Cinnamon Raisin Bread

My family likes bread/toast for breakfast.  My brother likes to make French toast with his bread.  My mom likes to top her toast with peanut butter and jelly.  My dad likes to slather his with butter against the rest of the family’s wishes because he thinks a little butter on your toast is a lot of butter in my mind.  I, actually, enjoy eating toast with butter or butter and jelly on occasion, but I prefer the old standby of cereal with milk for breakfast.  The reasons are: I don’t enjoy change so eating the same thing for breakfast is what I like, I don’t want to have to think too hard about what I am eating for breakfast especially early in the morning, and finally, I’m usually hungry in the morning, and I don’t want to have to work hard for my breakfast.  (I’m sorry past grammar teachers because I know the past sentence was 3 sentences smashed together.)  I really enjoy college because there are pancakes, waffles, omelets, and pastries for breakfast, and all I have to do is show up.  Oh, the wonders of college.

Well, back to the point.  My family likes bread for breakfast, so when I got home from college, I decided to make some breakfast bread.  This recipe is a nice cinnamon raisin bread that has whole-wheat flour and oatmeal to add some health and brown sugar to add some sweetness.

For the recipe:

Add buttermilk to a saucepan and heat just to a scald (light boil).  If the buttermilk begins to curdle, that is okay.

I actually used powdered buttermilk that is in the baking aisle near the powdered regular milk and the canned milk.  This powdered buttermilk comes as a powder (obviously), and you just add water to make buttermilk in whatever quantity you need.  This jar can sit in your fridge for about a year instead of the normal shelf life of fresh buttermilk of 1-2 weeks.  Usually for recipes, I add the powdered buttermilk to the dry ingredients and the water for reconstituting to the liquid ingredients.  You can also mix up the buttermilk in a separate bowl and add it when needed.  For this recipe, you do need to mix the buttermilk up separately and heat to a slight boil.

On to the rest of the recipe:

Add the buttermilk into a large bowl.  Add in brown sugar, salt, and butter.

Mix until well blended.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.  Once cool, add in the egg, oats, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, and yeast.

It is essential that you let the buttermilk mixture cool because if it is too hot, you can kill the yeast.  Yeast will die when it is 140˚, and water, the main ingredient of buttermilk boils at 212˚F.  Mix ingredients for a few minutes until well mixed.  Allow the batter to rest uncovered for 10 minutes.  This allows the gluten network to start developing and will make kneading easier and shorter.

Look at that nice and wet batter.

Start to add in the bread flour (add the 1st cup) and beat until flour is incorporated. Add more bread flour as needed.  You may not need all 2 cups.  It depends on where you live and the time of year.  A humid climate will need less water/more flour because the flour will soak up water from the air.  Use your judgment for the flour, but when in doubt, add less flour.  When it becomes hard to mix in the bowl, turn out onto floured surface.  Knead for 8 minutes adding more flour if dough becomes sticky.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.  If you poke the dough with your finger, it should spring back relatively quickly meaning the gluten has developed enough.

Put the dough in a bowl that is coated with either oil or non-stick cooking spray.  Flip dough over so that all sides are coated.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until double in bulk: about 1 or 1 ½ hours.

While the dough is rising, combine cinnamon and sugar in small bowl for the filling. Also, place a piece of parchment paper on a pan (lots of p’s), and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Once dough has finished rising, turn out onto floured surface.  Cut dough in half.  Roll each piece into a rectangle about 16 x 7 in. The fol in my dough is due to the fact that it was the right length but a tad too wide.

Brush half of the melted butter onto the dough.

Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top of the butter.  Sprinkle on raisins. I like a lot of raisins, but add as many as you would like.  I actually made one loaf without raisins for my mother who doesn’t like raisins.

Roll the short end of the dough like a jelly roll, and pinch the seam closed.

Place bread loaf on prepared pan.

It make look ugly, but it will taste pretty.

Do the same with the other half of the dough.

Cover loaves with plastic wrap, and allow to double in bulk again, about 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 375 ˚F, and put a cast iron pan on the lowest rack (I’ll explain why later).  To add a little variety to your loaf, take a wooden spoon and stick the handle into a bag of flour.

Now take the spoon handle and press into the center of the dough, pressing all the way to the bottom.  Cover with plastic wrap again, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.  Now place into preheated oven.

This is where things get interesting. I have a bad habit of skimming instead of reading.  I do it with emails and with recipes.  Both of which are very bad.  For emails, I tend to miss key points when I skim the email.  On many occasions, this has ended badly with scheduling 2 things on the same night, forgetting to  bring something to an event, etc.  For recipes, it means that I make the bread and it comes out perfectly, but when I reread the recipe and make changes for my blog, I notice things I didn’t get the first time.  For this recipe, I was supposed to add the raisins into the dough instead of sprinkling them on top of the filling.  I think my way worked better because the raisins were pretty evenly distributed which is hard with kneading.  See the distribution?

Another mistake I made was with the baking.  I was supposed to bake the loaves in an oven that had a cup of hot water in the bottom to create steam.  I didn’t read that, so I didn’t do that.  Instead, I just put my loaves in the oven and baked them for the allotted time.  How could I have skipped such a chunk of directions, you may be asking?  Well, I was ready to bake, and I just skimmed for the length of time for baking.

What does the hot water in the oven do?  This creates steam in the oven and helps create a crisp crust.  Think of baguettes, they have super crunchy crusts.  That is because the bakeries that bake baguettes (I’m really into alliteration today, have you noticed?) have very expensive ovens that have steam injection.  The boiling water is a cheap and somewhat successful substitute.

So, now I will tell you what you should do and what I should have done to bake these loaves.  Remember that cast iron pan, here’s its moment in the spotlight.  Place the bread pan into the oven.  Before you close the oven, add about a cup of boiling water to the cast iron pan.  Close the door immediately.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy with a touch of butter, some hot coffee, and today’s paper!  My idea of a perfect morning.

Recipe adapted from:

Recipe:Brown Sugar Oatmeal Raisin Bread


Cinnamon-Orange Bread

Orange complements lots of flavors.  It helps to bring out the flavor especially of cinnamon.  I’ve made many a cinnamon roll where the recipe calls for orange juice or orange zest.  Actually, citrus in general is a great addition to many recipes.

Here’s a recipe for a lovely bread where orange and cinnamon walk hand in hand.  

Begin by adding the warm water to your yeast.  Let this sit and bubble for 10 minutes.  If you are using instant yeast, you don’t have to wait the 10 minutes.  Just add the next ingredients.

Next, add milk, orange juice, sugar, butter, orange zest, eggs, salt, and 2 cups of flour to your yeast mixture.  Mix by hand or with an electric mixer, mixing until thoroughly combined.  My kitchen at college isn’t well stocked with kitchen gadgets.  I knew I had to zest an orange for this,so I scoured the kitchen for a zester.  I found a grater, SURPRISE!

We do have a garlic chopper thingie-magie, too.  Why? I don’t ask questions. (I played around with the color on this picture, tell me what you think.)

Add 1 cup of flour, and stir for about one minute.Keep adding remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments.  ATTN: You may not need all the flour, so don’t force it into your dough.  You will only end up with a solid block of dough (called hockey pucks in my house), and you will have wasted all of that flour. It will be really wet with just the 2 cups of flour.  

Still really sticky, so keep adding flour.

Almost there, add about 1/2 cup more.

Ready for kneading:

Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 2-5 minutes.  Kneading is gentle, so don’t  beat up your bread.  Don’t know how to knead properly?  Check out the plethora of videos online for tips.  How do you know you kneaded enough?  Stick a finger in the flour, then poke your bread.  It’s ready when it springs backs pretty fast.  If it doesn’t spring back, keep kneading.

Place your dough ball into a greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a shower cap.  Shower cap?

No, I’m not crazy, I always have the bowls that seem to hate plastic wrap and repel it at all costs.  Well, you can’t fool me bowl.  I was informed of the shower cap trick.  Snag a shower cap from those hotel kits or buy one at the drug store.

Let this dough sit for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.  In this cold weather, it usually takes 2 hours.  I forgot to take a picture of my doubled dough, so you will have to take my word for it.  Divide your dough in half.  Grease two 4*9 loaf pans.  Mix 2/3 cup sugar and 2 tbsp. cinnamon. Melt 2 tbsp. butter.  This will be your filling.  Roll out one piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough 8*12 rectangle.  Spread 1/2 of the melted butter on the do

ugh, followed by 1/2 of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. I forgot to mix my cinnamon and sugar beforehand.  I was feeling lazy, so I sprinkled the dough with cinnamon, then sugar, then cinnamon.

Roll up your dough.

Place into your greased pan.  Repeat with other half of dough.

Cover again, and let rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the dough crests at least 1/2-1 inch over the edge of the pan.While rising, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Once risen, bake for 40-45 minutes until the loaves are lightly brown.  Immediately remove from pans, and let dry on a drying rack.  If you don’t, all the condensation will condensate at the bottom, and your bread will have a soggy bottom. No one wants a soggy bottom.  Enjoy with a little butter.  One of my loaves had a scary little bubble, but it still tasted delicious.


Recipe from: Baking Bites

Recipe:Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Harvest Apple Challah Bread (Day 2)

Does your bread look nice and puffy yet?  Ready for the next step?

First, take out your dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.  Or if you left your bread on the counter for a few hours, you’re ready for the next step.

See how when I push my finger into the dough, it leaves a permanent indentation, that means it has risen fully.

Grease a 9″ round cake pan that’s at least 2″ deep.  You’re going to want those 2 inches when it’s baking.  Also (on a totally different note), I can never remember whether ‘ or ” is inches.  Who came up with this system because it makes no sense.  I got to use my delightful silicon, flexible pans.

Chop up the apples into bite-size pieces.  Toss the apple chunks with cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.  I got help from my friend Caroline in chopping up the apples.

Remove your dough from the bowl, and transfer it to a lightly greased or lightly floured work surface.  Gently deflate the dough.  Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, about 8 inches by  10 inches (notice I didn’t use “).

I had two batches of dough, so I first divided mine in two.  Put half of the apple mixture into the center of the dough.

Fold 1/3 of the dough over the apples.Put the rest of the apples on top of the apple mound you have. Yes, the apples will want to defy you and go every which way, be in charge. Tell them who’s boss.  

Fold the other third of dough over top.

You now have a little package of deliciousness.

Now comes the fun part.  Cut your blob of dough and apples down the middle (hotdog style, did you learn that in elementary school ,too? hotdog and hamburger folds, well if you didn’t you must have gone to some crazy school). Here’s a picture if you have no idea what I’m talking about, and think I’m slightly crazy.  Makes me think of surgery.

Keep making cuts, the other way so you get squares of dough.  Cut it in half, then cut those pieces in half.

Keep cutting until you have 16 separate pieces.  Put these pieces into your prepared pan.

You will have to squeeze the pieces together to get them all to fit.  Things will fall out, fingers will get messy, apples will be flying all over the place.  Work with it. Just put the pieces back together.

Now we wait.  Let the dough rise covered  until it crests over the pan for about 1 hour.

See that beautiful dough rise.  Now you’re ready for the oven. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.

Want that nice golden color on the top of your bread?  The key to that is an egg wash.  Mix together an egg and 1 tablespoon of water.  

Brush your bread with these tasty looking mixture.

Bake in the lower third of the oven (this is so the dough cooks nicely without burning) for 55 minutes until the entire top of the dough is lightly brown.  This is so the inside gets cooked too.

Now, enjoy!  Eat it warm with a tall glass of apple cider.


Recipe: Harvest Apple Challah




Harvest Apple Challah Bread (Day 1)

I go to a women’s liberal arts college, so we have cool, fun holidays.  A few weeks ago we had Mountain Day.  Our college president picks a beautiful fall day and cancels classes.  The bells are rung to let the campus know the day.  Sadly and not so sadly, I had crew practice in the morning, so I didn’t get to sleep in like most everyone else.  I did get back from practice and delighted in a nap and an episode of glee.  In the afternoon, people from my house went apple-picking.

I refused to do any of my mounds of homework (it’s just the spirit of Mountain Day), and instead decided to succumb to my baking craving (Hi I’m Kelly and I’m addicted to baking…). I wanted to capitalize on the fact that there were dozens and dozens of fresh picked apples waiting for me to just find them a home.  I went with Harvest Apple Challah Bread.  I decided to divide this baking between 2 days so it wasn’t a huge chunk at one time. There is something called school that I’m supposed to be focusing on.

Day 1: Preparing Dough

I’m writing this post for those of you who have very little bread baking experience.  If you do, feel free to skip some of the details.

This is a yeast bread, and I’m using active-dry yeast.  Active-dry is active yeast granules coated with dormant yeast.  You must proof the yeast, which means adding warm (NOT hot) water to bring the yeast back to life.  If you use instant yeast, you don’t need to do this step of letting the yeast sit in the water for 5 minutes to reactivate.

So mix the water and yeast together in a small bowl.  You want water that is about 90˚F.  Above 110˚F, you kill the yeast, so the water should feel neither warm nor cold to your fingers.  Remember your body temp. is 98.6˚F.  Mix the yeast with the water, and let sit and bubble for 5 minutes.

The yeast should almost completely dissolve in the water and make glorious bubbles.  Those bubbles are what gives your bread fluff.

While the yeast is chilling (well actually warming), add all of the other dough ingredients to another large bowl (oil-salt).  Before you do that, read this:  Add only 3 cups of the flour.  The extra flour may be used to thicken up the dough, but it’s almost impossible to add water a dry dough.  You can add flour to a slack dough though.

Stir this all together, either with your hands, dough hook, or a dough scraper (what I used).

Turn onto a clean, lightly floured  counter and knead for 5-10 minutes.  Add the excess flour if the dough is sticking to your hands or the counter.  Only add it if you need it.  Don’t know how to knead? Here’s a video to show you the basics of kneading.  You don’t need to put lots of pressure on your dough (no pounding, hitting, etc. needed).  After about 5-10 minutes, your dough will have come together.  If you push a finger into the dough, the dough should spring back (meaning the gluten has formed a tight network).  Here’s my nicely formed dough.  

Put the dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 2 hours until doubled in size.  I let mine rise for 1 hour and then put in the fridge overnight completing Day 1.  Stay tuned for day 2.

Recipe (complete): Harvest Apple Challah

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Spelt Bread

Spelt is not a common ingredient in many recipes, but is beginning to crop up in bread recipes as an alternative to white flour.   It is a subspecies of the common wheat milled for all-purpose flour, wheat flour, etc.  It supposedly has a nuttier, sweeter taste.  It has a lot of nutrients found in whole wheat flour so is a healthy, suitable substitute in almost any recipe.  This recipe uses just a tad of spelt flour and some all-purpose flour.  I hope to try making it again with more spelt flour.  I’m still trying to figure out the complexities of yeast and didn’t want to upset the balance by modifying a new recipe.

The ingredients are added together to form a rough dough (below).

I turned it out onto a floured surface and kneaded the dough for about 5-10 minutes (below).

The dough is placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Deflate the dough, pulling the dough taut into a ball. Place this ball on a floured baking sheet and cover with a dish towel (below).

Let it rise for about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Make four 1/4 inch slashes in the top of the loaf to allow steam to escape.

My knife got a little stuck, but it evened out in the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes.  The bread should have an internal temperature (test the bottom to avoid an unsightly hole) of 200˚F.

Cool the bread before slicing.

Look at that beautiful bread.  This is similar to a soft white bread with just a hint of wheat-i-ness.  Great for French toast or for breakfast with some butter or jam.

Recipe from Baking Bites

Recipe:White Spelt Bread

Honey and Saffron Loaf

I’m beginning to explore the wonders of yeast.  I see dough as a person.  It grows when you feed it (with water and sugar) and dies when you make it unhappy (try to burn it with hot water).  The dough also rises when it’s warm (like us, but sunburn-free) and shrinks when it’s cold (just like us).  When I was kneading, this personification also rang true.  You have to let the dough know who’s boss (ME).  It wants to just sit there all slack, but you have to tell it (sometimes yelling is in order), that is needs to straighten up and form those gluten networks. Those gluten networks are what form the foundation for the yeast to release carbon dioxide and make beautiful holes in that network.  Well enough about my lovely friend, bread and let’s starting baking.

I mixed some of the flour, the yeast, and water in a bowl and mixed it all up.  This sits for about 4 hours until it doubles in size.  In this warm heat of July, the dough was ready in about 3 hours.

The rest of the ingredients are added including the honey and saffron which give it flavor.  The recipe called for crushed saffron, but I used the flakes.  Now my bread will have little orange flakes in it.  You can mix the dough in your mixer until it clears the sides and then knead by hand for about 5 minutes.  Instead, I mixed the dough for a minute until it was all incorporated, then switched to kneading a little earlier.  It took about 15 minutes of kneading to get the bread ready. The dough should have a nice windowpane structure.  Meaning, that if you pull a chunk of dough off and try to stretch it thin, it should be thin enough to almost see through.

Like this (image courtesy of

When the dough is ready or your arms get tired, let the dough rise covered in a greased bowl for 30-60 minutes.

Pat the bread down and place on a floured baking sheet.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another hour.

When it’s almost done rising, preheat the oven to 425˚F.  My dough looked like this:Don’t worry, those orange dots aren’t some crazy fungus, that’s the saffron.

I slashed the bread with a knife, so that some of the steam can escape during baking.  You can try all sorts of patterns, but limit yourself to 3-5 slashes 1/4 inch deep.

Here’s my handiwork (Am I ready to carve a turkey?):

It goes into the hot oven for 25-30 minutes.  You know it’s done when it’s nice and brown.  Tap on the bottom, it should make a hollow sound when done.

This bread is delicious, sweet with a hint of saffron.

Recipe from Baking Bites

Recipe:Honey and Saffron Loaf