Fresh, homemade bread
-Ack, it’s been over a month since I have posted! I am terribly embarrassed that I have let so much time elapse. It’s not that I haven’t been baking or cooking, but finding time to write about them has been a little crazy. I’ve actually made plenty of pies and cakes, even cheesecakes, over the past month, as well as some new recipes like maple-soy salmon and jambalaya, but I will post about those some other time.
A month ago, I wrote a draft of this post. It focused on my desire for a Reset Button for my mind. A clean slate, free of the knots of worry that form and are so hard to get rid of. Sometimes those knots aren’t even from negative elements like worry and overstress, but from good-intentioned plans, goals, and dreams. Am I the only one who gets caught up in wanting good things and planning how to get them, but then become upset as that same goal becomes a prison or a self-imposed standard that potentially prevents me from seizing other opportunities?
It’s funny that a month ago I wanted a reset. If you look at my life from the outside, I definitely got one. I am ending my internship this week. I move out on my own (no roommates) to a new city (still DC area) and start my first professional job next week. I even cancelled my gym membership for the sake of my budget. If that’s not a reset, I don’t know what is.
Spring is a great time to start something new. I am nervous, but looking forward. Personally, cancelling my gym membership, and being willing to give up going to yoga classes except on special occasions, is something I never dreamed I would consider And I am not quite sure I will be able to do it for long, I think I really miss it. But if I am going to do a full reset of my mindset, my budget, my priorities, and anything else that proves to be a central tenet of my life, I might as well do it completely and see what really matters.
I feel like a good way to think of a reset is not as a start/stop process, but as one cycle that is coming to its close and a new cycle that is opening. It reminds me a lot of making bread: reviving the dormant yeast with water, adding it to flour and kneading it, letting it grow, punching it down and kneading it again, letting it rest, letting it grow and rise a second time, then finally baking it, after which it is consumed and provides nourishment so I can live. Have I mentioned I really like making homemade bread?
Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread
Slightly Adapted From King Arthur
Makes one loaf
- 2/3 cup raisins (soak in rum or bourbon overnight as starter rests)
- 4 ounces cool water
- 2 ounces whole wheat flour
- 2 ounces all purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
- 4 ounces lukewarm milk
- 4 ounces orange juice
- 2 1/2 ounces melted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 ounces sugar
- 1 ounce nonfat dry milk
- 1 5/8 ounces potato flour
- 6 ounces whole wheat flour
- 5 ounces all purpose flour
- *Use 2 tablespoons less orange juice in summer (or in a humid environment), 2 tablespoons more in winter (or in a dry climate)
- 1 large egg, beaten; to brush on dough
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup raisins soaked in rum or bourbon overnight, drained
1) To make the starter: In a mixing bowl, combine the water, flour, and yeast, stirring until the flour is evenly moistened. Cover the bowl, and let the starter rest overnight at cool room temperature, for up to 16 hours or so; it’ll become a bit puffy, and flatten out.
2) Add the remaining dough ingredients to the starter in the bowl, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until you’ve made a cohesive dough. If you’re using a stand mixer, knead at low speed for about 7 minutes. Note that 100% whole wheat dough will never become smooth and supple like dough made with all-purpose flour; it’ll feel more like clay under your hands, and may appear a bit rough.
3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise until it’s expanded and looks somewhat puffy, about 90 minutes. Note that dough kneaded in a bread machine will rise faster and higher than bread kneaded in a mixer, which in turn will rise faster and higher than one kneaded by hand. So if you’re kneading by hand, you may want to let the dough rise longer than 90 minutes.
4) To make the filling: Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.
5) Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly oiled work surface. Shape the dough into a long, thin rectangle, about 16″ x 9″.
6) Brush the dough with some of the beaten egg. Sprinkle the filling onto the dough.
7) Beginning with a short edge, gently roll the dough into a log. Pinch the side seam and ends closed. Pat the log gently to shape it into a smooth 9″ cylinder, and place it in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ or 8″x4″ loaf pan.
8) Tent the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap or a shower cap, and allow the loaf to rise until it’s crowned over the rim of the pan by about 3/4″, about 90 minutes. Don’t let it rise too high; it’ll continue to rise as it bakes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
9) Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Lightly tent it with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until the center registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack.
10) Run a stick of butter over the top of the hot loaf, if desired, for a softer crust. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.