This bread involves far less muss and fuss than old-fashioned yeast breads and is flexible enough to fit into most schedules. The essential long, slow first rise (never skimp on the minimum 12 hours, or the second rise will take much longer than it should) can proceed completely unattended during the workday or night.
Because this method skips the traditional, slightly tricky step of combining the yeast with water of a specific temperature, it's very reliable. Even those new to yeast baking can succeed on the first try. The loaf is attractive, homey and sweet, but not overly so. It's great for breakfast or brunch and makes a fine gift. It's best simply sliced and served warm.
It will keep at a cool room temperature for up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage. Reheat, wrapped in foil in a low oven (or wrapped in paper toweling on low power in the microwave), before serving.
Note that because of the weight of the cinnamon and raisins in the dough, the second rise will take longer than for most other slow-rise yeast loaves.
Servings: 12 - 16
Yield: Makes 1 large loaf (12 to 16 slices)
- For the first stage
- 3 1/4 cups (generous 1 pound) flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/8 teaspoon "rapid rise," "quick rise," "bread machine" or "instant" yeast
- 1 3/4 cups room-temperature water
- Corn oil or other flavorless vegetable oil for brushing dough top
- For the second stage
- 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup dark, seedless raisins
- 2/3 cup (3 1/3 ounces) flour
- 6 1/2 tablespoons sugar combined with 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the first stage: Thoroughly combine the flour, salt and yeast in a 3- to 4-quart or larger bowl; mix with a large spoon. Add the water, stirring vigorously until evenly incorporated; the mixture may be stiff. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a greased flexible spatula. Drizzle the dough top with about 1/2 teaspoon of oil (no need to measure); use a pastry brush or your fingertips to spread it evenly over the dough surface and up sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside at a room temperature of about 70 degrees or cooler for 12 to 18 hours
For the second stage: Use a fork to beat together 4 tablespoons of the melted butter and the sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. Beat in the egg and raisins until incorporated; let stand for 5 minutes. Vigorously stir the butter mixture into the dough until the dough deflates and the ingredients are evenly incorporated; the dough will seem rubbery. Vigorously stir the flour into the dough until thoroughly incorporated. Lightly stir in about 2/3 of the cinnamon-sugar mixture; streaks should remain. (Second-stage mixing may be completed in a heavy-duty stand mixer, if desired. Transfer the raised dough to the mixer bowl; complete the mixing steps on low speed using the paddle.)
Generously grease a very large loaf pan (9-by-5-inch or other 1 3/4- to 2-quart pan) or coat thoroughly with nonstick cooking oil spray. Turn out about a third of the dough into the pan. Smooth the surface with a greased flexible spatula. Sprinkle about half of the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture over the surface. Repeat with another third of the dough, then sprinkle with all but 1/2 tablespoon of the remaining cinnamon sugar. Add the remaining dough, then smooth the surface with a flexible spatula. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter over the top. Use a pastry brush or your fingertips to spread the butter over the surface until the surface is evenly coated and looks smooth. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar over the top. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
For a "regular" rise: Let rise at room temperature for 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours or until the dough nearly reaches the pan rim. (The time will vary considerably depending on the temperature of the room and the length of the first rise.) Remove the plastic wrap; let stand until the dough rises 1/4 inch above the rim.
For a "quick" rise: Place a microwave-safe cup containing 1 cup of water in a rear corner of the microwave oven. Microwave for 2 minutes, until the water almost boils. Put the loaf in the microwave oven as far from the water as possible. Let it rise 30 to 50 minutes or until the dough nearly reaches the pan rim. Gently remove the plastic. Continue the rise until the dough top is 1/4 inch above the rim.
For baking: Position an oven rack in the middle third of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Gently transfer the pan to the oven; jarring can cause deflating. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the loaf is well browned on top and sounds hollow when thumped with a finger. (If the top begins to brown too rapidly, cover with aluminum foil for the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for several minutes, then run a knife around the loaf to loosen. Transfer the loaf to the rack and let it cool completely before cutting it or storing in an airtight container.
From cookbook author and expert baker Nancy Baggett.
Tested by Emily Messner.
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