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.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins {ModBak}

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Quick Breads section of The Modern Baker is that the breads really are quick. For example, in the 15 minutes it took to bake the ginger scones, I mixed up the butterscotch scones and had them ready to go into the oven as soon as the ginger scones came out.

So even though I usually save my baking for the weekends, the other night after work I decided to throw together Irish soda bread muffins. I got back from walking the dog at 7:30 was relaxing in my chair by 7:50, having mixed up the muffins and cleaned the kitchen. Yes, kids, when Nick Malgieri says “quick”, he means it!

This simple recipe consists of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, unsalted butter, sugar, egg, buttermilk (I substituted buttermilk powder and half-and-half), and currants. After assembling the ingredients, I lined the muffin tin with paper liners and preheated the oven to 350° F.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients (other than the sugar) in a bowl, then whisked the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. I mixed in the egg, then half the cream, half the flour mxture, then the rest of the cream. I tossed the currants with a little flour, added them to the batter, then folded in the rest of the flour.

I found that an ice cream scoop was the perfect size to fill the muffin tins. I baked the muffins for 30 minutes, then cooled them in the pan.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was another wonderful recipe. The muffins were delicious — slightly sweet and very flavorful. I especially enjoyed them with a little butter and fig preserves.

Whole Wheat Currant Bread {ModBak}

Whole Wheat Currant Bread is the third quick bread in the Modern Baker Challenge. When I think of quick bread, what comes to mind is something sweet and flavorful, more like a cake than a bread. Pumpkin bread, banana bread, blueberry bread — these are all my quick bread ideals.

So I must admit that I wasn’t all that excited to make this bread. It’s loaded with currants — and while I have nothing against currants per se, I had never actually baked with them before, and they just seem so healthy and, I don’t know, British.

But the real problem I had with this bread is that it is made with whole wheat flour. And not just some whole wheat flour, but 100% whole wheat flour. That’s right — it’s all whole wheat; not an ounce of AP or bread flour to be found. Again, I have no particular objection to whole wheat flour — I bake a lot of breads with at least some whole grain in them and love the complexity it adds to the flavor — but 100% whole wheat quick bread? I just couldn’t see why I would want to bake, let alone eat that. But I have committed myself to baking every recipe in The Modern Baker in order, so, like it or not, I cold hardly stall out on the third bread.

I began by assembling my ingredients. Although I’m a big proponent of using mise en place, I don’t always do a full mise for all my recipes. At the very least, though, I get out all of the ingredients so they are all at hand and I am certain that I am not missing anything.

As with many of Nick Malgieri‘s quick breads, the list of ingredients in Whole Wheat Currant Bread isn’t really all that long. Other than the whole wheat flour and currants, there is sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, oil, and milk or buttermilk. As with most recipes calling for buttermilk, I used dry buttermilk powder and water. I love the flavor of buttermilk but rarely keep in on hand, so  I almost always have buttermilk powder in the cupboard.

The batter came together very fast — it is a quick bread, after all. I didn’t time myself, but I would guess that the time between assembling the ingredients and putting the loaf in the oven couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.

I baked the loaf at 350° F for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted near the center of the loaf came out clean. While the loaf was baking, I began to wonder if perhaps I had been too quick to judge this bread. It smelled really good in the oven, and when I took it out, I found I didn’t want to wait for it to cool before slicing into it.

But wait I did, at least for a while. When I finally sliced into the bread, it was still a bit warm and was loaded with currants. It still smelled divine, and I decided to try it with a little smear of salted butter.

So, how was it? Did the complexity of the whole wheat and the sweetness of the currants overcome my skepticism and make a believer out of me? In a word — YES!!! This bread was absolutely delicious. It didn’t have the grainy texture, density, and mealy flavor that whole wheat breads sometimes have. The robust flavor of the whole wheat was perfectly matched by the sweetness of the currants.

My family and several co-workers with whom I shared this bread all agreed: this recipe is definitely a keeper.