Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hunting for a good raisin bread

Although I'm not fond of raisins on their own, I love a good raisin bread. I've tried three recipes lately, with varying degrees of success. (Please tell me if you know a great bread machine raisin bread recipe! I still haven't found the perfect one.)

Here are the results of my raisin bread hunt, in order of how likely I am to make them again (which is the reverse of the order I made them in):
  1. C.R.O.W.W. (Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Walnut Whole wheat), from Beth Hensperger's ever-reliable The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook: Delicious, although I could've used more raisins and nuts (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup, to 3 cups flour). Besides the usual ingredients and those listed in the title, this recipe also uses egg whites, buttermilk, oil, and a vanilla powder that I couldn't find in local stores, so I bought it online. For the raisins I used "jumbo mixed medley" raisins from Berkeley Bowl's bulk section.
  2. 100% whole wheat fruit bread, from the Zojirushi cookbook: Also delicious, and kept fresh for days. Instead of raisins, I used dried sour cherries from Berkeley Bowl. Yum. I might've liked to have more fruit (it had 2/3 cup, to 5 cups flour) and maybe nuts. I might try changing the butter to hazelnut or walnut oil. Instead of cinnamon, this recipe used allspice, which tasted great with the cherries. Every recipe I've tried from the whole grain section of this cookbook has been really good. (The party bread is another story, but that came from another section.)
  3. Raisin, cinnamon, and nut wheat bread (aka fail bread) from Beatrice Ojakangas' Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand: Such a tasty failure, I had to make it twice to believe it. Both times, almost all the fruit and nuts (3/4 cup of each, to 4 cups flour) ended up at the bottom of the pan. I don't know if this was because there was too much fruit/nuts, or because the consistency of the dough was too thick or thin. Whatever the cause, this recipe must not have been tested with a Zojirushi—or maybe with any bread machine. Also, this bread went stale quickly. I'll think twice before making another recipe from this book.
The C.R.O.W.W. bread was my dinner the day I made it, and breakfast the next day. I should perhaps lay off, but at least it was a reasonably nutritious substitute for a real meal. I made the 1.5-pound loaf, changing the salt to a scant teaspoon, and yeast to 2 teaspoons.

C.R.O.W.W.: Dinner and breakfast in a loaf

The Zo bread was their typical, gargantuan size. It was supposed to use 100% whole wheat flour, but I ran out and used about 1/3 bread flour. (I reduced the gluten from 4T to 3T to compensate.) I reduced the salt to 1 teaspoon, and the yeast to a heaping teaspoon.

Zojirushi ~67% whole wheat fruit bread

Finally, we come to the fail bread. Take a look at it.

The bottom of the fail bread

Spectacular, isn't it? I think that's my second version, which had cranberries and walnuts. My first try had jumbo raisins and pecans, I think. Both tasted good, if you ignored the fact that the only fruit was on the bottom. (Some of the smaller nut pieces made it into the dough.) I didn't record my alterations the first time, but the second time I made the large-loaf size, reducing the salt to 3/4 t and the yeast to 1 t.

Because you just can't eat enough gluten, I've also started working my way through Josey Baker's bread book, which I've borrowed from the library. I'll blog about that next.

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