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.

Chocolate Babka Loaf {ModBak}

The first of my two “official” blog posts for the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is a delicious recipe, Chocolate Babka. This bread is Eastern European in origin, most likely Russian. The dough is enriched with milk, butter, egg yolks, and sugar, and filled with bittersweet chocolate and nuts.

I began by heating the milk, then mixing in the yeast, butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla. I stirred in half the flour with a rubber spatula, then mixed in the rest, one-half cup at a time, with the electric mixer. After all the flour had been added, I mixed the dough for two minutes, rested it for 10 minutes, then mixed for another two minutes.

I scraped the dough, which was very slack, into a buttered bowl, then put it in the refrigerator. It was supposed to chill for an hour and a half, but I had some errands to run, so it stayed in the fridge for about three hours. I don’t think the long, cold fermentation hurt the dough, but when I scraped it out onto the bench, it was still very slack.

I sprinkled the board with flour, but should have floured it more heavily. I should also have floured the top of the dough a bit. I patted out the dough, but it was so sticky, it was hard to manage. After pressing it out into a rough rectangle, I sprinkled the dough with the bittersweet chocolate mixture (chocolate, dark cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon) and chopped nuts.

I had quite a time rolling the dough, as it wanted to stick to the mat, my hands, and itself. It wasn’t pretty, but I finally got the dough rolled into a rough loaf shape, which I cut in half, then wrestled into two loaf pans.

The loaves proofed for about two hours, until the dough crested the tops of the pans. I baked the loaves for 45 minutes at 350°.

I took the bread out of the oven, cooled it in the pan for 10 minutes, then removed the loaves and finished cooling them on their sides so the loaves wouldn’t collapse.

What this bread lacked in appearance and manageability, it more than made up for in taste. The bittersweet chocolate was delicious, and the cinnamon gave it an additional depth of flavor.

The next time I make this bread — and there will certainly be a next time — I’ll flour the board and dough more heavily to make it easier to handle. But even with the difficulties I had, this bread was definitely worth the effort.