Monday, December 17, 2007

A Study in Contrasts

It's 7:22 a.m. in New York, and I swear I just saw an Emperor penguin waddling down our driveway. Well, I might be wrong about that (or, not), but it's certainly cold enough that if there was an Emperor penguin marching across our front yard, he'd certainly feel right at home here. It's 21 degrees outside, with the real feel temperature at 5 (for those of you in sunny California, or balmy Miami, yes, that means 5 degrees). Our driveway looks like the Olympic bobsledding course, our cars are entombed in thick, unyielding ice, and the wind is howling through the trees at a branch snapping and lip chapping 30 miles per hour. And winter's not even officially here yet!

But inside our home, it's a whole different story. The woodstove has been cranking for two hours now, so the house is delightfully warm. And we toasted thick slices of homemade raisin bread for breakfast, so there is a soft, sweet, yeasty smell throughout the house that would make any mouth water. And, of course the Christmas tree is lit, so there is a lovely glow being cast across the entire downstairs space. I'm still in pajama's + slippers (and there is a very good chance I will remain in this state until dinnertime), on my second cup of Awake tea, and happy beyond belief that the only place I need to be today is here, working on my book, stopping only to heat up some soup for lunch, and perhaps to toss a herring or two to the penguin out front.

This is a basic (but still really good) cinnamon raisin bread recipe. If you are looking to bring it up a notch, use sherried raisins for the filling. To make sherried raisins, combine equal parts raisins and sherry in a saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes, then drain.

1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
2 pkgs. yeast
2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
2 cups seedless raisins (I like to use a mixture of dark and golden, or sherried raisins)
1/3 cup sugar
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Scald milk in a saucepan, set aside and allow to cool to lukewarm temperature.

In a mixing bowl cream shortening and 3/4 cup sugar.

In a separate large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water, then mix in milk and creamed sugar mixture. Add 2 cups of flour, beat until well combined. Cover dough , place in a warm spot, and allow to rise (around 40 minutes, or until light and bubbly).

Add salt and raisins to the dough and combine. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to the dough to form a soft ball of dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl, then knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Place dough in large bowl, oil lightly, then cover with a cloth and let rise until it doubles in size (around 40 minutes).

Combine 1/3 cups sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and set aside.

When dough is ready, punch down in the center, then remove from bowl and roll into two rectangles, approximately 20 inches long x 8 inches wide. Sprinkle each with sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Roll both rectangles of dough (from the narrow end) like a jelly roll, then pinch the ends together to seal. Place each into a 9 inch loaf pan, then cover with a cloth and allow to rise once again, until double in size (about 40 minutes).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When ready, bake loaves for about 40 minutes, or until light golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

PS. Try this toasted with my homemade apple butter.

1 comment:

Mo said...

nice tree!