Raisin Bread and Ice

We spent the weekend in Nashville, visiting friends and doing a bit of exploring, just for fun.  The weather chased us out a day early, so we did what any sensible adult would do, and stayed home on Monday.  I made raisin bread and started on a mandolin strap, I'll start painting it today, at lunch. (working from home due to icy roads... ugh)

I have to say, I love the dark-light in the studio on days like this...

While I can't email you all a slice of raisin bread, here's my rough, guideline recipe, if you're looking for something that's not too sweet, but still tastes like a treat.

Cat’s Basic Bread

I’ve made the below bread many times, and I’ve been tweaking my flour & sweetener more towards wheat and molasses. The below recipe is full of suggestions, mostly because this loaf is rarely replicated in any identical way.  I follow the bones, but let the kitchen goddesses lead the way as I mix, so my notes are NOT precise, but they work for me). Bread is my comfort, as I make it, and yes, as I eat what I have made.

1 cup warm milk (comfortable to your fingers, not hot, just above room temp.) (If you’re out of milk, you can use just water, or a water-cream combo- I ended up using 3/4c warm water and 1/4c half&half, and it worked great)
2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast (or one ½ oz. packet)
2ish tablespoons of molasses (honey would work too)
3 2/3 cup flour (I usually use something roughly like 1 2/3 cup wheat, 2 cups unbleached all purpose, but this time I did 2 cups white, 1 1/2 cups wheat and the rest oat bran… or something like that, I’m not the most specific baker when it comes to flour combos, I just aim to hit the total, with the majority being white, to make sure all the glutens and things are happy.)
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg (if you end up needing more liquid, add another egg, or some melted butter... approx 2 tablespoons)
2 loaded teaspoons of brown sugar (not a usual add, but it's raisin bread!)

Raisin Bread filling
2 tablespoons brown sugar
As much cinnamon as you can handle
At least a ½ cup of raisins. (I’m guessing here, I didn’t measure)

To make the bread:
In a smallish bowl, combine the warm milk, molasses (or honey) and yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is bubbly and activated.
While the yeast is doing its science dance (sometimes it takes 10 minutes) combine your flours, salt, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl (use a sifter if you have it).
When you yeast is ready, add it and the egg to the flour and mix it up into a dough.
While I have a mixer, I like making bread by hand and start the mixing with a spatula until I can knead it without becoming a doughy mess myself. (Don’t forget to take your rings off!)
Knead into a tight dough ball, and put it back in the mixing bowl, cover with a towel and let the loaf rest & rise for 1 ½ - 2 hours in a warmish, draft-free, animal/kid safe spot.
After it’s risen and at least doubled in size, punch it down in the bowl, and dump it on a floured surface/counter. Flatten it out and push it out into a rough rectangle, about as wide as your bread pan, then use your rolling pin to REALLY get that thing flat, not pizza flat, but flat. 1-1 1/2 inches (ish) You’ll know, I trust you.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a perfect rectangle, mine was more of a rough rectangle blob with a pointy end.
Sprinkle your sugar/ cinnamon mixture evenly across the now flat loaf, add more of either if you need it. Evenly distribute the raisins.
Grease & flour your loaf pan, I used coconut oil with much success this time around.
Starting at one end of your “rectangle”, roll your dough tightly into a log, tucking any raisins that escape back where they belong. Place a hand on either end of the loaf (where the spiral will be) & compress it as you tuck the top of the log towards the bottom.  Place it in your pan, seam down, and SMUSH it as much as you can (I don’t know why, it just felt right).
Cover again and set a timer for 20-30 minutes. When the timer goes off, set your oven to 375 °. (I’m assuming your oven will take 20-30 more minutes to get up to heat, if your loaf hasn’t risen much, you can let it go longer.)
Pop your loaf into the center of the oven, and bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on how dark you like your crust. Carefully remove it from the pan and tap the bottom, it should be solid & sound nice and hollow. 
Congratulations! Your bread is done. Please try not to burn yourself cutting the first piece. (learn from my mistakes)