Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
5 1/2 to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. (If you’re using instant yeast, skip this step; simply add all of the remaining ingredients to the milk mixture once it’s cooled to lukewarm.) When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape into loaves and place into two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (I prefer to cover the loaves with plastic and put into the refrigerator overnight so they will develop their full flavors.)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss in a couple of ice cubes to develop steam as you put the bread in. Reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (mmm… we can smell the cinnamon already!), until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

A Few Thoughts
For a bit of crunch, add 1/2 cup chopped nuts along with the dried fruit. For fancier-looking loaves, drizzle them with a glaze of 1 to 2 tablespoons milk mixed into 2 cups confectioners’ sugar.

Silversmith and Lapidary