Wednesday 8 December 2021

Rosemary Raisin Bread

In 1977, I bought the Sunset Cook Book of Breads.  It was one of the first cookbooks I ever purchased - a paperback - and I have it still, so well loved that it's mostly held together with sticky tape. This recipe comes from that book but I've adapted it to suit my tastes and baking style over the years. It's a surprising combination but the flavours work together really well.

I enjoy this bread toasted, with crabapple jelly, or as a sandwich bread, with ham, a mild cheese, and some sweet mustard. 

I should mention that I eat every dish I make for my blog. Nothing goes to waste. The wedge of bread I cut out of the loaf for the photo was made into a bread pudding, with pears.  😊

To make Rosemary Raisin Bread you'll need: 
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups of raisins (I only had 3/4 cup of raisins when I baked the loaf you see in the photo. It was not enough.)
  • 3/4 cup raisin soaking water
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup neutrally flavoured cooking oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups bread flour (sometimes called hard flour)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped very fine
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
Put the raisins in a heat proof bowl or measuring cup and pour boiling water over them.  Let them soak until the water has cooled to 110F.

Drain the water off the raisins, reserving it and setting the raisins aside. Pour 3/4 cup of the raisin soaking water into your mixing bowl. Add the honey, stirring to dissolve it into the water.  

If the honey won't dissolve completely, put the water/honey mixture in the microwave for a few seconds and then stir it again. If you put the water and honey in the microwave, remember to allow it to cool down again, to just above body temperature.

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and honey mixture.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast has dissolved and started to foam a bit. 

Crack 1 egg plus the white of the second egg into a small bowl and beat them with a fork. (Reserve the yolk from the second egg for later.) Pour the beaten egg into the water/yeast mixture, then add the oil, and the drained raisins.

Add in 3 cups of flour, the rosemary, and the salt in the order given here. (Salt impedes the rising action of  yeast. Putting it in last helps insulate the yeast from the salt.)

If you have a stand mixer, use a dough hook to mix the bread, adding more flour if the dough is sticky.  You'll need to mix it for at least 10 minutes, until the dough becomes elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

If you're kneading the dough by hand, spread the remaining half cup of flour on your board and knead the bread until it's elastic. This can take up to 20 minutes.

Wash out the mixing bowl and coat the inside of it with some olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and turn it until it's coated all over with the oil.

Cover the bread dough with waxed paper and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down and knead it a few times to release the air.  Shape it into a sphere and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.  

Let the dough rise until puffy; about 30 to 45 minutes.

Beat the reserved egg yolk together with 1 Tablespoon of cold water, then brush it over the loaf.

Use a floured, knife with a narrow blade to cut an X in the top of the loaf.

Bake the bread at 375F for about 30 minutes, turning it at the halfway point of the baking time. 

Start checking it for done-ness at 25 minutes. You'll know it's done when you tap on the top crust and it sounds hollow.  If it doesn't sound hollow, return the bread to the oven and turn off the heat.  Let the loaf finish baking in the residual heat.

Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing it.

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