Cinnamon Raisin Bread

It has not taken me long to truly enjoy the art of baking bread. I am still starting out and have yet to try some more complex breads (I am waiting to get a kitchen scale so I can weigh flour and also waiting for some warmer days). However, a couple of Sunday's ago it was a gorgeous sunny day which I figured would aid in the rising of my dough and it certainly did. A few days earlier I was out with some co-workers and someone mentioned cinnamon raisin bread and I could not get it out of my head. Of course Martha has a recipe for it in her baking hand book so that is the recipe I chose to proceed with. It turned out SO good, I could have eaten the whole loaf right out of the oven. I was initially excited because the recipe made two loaves so I made sure to freeze one right away for a future day. Well, I recently retrieved that loaf for the weekend because I had friends in town, and although it worked perfectly for french toast, freezing it had dried it out a lot. I guess from now on I will just have to be a generous bread baker and pass on a delicious fresh loaf to a lucky recipient.

2 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons nonfat powdered milk
4 teaspoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups dark raisins
Canola oil, for bowl and plastic wrap
3/4 cup sugar
7 teaspoons cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg white, beaten  

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/4 cup warm water and yeast. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 3/4 cups warm water. Mix, using the paddle attachment, on low speed for 1 minute. Change to dough hook, and mix on medium-low speed for 7 minutes. Or knead by hand, 15 or 20 minutes. Add raisins, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is firm but not dry, 3 minutes.

2. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand into a ball. Place dough, smooth side up, in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Butter two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans generously, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon, and set aside. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and cut in half. Cover one piece of dough loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap.

4. Press the other piece of dough into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush with half of the beaten egg, sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar, and drizzle with half the melted butter. Rub the surface with the back of a spoon to blend butter and cinnamon sugar. Starting at a short end, roll up dough tightly, and pinch together along crease. Roll the dough back and forth to make it cylindrical, and pinch the ends together. Transfer to a loaf pan, seam side down, and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Repeat process with second piece of dough. Let loaves rise in a warm place, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Thirty minutes before this final rise is completed, place a baking stone, if using, in the lower third of oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

5. Brush tops of loaves with egg white, and sprinkle each loaf with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Bake 15 minutes; lower oven to 400 degrees, and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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