mmmm... raisin bread

sunday's raisin bread experiment made me want more (there is never a point to making less than two loaves of bread at a go, as you inevitably want to eat a full loaf with butter on whilst it's still hot from the oven). i used a recipe from delia smith's christmas, which appealed to me because there is only one rise, and the whole thing start to finish is no more than 2 1/2 hours (as opposed to days, like the wonderful new york times no-knead recipe). that means you can actually make bread in the evening after work! but although it was good, it didn't have the richness i was looking for - it was made with whole-wheat flour and water, and i wanted something more! so here's the recipe, so re-written as to be unintelligible, but using one magic step i'd never heard of before delia, and still very quick.
magic gas-oven raisin bread
4 1/2 cups unbleached hard wheat flour
3 oz tap-hot water
1 tsp + 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 package yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk, scalded and still warm
2 lightly beaten eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups raisins
butter two loaf pans (9" x 5" x 3") and set aside.
here's the magic bit - set your oven to 150F and place the flour in a glass bowl to warm. dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the water; stir in salt and set in a warmish place (i.e. on the gas oven). wait 5 minutes, then turn off the oven. wait 5 minutes more till the yeast is spongy.
take the flour out of the oven and stir in salt and cinnamon. dissolve the remaining brown sugar in the scalded milk.
dump the yeasty liquid and eggs into the flour and stir. dump the sugary milk in and stir vigourously with a big wooden spoon.
dump the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead for 5 minutes. roll out into a big rectangle, sprinkle with 1 cup raisins, and roll up like a jelly roll. knead a bit more to distribute the raisins.
cut the dough in half. working with one lump, roll it out into a rectangle about the size of a standard sheet of paper (8 1/2" x 11"). sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins over 2/3 of the surface. fold the empty third over the raisiny bit, then fold over once more to cover all the raisins. place fold-side down in a buttered loaf pan. repeat with remaining dough and raisins.
(alternatively, you could use 1/2 cup chopped nuts at that point.)
brush the tops of the loaves with a bit of milk and set in the still-slightly-warm oven to rise. leave a light on to help them.
after 1 1/4 to 2 hours (i waited 1 1/4 hours following delia's instructions last night, and 2 hours tonight simply because i was putting h to bed), turn the oven on to 450F (this another magic gas oven bit, one that i made up myself - because gas ovens get hot right away. if you're cooking with electric, you'll want to take the loaves out and preheat the oven). after 10 minutes, drop the heat to 375F. after another 30 minutes, you will have two lovely loaves - one to eat right away, and one for breakfast tomorrow.

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