What, no raisin bread?

Cinnamon-raisin bread. Not mine, however.I have a large – and growing – stack of books about bread. So many that I’m running out of shelf space for them all. Some are for artisan bread, some for regular homemade bread (traditional recipes, usually with lots of kneading), others are for bread machines. A couple are generic “all-about-breads-of-the-world” books with recipes.

Yet only one of 15 has a recipe for making the basic raisin-cinnamon bread. This is a loaf I want to make in the bread machine on the timer, so next weekend we’d awake to fresh raisin bread, ready to toast.

There are all sorts of variations in the books; all sorts of recipes with either raisins or cinnamon, and a few with both. I have recipes for raisin sourdough, raisin rye, Chelsea buns, frosted raisin loaf cake, fruit and spice loaf, cinnamon buns, Greek Xmas bread, Greek Easter bread, hot cross buns, panettone, sticky buns, maritimer’s bread, stollen, ginger and raisin whirls, Polish babka, rum and raisin loaf, schiacciate con uva, cinnamon bagels, christopsomos, focaccia, lambrospomo,walnut-cinnamon bread, cinnamon raisin roll, cinnamon and cranberry bread, and others.

None of which is what I want, and on top of that, they’re all arranged for oven baking, not bread machine.

One book alone – Prairie Home Breads, by Judith Fertig – has a basic raisin-cinnamon bread recipe, albeit not for a bread machine. Can I adjust it? I’m not that comfortable with re-arranging recipes, translating between machine and handmade yet.

We don’t eat a lot of raisin bread. Maybe a couple of store-bought loaves a year. But it’s a nice treat on a weekend with a cup of tea, a newspaper and  a cat snuggled on your lap. Comfort food. A modest indulgence. (Me, I like it with peanut butter, but then I like anything with peanut butter – or hot sauce. Wait… raisin bread and hot sauce…? Hmmm….)

A store-bought breads go, the Country Harvest version is the best we’ve tried by far, and I believe only available at Loblaws – sometimes (not the last two times we visited, however).

Many baked-in-store loaves are either just raisins and no cinnamon, or have so little cinnamon as to be moot. They’re bland. Many of the other commercial brands are – to be polite – dull and too spongy. It’s almost as if the bakeries are afraid to make something with strong taste or aroma, with good crumb and crust, and settle for made-for-the masses mediocrity.

Clearly it calls for intervention in my own kitchen. If you want good bread, the only way to get it is to bake it yourself.

I want to make one with some whole wheat flour, lots of cinnamon, and maybe some molasses (and ginger?). Something rich, tasty, spicy and full in the mouth, with a good crumb and a chewy crust. Real bread.

Well, if such a recipe exists, none of my book authors are aware of it. Or at least none have published one (I have a few more books on order, so I live in hope one author has settled on one…).

Good thing for the internet. Well, sort of. Having a few recipes would be a difficult choice. Having hundreds – the head spins. They’re similar, but ingredient quantities differ, sometimes wildly. It’s hard to tell by simply reading the recipes, which one is best. How much cinnamon? One teaspoon? Three tablespoons? How many raisins? How much molasses? Ratio of white to whole wheat flour? Can I substitute molasses for sugar? Or honey? Do I need to buy some brown sugar?

The printer hums. Some 40-plus pages of recipes, and comments on recipes from blogs, cooking sites, bread sites, food companies spit out. Sigh. My research project for the upcoming week: to conflate all the results into a test recipe I can use for next weekend’s bread.

I’m most tempted by this recipe on Breadcetera. I like the fact it starts with a poolish. It’s not a bread machine recipe, but in my experience the recipes on this site are good, so maybe I’ll start here. Or maybe I’ll try the two-loaves-at-a-time experiment again and make one in a bread machine and the other by hand.

Which means I have some bedtime reading to do to figure out which of the printed recipes might be best. Such is the fun and the passion for baking.

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