When I saw that this week’s bread was another sweet one, and one with raisins in it (raisins are #2 on Adam’s most-hated list, #1 being licorice), I knew immediately that my coworkers or neighbors were going to be enjoying the fruits of this week’s labor. Luckily it turned out that my dad is in town for the week and he loves raisins, so he got a whole loaf for himself! He said it was good, but I tried a slice or two and didn’t think much of the texture. I probably should have let the bread rise more, it looked like it still needed time but I ignored that and popped it into the oven after the prescribed rising time . . .
The best part of making all these sweet breads is that none of them requires starting a day ahead! You can decide at the last minute (in bread talk, that means 5 hours before you want to be eating bread!) to make the bread without having to wait until the next day to enjoy it.
Like all the other sweet breads, this one starts out by mixing the dry ingredients:
Then adding the wet and mixing:
I decided to mix by hand because my mixer bowl was dirty and I didn’t want to wash it before starting . . . and it turns out this bread is an easy one to mix by hand! Good to know!
I dumped it out onto a floured cutting board (that clear film you see on the counter) and started kneading. Because I’d mixed by hand and used shortening that was solid, I had to knead a lot more than I probably would have had to had I mixed with a mixer. For breads of this texture, I find that kneading by pressing and flipping doesn’t do enough. They really need to be pulled apart and folded back into themselves to expose all the still-too-wet sections inside. The dough ate a bunch of flour while I was kneading it but finally almost passed the windowpane test.
At this point it looked a bit dry to me:
But it matched the description in the book so I went with it.
The next step was to get all those raisins and walnuts into the dough somehow. I looked at the pile and looked at the dough and knew immediately that I couldn’t just dump the raisins on top and hope to knead them all in that way. So I did it backwards!
First I mixed all the raisins and walnuts in a big bowl.
Then the dough got plopped on top.
Then I mixed them in by rolling, punching, and folding the dough. It was hard! The raisins kept trying to escape, and I was worried they would land on the floor and Arnold would scoop them up (did you know raisins and grapes are poisonous to dogs? They can’t break down the sugar in them and it can actually kill them!). After I’d gotten as many of them in there as I could I dumped everything back onto the counter and tried to knead a bit more to distribute evenly. In the end the dough looked like this:
See the raisins strewn all around? Those were in the dough but popped out while I was kneading. I tried to stick them back in but they didn’t want to go!
Now it was time to ferment, so I put the dough in the same (greased now) bowl:
And covered it with plastic wrap and waited. It was really hot that day and the dough grew A LOT!
I decided I wanted to make the swirl bread, so I split the dough in two and rolled each section out:
Sprinkled cinnamon sugar on them (I used 1/2 cup of sugar plus 2 tbsp cinnamon split between the two loaves):
Then rolled them up and plopped them seam-side-down into greased loaf pans:
After proofing they had grown nicely:
But when I poked one, that section collapsed and I wasn’t sure what that meant. Generally when you poke dough at this stage, you’re looking for the poke to make a dent that fills in relatively quickly (but not too quickly!). If you poke and the dent stays depressed, it hasn’t proofed enough. If you poke and it fills back up immediately, it’s over-proofed. But I’ve never had a dough respond to the poke test by collapsing! I decided maybe it was because it’s a sweet bread and just stuck it into the oven when the oven was ready.
As you can see, the loaves really were quite beautiful when they came out of the oven:
I especially liked the end of the one that showed its swirling:
When I sliced into the bread I found out that I really hadn’t done the rolling thing that well, because there was a huge hole in the middle of the loaf!
(Sorry this picture isn’t in focus, but it does show the giant hole in there!)
No matter though, it still tasted pretty good. A bit on the dry side, and the dough definitely looked like it needed more time to proof once I cut into it. It seems that I got pretty good oven spring (again, the giant hole) but the dough on the bottom looked much more compressed than the dough on the top. If anyone knows what that means, please let me know! I baked them until the insides registered 190 degrees so I don’t think they were under cooked . . .
While I generally don’t think I’ll be making this bread again in the future, I may just try it one more time, with a wetter dough, to see if it comes out more moist inside. Even though I don’t eat much of this type of bread, the ones I’ve had in the past were way more moist that this one, so it seems to me I did something wrong. And since the dough seemed dry to me after kneading, that seems like the most likely culprit!
The next bread in the challenge is the Corn Bread, but after reading everyone else’s tries at it I’ve decided I’m going to skip it. It sounds pretty awful in the descriptions, and again, we’re not fans of sweet breads. Adam actually loves corn bread, but he loves the kind that’s not-very-sweet and is pretty dry on the inside (more like a corn muffin). The recipe in this both doesn’t fit either criteria, and I’m pretty sure Adam would not call it corn bread if he had it! For me, the idea of super-sweet corn bread is kind of nauseating . . . so that one’s clearly out the window. I’m moving on to the cranberry bread next!