Friday, August 1, 2014

Breadhead Friday: The Agony and Ecstasy of Raisin Bread

My earliest memories of raisin bread involve tearing off the top crust to eat the icing and throwing out the rest of the slice.  My brothers did the same, so my dad stopped buying it.  It just wasn't very good.

This focaccia-style raisin bread from Peter Reinhart is the complete opposite of that.  It's extraordinary.  It's the apotheosis of raisin bread.  It's what raisin bread is supposed to be.

I won't duplicate his recipe here; you can get it from Artisan Breads Every Day or from his Craftsy class, which is worth purchasing if you want to learn how to make delicious bread and pizza at home.  The main difference between the savory focaccia recipe and the raisin bread recipe is that you have to use a little more water in the raisin bread dough to plump up the dried fruit.

For these loaves, I used a combination of dried cranberries, raisins, and dried cherries.

Dough ready for overnight rise

The recipe makes three 9-inch loaves (or discs) of raisin bread, and requires cake pans, parchment paper rounds, and a little oil to drizzle on top of the dough to help in shaping.  I used a combination of vegetable and canola oil.

Portioned, cold dough

The shaping in the pan consists of little more than dimpling it: evenly pressing it with your fingertips so that it fills the entire pan.  When it starts to resist, you leave it in a warm place to relax for several minutes.

After the first dimpling

After the third and final dimpling; ready for a rise

Then the loaves get baked in a hot oven for around 10-15 minutes, depending.  You don't need the pizza stone for this bread.

Baked and cooling - note the bubbles

For icing, I just whisked together confectioner's sugar and whole milk and drizzled it on the cooled loaves.  I like a stiff sort of icing, so I only put in a few drops of milk.  For a looser, more gooey icing, put in more milk.

Iced and ready to eat

You could add vanilla or almond extract to the icing if you wanted, or even put in some orange zest or Grand Marnier.  Or substitute coconut milk for the whole milk.  Experiment, go wild.  

The obligatory close-up

The sweetness of the icing works very well against the tartness of the dried fruit.  The texture is light, with a pleasant crunch and moistness.  Even if you don't like raisin bread, you'll like this.  

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