Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cinnamon Cardamom Raisin Swirl Bread

Running errands with my mom was something that I remember disliking immensely as a kid, especially in the summer.  Our car, a green Chevy, was too hot for driving around in the South Carolina humidity, with plastic seats in the back that burned and stuck to the back of my legs.  The broken metal piping in the plastic upholstery poked out here, there, everywhere, stabbing my butt and legs wherever it pleased.

Standing around in department stores while my mom tried on clothes in the dressing room felt like torture.  To make those trips more interesting, my brother, sister and I would hide in the racks of clothes, which, needless to say, made my mom pretty mad.  Even if the trip was for something for me, like new shoes, I would rather have been home playing with my Barbies.  I had a need to please my mom, and I remember telling her I liked a pair of black shoes with bows that she had picked out for me.  But  when it came time for me to wear them to church, I dissolved into tears as I admitted how much I really hated the shoes, but hadn’t wanted to hurt her feelings.

Grocery shopping didn’t interest me, and trips to the bank, hair or nail salon, were equally boring.  The fabric store, where my mom would peruse patterns and pick out bolts of fabric for her sewing business was slightly more interesting, since I liked looking at all the spools of ribbon and thread and the cards of buttons and zippers, although even that lost its appeal after a few minutes.

But there was one trip that I actually looked forward to, when we stopped at a little bakery where my mom would buy our bread for the week.  They had a discount bin full of day-old bread, and after my mom had selected a few healthier choices for sandwiches, she would let us kids pick out a loaf.  Of course, without fail, we would pick the loaf of cinnamon raisin swirl bread with sugary white icing.

Those loaves made the best toast that I can remember eating, spread with butter, and then sprinkled with even more sugar (why kids are compelled to sprinkle sugar on toast and cereal that’s already sweet, I have no idea..)

One quiet Sunday this January, I had the urge to bake bread, and I knew it had to be cinnamon raisin swirl bread, with a hint of cardamom.  After steeping the raisins in hot milk to plump them up, I mixed up the dough and waited for it to rise.  And waited, and waited….  and waited some more…

To my disappointment, I realized that I had killed the yeast with the too-hot milk, and that the dough simply was not going to rise, no matter how long I waited.  I’m not one to give up, so I started over, this time carefully monitoring the milk with a thermometer until it cooled down to 115 degrees F, before adding the yeast.  And with my second try, I had a bowl full of beautifully risen, soft dough.

My favorite part of making this bread was kneading in the raisins then rolling out the dough, brushing it with butter and sprinkling it with a shower of sugar, cinnamon and cardamom, before rolling it up for its second rising in the pan.

The scent in the house while the bread was baking was heavenly.

It emerged from the oven fragrant and golden brown and we sampled a warm slice with some homemade grape pomegranate jelly I’d just made.  I didn’t miss the icing one bit.

The bread was fantastic the next day, toasted and spread with tart lemon curd.  And the following weekend, the last few remaining slices made a wonderful French toast for breakfast…

Grape Pomegranate Jelly

  • 1 1/2 pounds red grapes, halved or quartered
  • pomegranate arils from 1 pomegranate
  • juice and zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons pectin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
In a stockpot, combine the grapes, pomegranate arils, lemon zest, juice and water.  Simmer over medium low heat, about 45 minutes to an hour, mashing occasionally with a potato masher, until very liquidy.  Pour the mixture into a food mill to separate the juice from the pulp and seeds.  Scrape the remaining pulp and seeds onto a piece of cheesecloth, tie into a ball, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible (wait until it's cool enough to touch to do this).  The fruit should yield about 2 1/2 cups of juice.  Discard the pulp and seeds.

Pour the juice into a clean stockpot and turn the heat up to high.  (Wear an oven mitt during this process to avoid splatter burns on your hand and arm.)  Sprinkle the pectin over the juice and stir constantly while bringing the juice up to a rolling boil.  Add the sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, continuing to stir constantly.  Once it's boiling, boil hard for one minute.  Stir in the butter (to reduce foaming).  Pour into clean, hot, sterilized jars and follow standard canning processes if canning for future use; or just refrigerate for consuming in the next few months.

Yields about 2 1/2 pints of jelly.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Cinnamon Cardamom Raisin Swirl Bread
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup (1 stick/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 eggs, room temperature, divided
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
Place the milk and raisins in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until the milk is hot and the raisins are plump.  Scoop out the raisins with a slotted spoon, cover and set aside.  Add 6 tablespoons butter to the milk.  Stir to melt the butter and remove the milk from the heat.  Insert a thermometer into the milk and let it cool down to between 110 and 115 F.  Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 2 eggs and 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until combined.  Add the milk mixture and stir to combine.  Add the flour, a half cup at a time, stirring on low to combine.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic and the dough slaps against the sides of the bowl.  If needed, add a little more flour so the dough isn’t too sticky. 

Grease a bowl with oil then place the dough in the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until double in size, 1-2 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, dump out the dough and knead in the raisins.  Roll the dough out into a rectangle, the same width as your loaf pan and about 18 inches in length.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and brush over the dough.  Combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with the cinnamon and cardamom and sprinkle over the dough.  Roll the dough up, from one long end to the other and place in a greased loaf pan, seam side down.  Cover with plastic and let rise for one hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a small bowl, whisk together the last egg with a teaspoon of water.  Brush over the bread.  Bake for 40 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.  Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Yields 1 loaf. 

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

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