Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Foray

About two weeks ago, I decided that I missed French Toast. I hadn't had it in several months, and I was feeling the deprivation. French toast has always been a breakfast favorite of mine, whether it be plain or fancy, stuffed or slim. I spoke to Hubband about my craving, and he suggested that we satisfy it by having French toast for dinner, or as we called it in my house growing up, breakfast-supper. 
I knew I wanted a whole-wheat bread, as I'm just not a particular fan of white unless it be a fantastic sourdough, but I also wanted a raisin bread, and I wanted thick slices. I had a feeling this would be hard to find at the grocery store, so I poked my head into the pantry. I knew I had yeast and whole-wheat flour, and I decided to try my hand at making my very own. 
I have made quick breads before, banana, zucchini, welsh tea, etc., but never a yeast-risen loaf. We had a bread machine when I was a kid, and Mom would make fresh bread for us, but I had never done it, start to finish, all by my lonesome. 
I found a good looking recipe right on the back of the flour bag and used it as a starting point. I added raisins, upped the flour a little as the dough seemed sticky, and folded in a cinnamon sugar swirl. Here is my result: 
The whole point of making the bread was to make French toast though, and that's exactly what we did.
I decided to have a French toast blowout, so I cut thick slices and slathered them with a luscious mix of mascarpone cheese, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, diced strawberries, and a hint of sugar. Dipped in a custard of milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla and then griddled to golden brown, the only way this could get any better was if we topped it with Hubband's signature blueberry-nectarine sauce-so we did. With a few extra sliced strawberries and a glass of honeymoon bubbly, it was a fantastic first attempt at bread-making. 

Whole-Wheat Raisin Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

We liked this so much that I ended up making 3 loaves in a week: the first, plus a second for weekend breakfast toast for company and a third for my mom. 

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water (100-110 degrees)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup (substitute honey or molasses if you like)
3 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar (optional and done to taste, add more or less, heavier or lighter on the cinnamon)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all ingredients EXCEPT the raisins and cinnamon-sugar. Fit the dough hook attachment to the mixer and turn it on low. Let it continue until the dough comes together. Turn off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, and the dough hook, and then turn the mixer back on medium-low and let it knead for 6 minutes. Add the raisins and knead for 2 more minutes. Turn off the mixer and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few seconds by hand to be sure the raisins are evenly distributed and the dough isn't sticky. Shape into a ball and place back into the mixer bowl. Spray with a little canola oil and place in a warm spot to rise for about 60 minutes, until puffy and close to doubled in size. 
Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. 
After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it out to a rectangle about 8 inches wide by 10 inches long. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon-sugar. Pick up the 8 inch end furthest from you and roll it tightly toward you like a jelly roll. Gently put the rolled loaf into the prepared pan seam-side down. Place a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap loosely over the top and move it back to the warm spot to proof for another 30-60 minutes, or until the loaf top has crowned about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. 
Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 20 minutes, tent lightly with foil, and bake another 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temp reaches 190 F or the loaf sounds hollow when you take it out of the pan and tap the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. 

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