Saturday, April 24, 2010

Braided Sweet Raisin Bread

(1 loaf)

This bread is wonderful with marmalade, honey or anything sweet. If there's anything left over, it makes a nice french toast.

My mum will probably read this and ask me why I added the baking soda to a yeast bread, (she told me recently she has an aversion to the stuff). All I'll be able to tell her, it's habit. I usually add a bit of baking soda whenever I use buttermilk or something acidic to neutralize the acid.

I make this bread in an 11 cup food processor, with minimal kneading by hand.

1 cup buttermilk, warmed, but not too hot
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
3 tbsp sugar
3 - 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup raisins*,  see note at bottom
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp lemon zest,  minced
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

1 large egg

glaze (optional)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp water
1  tbsp coarse sugar

Add the yeast and sugar to the buttermilk and let stand for about 5 minutes until the yeast has dissolved.

Place 3 cups of flour (to start) in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the dough blade. Add the raisins, baking soda, lemon zest and cardamon. Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the buttermilk mixture, butter and egg. Run the food processor with the chute open. If the dough doesn't leave the sides of the bowl, then slowly add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it barely does. I try to add the least amount of flour so that the dough is on the "wet" side.

Run the food processor an additional 3 minutes. The dough should feel soft and slightly sticky. Butter your hands and knead on a very lightly floured surface for another 3 minutes until it looks smooth and elastic.

Place onto a buttered dish, cover and allow to double in size; about 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down, and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll out into ropes and braid, tucking in both ends.

Allow to rise for at least 30 minutes; preferably longer if you want it to double in size. I'm usually impatient at this point and don't mind a denser loaf.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the egg and water and brush over the top of the loaf. Sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped.

* I add the raisins at the very beginning and they do break up while the dough gets it's workout in the food processor. I like my bread this way. If you prefer your raisins to remain whole, then don't add them until you remove the dough from the food processor. Work them while you are kneading.

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