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October 14, 2009

Raisin-Pecan Bread

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Up today is my friend Melissa! She has guest blogged for me before as well. Check out this gorgeous bread and be sure and say hello!

Thanks Dianne, for having me as a “guest” this week!

One of my very favorite things to eat is raisin-pecan bread, it’s so versatile! Fresh out of the toaster, a slice of this yummy bread is infinitely more filling than a frozen waffle and oh-so-much-more-tasty! With some honey drizzled on top, it’s the perfect accompaniment for afternoon tea. Spread with cream cheese, it’s an excellent breakfast. The list goes on. Before we moved to Florida in May 2008, I bought this bread at least once a week from the Best Buns Bakery in Arlington, VA. Oh, how I missed that bread…until I discovered that one can make bread at home rather easily, thanks in part to Dianne. I played around for a bit and came up with the following recipe, which I pieced together from various others. The nice thing is that there is some wiggle room in the amount of raisins and pecans one adds – for me, the more, the better.

Ingredients:
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
3 TB honey
2 C warm (105 – 115 degrees) water, divided
2 TB canola oil
3 C whole wheat flour
1 C+ all purpose flour OR 4 teasp vital wheat gluten, optional
1 teasp kosher salt
1 heaping cup of chopped pecans
1 heaping cup of raisins
1heaping cup of golden raisins

I fully admit that I find bread-making easy because I have a kitchen workhorse – my trusty mixer. I just throw in the ingredients and it does the work for me, down to the kneading. But give me a break, I work full time and have two young children (one is 4 months old), so I take the help where I can get it. However, don’t be discouraged if you do not have a mixer powerful enough to do the job, it’ll just require some elbow grease.

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In a large bowl (I use the mixer bowl for this), mix ½ cups of the water with the honey until dissolved. Add the yeast and dissolve, let set for 5-10 minutes until foamy. If the yeast does not foam, start over – your water may have been too hot or too cold or the yeast may be expired, so do check on that.

Next, add the remaining 1.5 cups of water, the salt, and the oil. If using a mixer, keep it on “stir” using the paddle attachment. Slowly – ¼ to ½ cups at a time – add in the whole wheat flour and combine well. This is the point where, if I am using only whole wheat flour, I add in the vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten helps with the rise and crumb of the bread when using only whole wheat flour – otherwise the bread may be dense and chewy, and not in a good way. If you prefer to provide some gluten using all-purpose flour at the end, then omit this step.

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The dough will be kind of loose at this point, which is good because this is where you add the nuts and raisins. Feel free to adjust the measurements, I like the loaf to be packed with these goodies so I put in a lot, you may put less if you like or only one kind of raisin, etc. Once the raisins and pecans are in, slowly add in more flour (whole wheat if you want to keep it 100% whole wheat, or all purpose at this point if you prefer) until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl. You may need a cup or more, so just watch the dough. It should start to come together in a ball and lose its stickiness. At this point, if using a mixer, switch to the dough hook, set on level 2, and start to knead, increasing to level 4 to help keep it in a ball for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, turn the dough out on to a clean and floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, again until the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Next, oil a mixing bowl and place the kneaded dough in it, turning it to coat with the oil. Cover with a damp dish towel and place in a warmish environment to rise until roughly doubled in size. Note that if you are using 100% whole wheat flour, it may not double in size, even with the vital wheat gluten. I rise my bread in the oven with the oven light on. For this loaf, it takes about 1.5 hours, but watch it because it depends on the flour used and temperature it is rising in. While you’re waiting, have some tea or a glass of wine!

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Once dough has risen, punch it down, turn it out on to a clean and lightly floured surface again and then decide how you would like to shape it. In this case, I used two medium loaf pans so I cut the dough in two, shaped each half into a rough rectangle, dropped it in the pans that I had sprayed with nonstick baking spray, and pressed it down to fill the bottom of the pan evenly. You may opt to leave it as one big loaf and go for the “artisan” bread look, or split it into two (or more) smaller freeform loaves . In this case, I wanted some uniformity in the slices so I went with loaf pans.

Cover with the damp towel again and let rise for another 30-60 minutes (again, depending on the flour used the rising temperature). Once doubled in size (remember the 100% whole wheat qualifier), slash the tops and bake in a 375 oven for 20-30 minutes*. Bake time depends on the oven, so check frequently. The bread is done when it reaches an internal temp of 190 degrees or sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Take care not to overbake. Once baked, cool on wire racks and feel free to sample when it’s warm…YUM.

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*If you opt to do a freeform loaf, then I highly recommend baking it on a baking stone. Shape the loaf on a piece of parchment paper that has been sprinkled with cornmeal, using a pizza peel to set up the whole thing is easiest. Slide it onto the stone that has been preheating in a 375 oven and spray the loaf with water a few times during the first 5 minutes of baking. This helps the bread rise (I think it is called oven spring or something) and start to brown, but not get too brown too fast. It will also help make it rather crusty. Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf (even less if you’ve done mini loaves), cool, and enjoy!

Posted by Dianne at October 14, 2009 8:35 AM

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Comments

Melissa, this looks great! Thanks again for helping me out!

Posted by: Dianne at October 14, 2009 9:07 AM

Oh we love cinnamon raisin bread! This looks so delicious!

Posted by: Hannah and Esther at October 14, 2009 10:03 AM

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