Here's the thing: making your own bread makes you feel good.
The way it smells feels good. The way it looks feels good. The way it tastes feels good. I'm telling you, there are few better pick me ups than making your own bread. Not to mention, kneading turns out to be one fabulous way to relieve stress: yet another way bread makes you feel good.
Now, I have been making loaf after loaf of delicious no-knead bread, since my wonderful co-bicoastal chef introduced it into (i.e. changed) my life. But, I decided it was time to branch out. Armed with The Bread Baker's Apprentice, I was ready to be brave and try a new bread, you know the kind that you knead. The book magically opened to the page for Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread, and I knew it was meant to be.
This bread is to die for. Not to sweet, packed full of goodies: it is the perfect bread for breakfast or an afternoon snack. It is good with preserves, cream cheese, butter, nutella, or peanut butter (yes, I have tried all these variations). And it is good just by its lonesome. Couple its deliciousness with the fact that it is easy to make: you have a perfect entree into the world of kneaded bread.
This is how I made it. First things first with bread baking: mis en place (everything in place)
Next, get out your scale, and measure things by weight. It is much more precise and guarantees better results. (If you don't have a scale: buy one! They are worth it.)
Once you have all your ingredients ready, get your dry ingredients into a bowl. Careful not to let your salt and yeast touch immediately (or else some of the punch will be taken out of the yeast). Then add in your wet ingredients. Stir it with a spoon, until it comes together and forms a ball.
Now: time to knead! Get the dough on a floured surface (the silpat was great for this).
Then, you want to knead for about 10 minutes (although, if you don't have your kneading muscles yet (like me), it might take you more like 14 minutes (and, if you break a sweat, you are not alone))
With two or so minutes left, time to start adding in the raisins and walnuts. Do a little bit at a time to make sure everything is well distributed.
You know you are done with it passes the windowpane test: if when you gently stretch a small piece of dough and hold it up to a light source, you can see light through the dough, without the dough tearing, then you are done. You also want it to reach 77-81 degrees.
Now, plop your dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let it rise for about 2 hours, until it is doubled in size.
Look at how huge it gets by the time you are done with the first rise!
Next, you want to divide and shape your dough. I divided the dough in half, and weighed it to make sure the two pieces were equal.
To shape the dough, flatten the dough into a 5 by 6-8 inch rectangle. Starting from the short side, roll it up, until you have a 8-9 inch rectangle. Rock it so it is even.
Get the two loaves in two lightly greased loaf pans.
Let them rise for the second time in the loaf pans for 60-90 minutes, until they just crest the pan.
Time to pop them in the oven. Let them bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pans (for even baking), then bake for 20-30 minutes more. You know they are done when they are deeply golden on top, the internal temperature is 190 degrees, and your apartment smells like heaven.
Now is the toughest part of all: wait two agonizing, painful, awful hours, for the dough to completely cool (if you cheat, and only let it rest for one hour, the world will not fall apart).
Slice into that delicious bread you made and enjoy!
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread (from The Bread Baker's Apprentice)
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour
4 teaspoons (.66 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons (.31 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.22 ounce) instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons (.16 ounce) ground cinnamon
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) shortening, melted or at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) raisins, rinsed and drained
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts
Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk, and water. Stir together with a large spoon until the ingredients come together and form a ball. Adjust with flour or water if the dough is too stick or too dry and stiff.
Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed with a dough hook). The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Add flour as you knead, if necessary, to achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes* (or by machine for 6-8 minutes). Sprinkle in raisins and walnuts during the final 2 minutes to distribute them evenly. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77-81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves. To do this, flatten the measure piece of dough with your hand, holding in the edges to make an even-sided rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6-8 inches long. Working from the short side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen surface tension. The loaf will spread out as you roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8-9 inches. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends. Keep the surface tension even across the top. Place each loaf in a slightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch pan. The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.
Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished bread should register 190 degrees F in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.
*If it takes you 14 minutes, don't feel bad. Just think of it as an extra work-out.