Last week I had a request for a bread recipe so this past weekend I leafed through a bread cookbook I was given for Christmas to make good on the request. I was feeling for a slightly sweet bread so decided to make a loaf that involved milk, honey, and raisins.
The cookbook emphasizes whole grains and the vast majority of the recipes call for a mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. (There is an entire gluten-free section which I plan to experiment with over Lent as I have already decided to give up wheat this year. Oh boy…)
The recipe is very simple, though not something you can whip up in a half hour because the dough has to rise several times throughout the process. Which makes it a perfect weekend baking project!
The result is a dense loaf that is only mildly sweet which I quite enjoyed. It is wonderful still warm with butter (as is all bread I’ve ever encountered) and coffee. If you are a fan of light and airy bread then this is not the recipe for you as the whole wheat does make it a bit heavy (see use of the word “dense” above.)
And I discovered this morning that this loaf also makes a beautiful French toast. Bake away!
Milk and Honey Raisin Bread (from “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)
Makes enough dough for at least two 2-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. (I recommend halving it unless you have VERY large mixing bowls.)
- 4 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
- 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup raisins
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on the top
- Raw sugar for sprinkling on top
Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten.
Combine the remaining ingredients and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine.
Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 10 days.
On baking day, grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch bread pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
Elongate the ball into an oval and place it in the loaf pan; your goal is to fill the pan about three-quarters full. Allow the loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 90 minutes (or 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.
Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash, and then sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until richly browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.
Remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.