Back in June, I spent a day in Ardmore, Oklahoma learning how to make homemade bread with my sister-in-law, Kalyn. She is an expert bread maker, regularly making up homemade loaves, rolls, biscuits, tortillas – you name it. When I decided I wanted to learn how to make bread, I knew no better source than Kalyn. We made two types of bread that day: honey whole-wheat loaves and English muffin loaves. She did most of the work that day, while I just tried to glean as much bread making information as possible.
Two months later, with our massive garage sale and summer travels over and done with, I finally made bread flying solo. I chose this Ellie Krieger recipe from the Comfort Food Fix cookbook because it was similar to the honey whole-wheat that Kalyn had shown me how to make, but it had the fun addition of a cinnamon-raisin swirl on the inside.
The Ellie Krieger recipe calls for instant dry yeast, but Kalyn had shown me how to use active dry yeast. I Googled the difference between the two types of yeast and learned that one may be substituted for the other, provided an accommodation or two is made. To substitute active dry yeast for instant dry yeast, the yeast must be activated in warm water on its own prior to being added to the other ingredients. However much water is used during activation is simply subtracted from the amount of water called for in the recipe. So I used ¼ cup warm water to activate the yeast in a separate small bowl, which meant I only added 1 cup, not 1¼ cups, water to the mixing bowl later on. Also of note: I had to use 2¼ tsp of active dry yeast (rather than 1½ tsp) in order for the yeast to bloom.
I cannot describe how excited I was to check my dough after the first 1½ hours of rising and find it had risen and grown just as it was supposed to have done. There truly is something intrinsically satisfying about the bread making process!
I did not read the recipe carefully enough at the next step, so I used regular raisins instead of golden ones, but I did “plump” them as directed. Raisin plumping was another item that I had to Google, but I am now a fan. It’s easy enough to do–pour boiling water over the raisins and let them sit–and it yields softer, sweeter raisins.
Soon I had the two loaves all rolled up and ready to rise. In the image below, you can see how the loaf on the right, which I prepped first, had already started to expand.
Once the loaves were in the oven, I baked them at the lower end of the time range provided in the recipe; they did not need the full 30 minutes. The next step–waiting for them to cool so that I could try the bread–was the hardest one of the entire experience! John and I ended up having two slices apiece for our dessert that evening. The bites with the cinnamon-raisin swirl were fantastic. The honey whole-wheat bread on its own was good, but not spectacular. I would not make this bread without the cinnamon-raisin swirl.
John and I continued to enjoy the bread at breakfast time the next few days. We usually lightly toasted it with a smidge of butter, but to finish up the loaf, I turned it into French toast, which was especially tasty. The second loaf I put straight into the freezer so that we may enjoy homemade bread during the busy start-of-school period just ahead. All in all, I give the recipe 4 stars.
Honey Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread
2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
1¼ cups very warm water (120°F to 130°F)
1 large egg
3 TB canola oil
3 TB honey
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp instant dry yeast
Nonstick cooking spray
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup golden raisins, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, drained, patted dry
1. Place the flours, dry milk, water, egg, 2 TB of the oil, honey, salt, and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on the lowest setting for 3 minutes, then increase to the next highest setting and mix 5 minutes more. The dough should be soft and fairly sticky.
2. Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until its size has nearly doubled, about 1½ hours.
3. Spray two 9x5x3-inch baking pans with cooking spray.
4. Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface. Pick up one side of the dough, lifting about a third of the bulk and fold it across. With spread fingers, pat down on the dough to remove most of the trapped gases. Repeat with the remaining three sides of the dough.
5. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a flat square, about 8×8 inches. Brush each square with some of the remaining oil. Sprinkle 2 TB sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and ¼ cup raisins over each square. Roll each square into a tight cylinder and place each one, seam side down, into one of the prepared pans. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 1½ hours, until the dough fills the pan and springs back slowly when touched.
6. After the dough has been sitting for about an hour, preheat the oven to 375°F. Uncover the pans and brush the tops of each loaf with oil. Bake until the bread is golden brown and the sides spring back when pressed, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 2 slices). Per serving: 5 PointsPlus (or 2 PointsPlus for one slice).