Bread Illustrated’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cooler temps always inspires me to turn on the oven and bake something. I was debating between something with pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon in it, and this cinnamon swirl bread won. Because pumpkin pie spice – ya’ basic.

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This loaf is a real stunner. I really enjoy making braided breads because of the technical finesse involved. Dumping brownie batter in a pan, or shaping cookie dough balls doesn’t interest me. But rolling out dough and shaping it and re-introducing it to the loaf pan while maintaining its shape… now that’s the stuff.

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Looking at the loaf sliced through is making me realize I probably should invest in a bread knife. Look at all of that unfortunate compression! But that aside, it really is a stellar recipe. I cannot recommend Bread Illustrated enough for its step-by-step photos and precise instructions. As Brene Brown might say, clear is kind. The bread was fluffy, enriched, and just a tad sweet.

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The swirls were such a visual treat. I can totally imagine French-toasting this bread, or serving it with cinnamon raisin cream cheese for a cinnamon raisin double whammy.

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Bread Illustrated’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Adapted from Bread Illustrated
Makes one 8.5 inch x 4.5 inch loaf

equipment: stand mixer, rolling pin, pastry brush, instant-read thermometer, 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan

dough
4 tbsps (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
1.75 cups + 2 tbsps of flour (10.5 oz) bread flour
6 tbsps (1.125 oz) nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 tbsp active or instant yeast
0.75 cups (6 oz) of water, room temperature
1/6 cup (1.16 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 egg (or 2 tbsps, or 25g)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (3.75 oz) golden raisins

filling
1/2 cup (2 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 egg, lightly beaten with 1/2 tbsp water and pinch of salt

1. for the dough Toss butter with 1/2 tbsp flour in a bowl and set aside to soften. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer. In a separate 4-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk water, sugar and egg until sugar dissolves. Using a dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest 20 minutes.

2. Add salt to dough and knead on medium-low speed until dough is smooth, elastic, and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes. With mixer running, add butter, a few pieces at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 4 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 3-5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add raisins and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

3. Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container. Using a greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough towards the middle. Turn the bowl 45 degrees and repeat. Do this for a total of 8 folds. Cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rise for 45 minutes. Repeat folding 8 times, cover tightly with plastic again and let dough rise until nearly doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter. Press and roll into 11×6 inch rectangle, with short side parallel to counter edge. Fold dough lengthwise so it’s 11 by 3 inches. From the short 3-inch edge, roll dough away from you so it’s a firm ball, keeping it taut.

5. For the filling Whisk all together in bowl until combined. Coat rolled dough ball lightly in flour and place on lightly floured counter. With seam side down, flatten ball with rolling pin into 18 x 7 inch rectangle, short side parallel to counter edge. Mist surface of dough with water (I wet my hands and speckled it over the dough, you can use a spray bottle.) Spread filling mixture over dough, leaving 1/4 inch border on sides, and 3/4 inch border on top and bottom. Mist filling with water once more.

6. Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder. Pinch seam and ends closed. Dust cylinder lightly on all sides with flour, covering loosely with greased plastic, and let rest for 10 minutes.

7. Grease one 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan. Cut cylinder in half lengthwise. Turn halves cut side up and gently strength into 14-inch lengths. Arrange strips side by side, perpendicular to counter edge, and pinch the far end together. Take left strip of dough and lay over right strip. Repeat, keeping cut sides up, until dough is twisted all the way through. Pinch remaining end closed. Transfer loaf cut side up into pan. Press dough into corners of pan and pushed any exposed raisins into seams of the braid. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaves reach 1 inch above lip of pan, and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1.5 to 2 hours.

8. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Brush loaves with egg mixture and bake until crust is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through. Reduce oven to 325 F, tent loaf with aluminium foil, and continue baking until internal temperature of loaf reaches 200-205 F, about 15 to 25 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove loaf from pan, let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies


I’ve been madly craving brownies lately… and it has come to a point where shelling out $2-$4 each time I’m craving a brownie became ridiculous and I decided to take my cravings into my own hands. Introducing, the Mexican Chocolate Brownies. They’re Mexican because they are spicy. Mexican hot chocolate is known to include cinnamon… hence these brownies’ nomenclature.

The recipe called for chili powder or cayenne, which I didn’t have. I had some bird’s eye chili (or chilli padi, as we Singaporeans like to call them) and since it is ferociously spicy by most standards, I decided to just mix in the seeds from one chili for a 9 x 5 dish. It didn’t turn out very spicy at all, which I was disappointed by. However, the texture was delightfully fudgy and if you wanted a fudgy brownie, these definitely make the cut. If I were to make this again, I’d try to make sure I have all the ingredients before embarking on the recipe. Or just put in more chili seeds. The spicier, the better. Maybe next time I’d even try including Taza’s Guajillo Chili chocolate, which is probably one of the few chocolates I would happily nibble on all by itself. (Other chocolates I would do that to include Trader Joe’s Pound Plus semisweet for its good value and versatility and Vosges Chocolate for its variety. I would welcome a bar of either for my birthday, thank you very much.)

Mexican Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes one 9 x 5 pan

1/4 cup butter
1-oz bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/6 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips (pref. semisweet or bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×5 baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Stir in cocoa powder until fully incorporated. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Whisking steadily, pour chocolate mixture into sugar mixture. Stir until smooth. Sift flour, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt into the bowl and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until brownies set and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out with only a few moist crumbs, not batter, attached.
Cool in the pan completely before slicing.