Last summer I took a baking class with Jim Lahey, the cofounder of the Sullivan Bakery. We baked a lot of different bread; one was a wonderful cinnamon, raisin, and walnut bread. At the end of the class we were allowed to take as much bread as we could carry home. My Vietnamese instinct kicked in to override my modest Danish behavior, and I walked home happy with a huge sack of bread. I gave most of it away and enjoyed some of it myself.
The bread is very easy to make, using a no-knead method, but the rising time is long and might be most convenient to make over the weekend. It is wonderful for breakfast. Jim Lahey’s recipe is provided below.
- 400 grams (3 cups) bread flour (I substitute 100 g of bread flour with white whole wheat flour to make it a bit healthier)
- 85 grams (½ cup) raisins
- 50 grams (½ cup) chopped walnuts
- 8 grams (1 ¼ teaspoons) table salt
- 2 grams (½ teaspoon) cinnamon
- 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) instant or other dry yeast
- (I sometimes like to add 2 grams of fennel seeds to give it a little kick)
- Pinch fresh ground pepper
- 350 grams (1 ½ cups) cool water (55-65 oF)
- Wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting
- Medium bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Kitchen scale
- Plastic wrap
- Bowl scraper/spatula
- 4 ½ -5 ½ quart heavy baking pot
This recipe requires a little calculation to time your bread according to your schedule. The rising part takes 12-18 hours, plus an additional 1-2 hours, so I recommend making dough in the evening around 6pm, and the bread will be finished in the afternoon the following day. Don’t get discouraged – this is very little work and patience will be rewarded.
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, raisins, walnut, salt, cinnamon, yeast and pepper, mixing thoroughly. Add the water, and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix in another spoonful or two of water. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12-18 hours.
2. When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in towards the center (fold the left side of the dough inward, then the right side, then top and bottom). Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
3. Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, corn meal or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft free spot to rise for 1-2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled in size. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
4. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 oF and place the empty covered 4 ½ – 5 ½ quart heavy pot in the center of a rack in the lower third of the oven. (If the lid on the heavy pot has a plastic handle, be sure to unscrew the handle before putting it in the oven to prevent it from melting. If possible, keep the metal screw in the hole of the lid so that heat does not escape).
5. Using potholders, carefully remove the empty preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up (use caution-the pot will be very hot). Cover the pot with the lid, insert it in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the lid and continue baking until bread is a deep chestnut color, but not burnt, 15-30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or potholders to gently lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack outside the oven to cool thoroughly.