Real Strawberry Shortcake {ModBak}

We’ve been getting some beautiful strawberries this year and using them as many ways as we can. We’ve eaten them whole, sliced, and macerated, and I’ve made a number of desserts featuring fresh strawberries. There are a number of recipes I would like to remember for future years, so, I’ve declared this week “Strawberry Week” on my blog and invited my blogging friends to join in.

Two recipes I made (and the base for a third) happen to be from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge, including this one for a simple, classic strawberry shortcake. As with most strawberry shortcakes, this recipe consists of three components: shortcakes, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream.

For the strawberries, I hulled, washed, and sliced them, then mixed them with sugar (it didn’t take much, as these were height-of-the-season, super sweet strawberries). I set them aside to macerate while I made the shortcakes.

I began by mixing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of my food processor. I added cold butter and pulsed until it was finely mixed in.

I whisked egg and buttermilk together, added them to the food processor, and mixed until I had a soft, wet dough.

The recipe presents two options for the shortcake. It can be made as a single cake in an 8-inch round pan, or baked as individual shortcakes by mounding the dough on a baking sheet. I opted for individual shortcakes.

I baked the shortcakes for about 15 minutes, until they were firm and lightly browned.

While the shortcakes were baking, I whipped heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract with the stand mixer.

After the shortcakes had cooled enough to handle, I cut them in half, buttered them, and assembled the shortcakes.

Each shortcake consisted of a buttered shortcake half, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, and finished with the remaining shortcake half.

If strawberries are the perfect fruit, then these may be the perfect dessert. The shortcakes and whipped cream accent the strawberry flavor without overshadowing it. And did I mention that start to finish this recipe takes less than an hour to prepare?

This was a great recipe to highlight fresh strawberries, and a great way to kick off Strawberry Week. Here’s what’s in store for the rest of the week:

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Rum-scented Marble Cake {ModBak}

I was all set to make this recipe the other day when my friends Kayte and Margaret tweeted that they were making it, too. So we decided to have a Twitterbake and make it “together” in our separate kitchens (and separate States). It’s always more fun baking with others, even if you are baking and tweeting from far away.

This is the third recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. After starting with a delicious, if fussy, pound cake, I was looking forward to trying this recipe.

As impressive as it looks, this cake was really easy to put together, although it did dirty quite a few bowls. The base batter consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter (three sticks!), seven eggs, and dark rum. After making a heavy paste of the dry ingredients and butter, I whisked the eggs and rum, then added them to the butter mixture.

The chocolate swirl layer consisted of dark rum, milk, baking soda, bittersweet chocolate, and two cups of the base batter, all mixed together until blended.

To assemble the cake, I put half the base batter in the pan, smoothed the top, then topped it with the chocolate layer.

I covered this with the rest of the base batter, smoothed the top, then marbled it by dragging a knife through the batter from the center to the edge all the way around the pan.

I baked the cake for 75 minutes, until it was done through but still moist.

Pardon the pun, but the cake smelled intoxicating while it baked. The chocolate and rum combined to give it a rich, heady aroma, and I couldn’t wait to cut into it. I let the cake cool, then sprinkled the top with powdered sugar (although it really didn’t need any adornment).

My daughter and I decided to sample it for a bedtime snack.

I was planning to take the rest of it to work today, but after tasting it, my daughter announced that I would be doing no such thing. The cake was rich, but not overly sweet, and had a great balance of flavors. Calling it “rum-scented” is quite apt, as the rum adds more to the aroma than the flavor.

This was another great recipe from The Modern Baker and has me looking forward to the next seven months(!) of cakes.

Check out Kayte’s and Margaret’s posts to see what they thought and to get a look at their beautiful marbling.

Perfect Pound Cake {ModBak}

The first entry in the Cakes section of The Modern Baker is a recipe that Nick Malgieri got from his aunt. Even though I don’t bake the recipes in each section strictly in order, I do at least like to start at the beginning. And this time, that was easy to do, as I love pound cake.

I have made two of Nick’s other pound cake recipes — New Orleans Praline Pound Cake (pralines being another love of mine) and Vanilla Bean Pound Cake. Both of these recipe were from Nick’s more recent book, Bake!, and both were easy and delicious. This recipe was a bit more complicated, but promised to be worth the effort.

What makes this batter more work to make is the mixing method. First, egg yolks are whisked by hand, then sugar is whisked in slowly, followed by vanilla and lemon extracts.

This mixture is then beat with a stand mixer until it is light and well-aerated.

While the egg yolk mixture was whipping away, I mixed the dry ingredients — cake flour and baking powder. Or I would have, if there had been any cake flour in the cupboard. But there wasn’t. So I made my own.

If, like me, you ever find yourself lacking cake flour for a recipe, don’t despair. And don’t run out to the store. It’s easy to make a perfectly acceptable substitute for cake flour using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. For every cup of flour in the recipe, measure 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a 1-cup measure. Fill the rest of the way with AP flour. That’s it. Just use it in place of 1 cup cake flour, and you’re all set.

Now, where were we? Oh, yes. We just finished beating the egg yolk mixture. I scraped the mixture into a large bowl, then, without washing the mixing bowl, beat the butter for a minute to lighten it. Then I added the flour mixture to the butter and beat until it made a smooth paste.

I scraped the butter-flour mixture over the egg yolk mixture and stirred it all together with a rubber spatula.

Then, I had to wash the mixing bowl in hot, soapy water, as the next step was whipping egg whites, which wouldn’t work unless the mixing bowl was perfectly clean.

I beat the egg whites to a firm peak.

Now. to the tell the truth, I don’t really understand the whole whipped egg whites thing in this recipe. After carefully beating the whites to just the right consistency, you usually continue to treat them with care, folding them gently into the batter and being careful not to break them. Not so with this recipe. After beating the whites, they are unceremoniously stirred — not folded, stirred — into the batter.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the whole thing is then returned to the mixer and beat — yes, I said “beat”, sir — for 5 minutes. This seemed to completely destroy the integrity of the egg whites. But I have to admit that the resulting batter was light, airy, and beautiful.

I baked the pound cake for about an hour, which, incidentally, was about how long it took to wash all the dishes this masterpiece created.

It smelled great baking and came out of the oven looking great. I cooled the cake in the pan for about 5 minutes, then unmolded it and let it cool before slicing into it.

Many people will tell you that pound cake is best if it is allowed to dry out for a day or so. That may well be true, but I’ve never put it to the test. I’m doing well if I can wait until it cools. Or mostly cools. Or cools to the point that it won’t burn my fingers and tongue.

So, how did this fussy pound cake stack up? It was good. Really good. No, it was delicious. Rich, buttery, with a moist crumb and just a touch of lemon flavor. I ate it warm, cold, and toasted the day it was made and over then next several days. I thought about serving it with crème anglaise on the third or fourth day, but it didn’t last that long.

However, even though this was a great pound cake, I don’t see myself making it again. As delicious as it was, it wasn’t that much better than other pound cake recipes that are half the work. I might use the ingredients and proportions from this recipe with a more modern, quicker mixing method. Now, that could be a winner.

This post is the first recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Check out the Challenge page to see what the other bakers are up to this week.

Pecan Sticky Buns {TWD-BWJ}

Our second May recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is one with which I am very familiar. Growing up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, sticky buns were an almost ubiquitous morning treat. After leaving PA Dutch country, I tried so-called sticky buns literally from coast to coast. None of them could hold a candle to any that I had growing up. And of the sticky buns in Lancaster County, none could compare to the ones made by Melinda Fisher.

I was close friends with the Fisher boys growing up — John, Jake, and David — and was lucky enough to spend many nights at their house. Dan and Melinda grew up Amish, and although they no longer lived on a farm, they still breakfasted like farmers. So breakfast at their house was always a treat. But never more so than when Melinda made sticky buns.

I’m not sure what made her sticky buns so much better than all others. Dan raised bees, so she naturally used honey in her recipe. But it was more than that. And I wish I had her recipe. They were, as the Dutch would say, am beschde (the best).

So, when Dorie claims that Nancy Silverton’s recipe is the ne plus ultra of sticky buns, she has a high bar to clear in my book. This, then, is a battle of superlatives: the ne plus ultra versus am beschde. And as much as I love Melinda’s sticky buns, I was pulling for Nancy’s recipe to come out on top. After all, I have her recipe available to me in my copy of Baking with Julia.

Nancy Silverton’s sticky buns recipe begins with a batch of her brioche dough. I made the dough the day before baking the sticky buns, and because it is a completely separate recipe, I gave it its own blog post.

The first step in making the sticky buns (once you’ve made your brioche dough) is laminating the dough. No, this doesn’t mean putting through a machine to encase it in plastic. In this context, laminating refers to folding (or turning) layers of butter into the dough. To do this, I divided the dough in half, and rolled one piece out to a large rectangle. Then I spread softened butter over the dough.

When I made the brioche dough, I found it much easier to work with the butter if I spread it with an offset spatula. So even though the sticky buns recipe said to dot the dough with butter, I used my spatula to spread it evenly over the entire surface of the dough. I folded the dough in thirds. letter-style, then rolled it out to roughly the same size it had been before. I folded the dough again, then wrapped it and put it in the fridge while I worked with the other half.

When the dough was chilled, I rolled one piece out again, then brushed it with an egg wash and sprinkled it with cinnamon-sugar and chopped pecans. The recipe said to roll the pecans and sugar mixture into the dough with a rolling pin, which just sounded like a mess waiting to happen. So I covered the dough with wax paper before rolling it. That kept my rolling pin clean and ready for the other half of the dough.

I rolled the dough into a tight log, which I then wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for about an hour.

This recipe makes 14 sticky buns, but as there are only four of us, I decided I didn’t want to make all the buns at once. After the initial chill, I double-wrapped one log and put it in the freezer for another day.

One of the unique things about sticky buns is that they are baked upside down and inverted onto a plate as soon as they come out of the oven. The “sticky” is a caramel sauce in the bottom of the pan that, when inverted, covers the tops of the buns and oozes down the sides, covering the entire sticky bun with ooey-gooey goodness.

Most recipes for sticky buns that I’ve seen use a caramel sauce that is cooked and then poured into the bottom of the pan. This recipe, however, makes the caramel sauce directly in the pan while the buns are baking. To do this, you use your fingers to smear a stick of butter on the bottom of the pan (at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I found this much easier to do with an offset spatula).

Then you top the butter with brown sugar.

In my final major departure from the recipe, I arranged pecans on top of the brown sugar. The recipe says to press the pecans into the top of the buns, then try to hold them in place while you invert the buns into the pan. Why not just put the pecans in the pan to begin with?

To form the buns, I cut the dough into even-sized pieces (yes, I measured them).

I flattened each roll slightly, then arranged them in the pan.

Looking at the formed rolls, I saw the results of laminating the dough.

I set the rolls aside to rise, which I knew would take a few hours, as the dough was still quite cold. After about two hours, the rolls had risen and were touching, so it was time to bake them.

I baked the sticky buns at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until they were well-risen and golden brown.

As soon as they came out of the oven, I inverted the sticky buns onto a plate.

They were beautifully layered, and the caramel flowed over and around them as if on cue. I waited for the buns to cool a bit (no sense scorching myself with hot caramel after all that work), then dug into them.

The sticky buns were rich, buttery, and pull-apart flaky. The caramel was sweet and creamy, and the pecans gave the buns a nice crunch. As far as the flavor goes, both the buns and caramel were a bit flat and tasted like they needed some salt. And the buns overall were just so-so. Better than many I have eaten around the country. But not as good as the ones I used to get in PA. And nothing like Melinda Fisher’s.

I had such high hopes for these sticky buns, especially since they used an insane amount of butter and were two days in the making. Unfortunately, they didn’t live up to the hype. And while I will continue to search for a sticky buns recipe that can live up to the ones made by Melinda Fisher, I definitely won’t be making this recipe again.

Brioche {BWJ}

Our next Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Pecan Sticky Buns, which is due to be posted May 15, 2012. The first “ingredient” listed in the recipe is one batch of brioche dough. Since the brioche is a separate recipe and is used as a base for various other recipes in Baking with Julia, I decided it deserved its own post.

Brioche dough is loaded with butter and eggs, so you know whatever you make with it is going to be good. Brioche is known for its richness and fine texture. It can be tricky to work with, and it is definitely best made using a heavy-duty stand mixer.

Now, I’m no stranger to brioche. I made three versions of it during the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. Bubble-top brioche was one of the first recipes I made from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (AMFT). And Nick Malgieri has a quick and easy brioche recipe in The Modern Baker, which I used to make a quick brioche braid and marbled chocolate brioche loaf.

The recipe in BWJ was contributed by Nancy Silverton and begins with a sponge. Milk, yeast, one egg, and a bit of flour are mixed just until the flour is blended in.

More flour is sprinkled on top, and the sponge is allowed to rest until the yeast begins working. You know it’s ready when the flour starts to crack.

Once the sponge was ready, I added sugar, salt (not enough, in my opinion; next time I’ll increase the salt by about half), and more eggs and flour. I mixed the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook for about 15 minutes, until I had a shaggy dough that clung to the dough hook and slapped against the side of the bowl.

The next step called for incorporating lots of butter into the dough. In order to do this, the directions said the butter should be roughly the same texture and consistency as the dough. The recipe recommended beating the butter with a rolling pin or smearing it on the work surface with a dough scraper. I decided to use the smear method, but I found the dough scraper awkward to work with. I had much better luck with an offset spatula.

I incorporated the butter a bit at a time. Thanks to the instructions, I didn’t worry when the dough separated, as I knew with continued mixing it would come back together. Once all the butter had been added, I continued to mix the dough for about 5 more minutes. The dough was soft, sticky, and warm from all the mixing. I put it into a large buttered bowl and set it aside to rise.

After about 2 hours, the dough had doubled in size.

I deflated the dough and put it in the fridge for its second rise.

After an overnight rest in the refrigerator, the dough was ready to be made into sticky buns. Check out the sticky buns post to see how they came out.

As for the brioche dough itself, I would have to say it was my least favorite of all the variations I’ve tried. It was extremely labor intensive, and the final product didn’t have a payoff in line with the amount of work involved. I suspect Dorie wouldn’t be too surprised to hear this. After all, she developed a much easier and more straightforward recipe for brioche for AMFT.

Blackberry Jam Sandwiches with Lemon Icing {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge recipe was, indeed, a challenge for me. Although Kayte, the official baker for this recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section, reported great success with these cookies, mine didn’t work out so smoothly. I’m sure at least part of the problem was my attitude going into it. I’m not a fan of fussy cookies, and with the mixing, chilling, rolling, cutting, filling, and icing required, these definitely fall into the fussy category.

My problems began with the dough. It only has six ingredients — butter, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon extract, egg yolks, and flour — and I mixed it precisely according to the instructions. The dough came out OK, although it seemed a bit on the dry side. It had to be chilled for at least an hour or two before rolling, although the recipe notes that it can be refrigerated for up to three days.

My dough sat in the fridge for about two days until I was ready to roll it out. Kayte reported that the dough was easy to work with and rolled out without tearing or breaking. As soon as my dough hit the board, I knew I had a problem. My dough was dry and crumbly, and neither pressing it nor letting it rest at room temperature seemed to help. I managed to press out enough dough to cut nine cookies.

The cookies baked up nicely, and while they were in the oven, I melted and reduced the blackberry jam to use as filling for the finished cookies. By the time the cookies were cool enough to assemble, the filling had set and needed to be rewarmed. In reheating the jam, I overreduced it. It was liquid enough to spread on the cookies, and the assembly was easy enough. Unfortunately, when the filling cooled, it was gummy and slightly bitter from having been overcooked.

The final piece to these cookies was a simple lemon icing made of confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, and water. Easy enough to make, it is then drizzled over the top of the cookies. Because I ended up with fewer cookies than the recipe called for, I cut the icing down quite a bit. In doing so, it came out too thick to drizzle. After trying, and failing, to make nice streaks of icing on the cookies, I spread it on with the back of a spoon. It turned out to be a bit too much icing, although it did counter the gumminess of the jam a bit.

Overall, these were good cookies. And while I know what I did wrong with the jam filling and lemon icing, I’m still not sure what happened to the cookie dough. I’ll be making the chocolate sandwich cookies and raspberry linzer disks in the next few weeks, both of which employ a very similar dough and the same chilling-and-rolling method. It will be kind of like getting a do-over on the cookie dough and a chance for me to see if I can figure out what went wrong this time around.

Melting Moments {ModBak}

The next recipe in the Modern Baker Challenge is an old British cookie that Nick Malgieri describes as “little buttery orange-flavored clouds”. Now I’m all for melt-in-your-mouth goodness, which is what these cookies promised. But I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I read the recipe and saw that the lightness in these cookies comes from cornstarch. That’s where the lightness in the meringues I made recently came from.

And like the meringues, I was worried that the melting moments cookies might have a strange, overly dry mouthfeel. The fact that the recipe called for half as much cornstarch as flour didn’t give me any comfort, either. But this was the next recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section, so for better or worse, I was going to make it.

In addition to the flour and cornstarch, the recipe calls for baking powder, salt, butter, confectioner’s sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange extract, and orange zest. I mixed the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Then I beat the butter and powdered sugar in the mixer until light and fluffy. After beating in the eggs, I added the orange zest and extract (I substituted fiori di sicilia for the orange extract), then beat in the flour mixture. I scooped small spoonfuls of the dough, rounded them slightly, and put them on a cookie sheet.

I baked the cookies at 325°F for 20 minutes, until they were puffed, set, and lightly golden.

The cookies smelled delicious. The orange zest and fiori di sicilia were almost intoxicating, and despite my reservations, I couldn’t wait for them to cool so I could to try them. And once I did taste them, all my fears were put to rest. They were light, crisp, and brightly flavored. And, yes, they melted in my mouth with no cornstarch aftertaste.

I’m glad I made these cookies in spite of my initial skepticism. And I’m sure I’ll be making them again.

Macadamia Shortbreads {ModBak}

I was hopeful that this week’s Modern Baker Challenge cookie would make up for the tuile disaster and the fussy thumbprint cookies. Since it’s a shortbread, I knew it would at least be fairly easy, without a lot of ingredients. And the addition of macadamia nuts seemed like it would elevate the cookies a bit, both in style and flavor.

A classic Scottish shortbread recipe uses three ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour. This recipe adds baking powder and, of course, macadamia nuts to the trinity, but otherwise stays true to its Scottish roots.

After grinding the macadamias with sugar in the food processor, I added the flour, baking powder, and butter and whirred it together until it made a fine, powdery mixture.

When I dumped it into the pan, it was hard to envision how this sandy, silty substance would pull together into a cookie.

Of course, that’s the beauty of shortbreads. Since the only liquid in the recipe is butter, and it starts in its solid state, the dough really comes together once it hits the heat. In the meantime, I pressed the dough into the pan as best I could.

I sprinkled the dough with a little water, then topped it with macadamia nuts ground with sugar.

The shortbreads baked up beautifully. They smelled so rich and buttery, I couldn’t wait to try them.

And the flavor did not disappoint. Macadamia nuts have a buttery richness to them that paired perfectly with the shortbread dough. In fact, it’s such a natural combination, I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it before.

The cookies kept well in a plastic container, and we enjoyed them for several days. In case you’re wondering where the picture of the finished cookies went, you’ll have to ask him…

I realized I hadn’t plated the cookies for a picture, and went to get them, but they weren’t on the counter where I had left them. I looked all over the kitchen and dining room, but to no avail. I never found the cookies, but I did find the container under my daughter’s bed, where Bailey likes to take his purloined treasures.

Stupid dog.

But at least he has good taste.

Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk Cookies {ModBak}

Come on. You know you want one of these babies.

This is the next recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I’ve bake these cookies twice already, in part because they’re so good. But also because I didn’t get any pictures the first time I made them. I went on a baking tear right before Thanksgiving, as we had lots of family coming into town. Unfortunately, I was so focused on baking that I didn’t get pictures of a lot of the stuff I made. I went ahead and posted some of the recipes without pictures, but these were such good cookies, I used the lack of photos as an excuse to make them again.

Although butterscotch is the first word in the name of these cookies, they don’t have any kind of butterscotch chips or other flavoring in them. The flavor comes from the combination of ingredients, chiefly the brown sugar. The dough also called for flour, baking soda, salt, butter, egg, and vanilla.

Oh, and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

Bittersweet and milk chocolate chunks get folded into the batter after it is mixed. Both times I made these, I was surprised by how much chocolate there is compared to the rest of the batter. The addition of the chocolate chunks almost doubles the volume of the dough. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Having just enough cookie dough to hold together the chocolate is just fine with me.

After mixing the dough, I dropped the cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment foil. I put the cookies in the oven, realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the dough on the pan, and took a quick shot of the cookies in the oven.

I baked the cookies for about 15 minutes at 350°F, per the recipe, although I think they should have come out a few minutes earlier. They didn’t burn, but they were crispier than we like them.

While the first batch of cookies was baking, M asked if we could make cookie bars with the rest of the dough, so she pressed the remaining dough into an 8×8 pan. We baked the bars for about 25 minutes, until the edges were starting to brown, but the center still looked nice and doughy. Unlike the cookies, the bars were baked perfectly.

These are really delicious cookies, with a definite butterscotch flavor. And, of course, a rich, gooey, abundance of chocolate. Even though the cookies were a bit on the crispy side, they were great for dunking in milk. And the bars were soft, crumbly perfection.

This is a recipe I will keep in mind when I want chocolate chip cookies. They are head and shoulders above your typical Toll House cookies, and not any more difficult to make.

Renee was the official blogger for this recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge. Check out her blog to see what she thought of them. And if you’d like to join the Challenge, you can jump in any time.

Nick Malgieri’s Old-fashioned Raisin Bread {Recipe}

My friend and baking mentor, Nick Malgieri, has a new book coming out in September. I have had a chance to preview some of the recipes, and I was excited to see yet another one on his blog the other day, this recipe for old-fashioned raisin bread. It’s simple, makes a beautiful dough, and results in the best raisin bread you’ve ever tasted.

I invited my friends, Kayte and Nancy, to make this bread with me, so we all mixed, kneaded, and baked in our kitchens in Indiana, California, and Ohio, at the same time. Actually Kayte finished first, which means her loaves were gone before Nancy’s were even baked.

This bread was a delight to make. The dough was perfectly elastic and easy to work with. It was a bit of a job getting all those currants and golden raisins kneaded in, but it was so worth it.

The finished loaves were beautiful, with a lovely, soft crumb and studded with raisins and currants. And the taste was out of this world. As I always do when I make bread, I tasted it several different ways — plain, buttered, toasted (plain, buttered, and with cinnamon-sugar). And I can honestly say I would gladly eat it any of those ways. My favorite was toasted with a little butter, although the cinnamon-sugar was outstanding, too.

This is definitely a bread to put on your short list to try. But be warned: it will make you want to pick up Nick’s book when it comes out in September.

Old-fashioned Raisin Bread (from Nick Malgieri’s blog and upcoming book, BREAD)

Nothing fancy here but a slightly sweetened and enriched white bread loaded with dark and golden raisins.  The recipe makes two loaves and they’ll be gone before you know it.

1 cup/225 grams room temperature tap water, about 75°F3 teaspoons/10 grams fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

1 cup/225 grams whole milk, scalded and cooled

5 cups/675 grams unbleached bread flour

1/3 cup/70 grams sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons/10 grams fine sea salt

4 tablespoons/55 grams unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces and softened

1/1/2 cups/150 grams dark raisins or currants

1 1/2 cups/150 grams golden raisins

Two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch loaf pans brushed with soft butter or coated with vegetable cooking spray

  1. Whisk the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk in the cooled milk.
  2. Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt, and add to the mixer bowl.  Use a large rubber spatula to stir the ingredients to a rough dough.  Distribute the pieces of butter all over the top of the dough.
  3. Place on the mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on lowest speed until the butter is absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Increase the speed to low/medium and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Decrease the speed to lowest and add the raisins a little at a time, continuing to mix until they are fairly evenly absorbed by the dough.
  5. Scrape the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to ensure that the raisins are evenly distributed in the dough.
  6. Drop the dough into a buttered or sprayed bowl and turn it over so that the top is coated.  Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it doubles in bulk, about an hour or longer if it’s cool in the kitchen.
  7. Invert the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and cut it into 2 equal pieces, each about 715 grams.  Gently pat one of the pieces to a rough square and roll it from the top down, jellyroll style, into a tight cylinder.  Pinch the edge in place and drop into one of the pans, seam side down.  Repeat with the other piece of dough.
  8. Cover the loaves with buttered or sprayed plastic wrap and let them proof until the dough comes about an inch above the edge of the pan.
  9. Once the loaves are almost proofed, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
  10. Place the pans in the oven and decrease the temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake the raisin bread until it is well risen and has an internal temperature of 200 degrees, about 45 to 55 minutes.
  11. Unmold and cool the loaves on rack on their sides.  Let cool several hours before wrapping.

Thanks, Nick, for another great recipe! This is one I will be making again and again.

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