests the top of the loaves and is nearly doubled in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F and place loaves on sheet pan.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes. Rotate pan and bake another 20 to 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown on top and makes a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
8. Immediately remove the bread from their pan. If desired, brush tops with butter and roll in cinnamon sugar. Cool on a rack for at least one to two hours before slicing.