Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. While I am Irish, I’ve never really celebrated the day. But this year I wanted that to be different. The only dilemma was what to make. I couldn’t really think of many Irish foods other than soda bread or brown bread and I’m not a huge fan of either.
So I started thinking about my favorite Irish person: my Granny. Though she is no longer with us, not a day goes by where I don’t think of her and wish she was still here. One of my favorite things to do when she came to visit was simply eat breakfast with her.
She always got up early. Earlier than I’ve ever had to get up. She poured a cup of coffee and reached for something sweet the moment she got up. Sitting down to one of her favorite movies as the sun came up.
When I got up and was ready for breakfast, she was always ready for a second helping. Some days it was coffee cake or cinnamon rolls, but most often, we reached for a slice of cinnamon raisin bread. It was one of the things always we picked up at the store in preparation for her visit. We’d go to the bakery and ask them to slice and ice a loaf of raisin bread. Granny would toast hers (making the house smell heavenly) and smear it with butter. I was happy with it as is. We’d sit and eat our bread while chatting and watching morning news. It was always a great way to start the day and such a fond memory for me.
I haven’t had raisin bread in a very long time, so I thought in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and Granny, I’d make a batch. This Cinnamon Raisin Bread is very easy to make, though there is quite a bit of inactive waiting time.
All of the waiting is more than worth it, as the intoxicating smells of cinnamon and homemade bread waft through every square inch of the house. The end result is a perfectly golden brown bread with a soft crust and super soft, moist interior loaded with a welcome mix of golden and regular raisins. The flavor is fantastic with the perfect amount of cinnamon. It tastes way better than any raisin bread we used to buy at the store. This is, in fact, my new favorite homemade bread. I enjoyed it with a smear of Biscoff or a little peanut butter with a homemade marshmallow on top. I can’t wait to make it again and only wish Granny could share a slice with me for breakfast. I know she’d love it.
- 3 ½ cups bread flour
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
- ½ cup milk (I used almond)
- ¾ cup water, divided
- 1 ½ cups raisins
- 1 cup golden raisins
- ½ cup cognac or whiskey
- First, proof the yeast. In a small bowl heat ¼ cup water to about 110 degrees. It should feel just warm to the touch. I did this in the microwave. After warmed, add the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar, and stir. After 5-10 minutes, the mixture should be very bubbly and voluminous. If it is not, the yeast is dead and you need to try different yeast.
- In a medium bowl, combine both kinds of raisins. Add the cognac or whiskey and stir to combine. Allow the raisins to soak in the alcohol while you make the dough, stirring occasionally. Warm water may alternatively be used.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the egg, shortening, milk, yeast mixture, and the remainder of the water. Stir until a ball is formed and all ingredients are incorporated. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour. If it is too dry, add more water. Mine was perfect.
- Sprinkle a surface with flour and knead the dough on the surface for about 8 minutes, until it is soft, pliable, and tacky, but not sticky. Add the raisins to the dough, draining out as much of the alcohol as possible. I reached in with my hands and drained them as best I could. The bread did not taste like alcohol at all. Continue kneading the dough for about 2 minutes, until the raisins are evenly distributed.
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, rolling it in the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place the dough in a warm place for about 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
- After the dough has risen, oil 2 standard loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, forming them into loaves. Oil the tops lightly and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Place the loaves back in a warm place for 2 – 2 ½ hours until they are again doubled in size and practically touching the tops of the pans.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the loaf pans on a sheet tray, making sure the loaf pans are not touching each other. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans, then continue baking for 20-30 minutes. Mine only took 20 additional minutes. The loaves should be golden brown and firm to the touch. They will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the pans immediately. You may need to loosen it around the edges with a knife.
- Though it may be a little messy, the bread is wonderful sliced right out of the oven. It may be stored in a zipper bag at room temperature for up to 5 days, or frozen wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours or preferably in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes for a quarter of a loaf. Longer for bigger pieces. You may wrap the bread in parchment before heating it to prevent it from getting too crusty.