Friday, 23 November 2007

Bread Of Heaven...


If I lived next door to you (and we'll assume that I don't, since it would be a crazy coincidence if the people who do live next door to me were reading this. Hey, if you are, let me know, it would be like a miracle) this is the point where I'd be coming round to your house with a loaf of warm raisin bread and begging your forgiveness for ignoring you for so long.

Actually, I probably wouldn't do that; I'd probably do the British thing of repressing my feelings and settle for nodding awkwardly at you in the street. But fortunately you don't have to worry about that, since you don't live next door to me.

The point is, I'm really sorry for the big delay in this post (one word: A-Levels. Does that count as one word? One full word and one hyphenated letter, then). So as an apology, I'm bringing round a virtual loaf of raisin bread, and a promise that now my English Coursework is finished, I can be a little more regular round here. It'll be the blogging world equivilant of camping out on your doorstep with (okay, so it's half eaten) heaps of bread and cake under my arm, I swear. You'll be glad to see the back of me.

Due to internet limitations however, you may want to make your own bread in the meantime.


Raisin Bread
From a River Cottage feature in Good Food Magazine, May 2007 (therefore not on the GF website)
Prep: 30 mins
Proving/rising/etc: 2-2.5 hours
Cook: 20 mins


500g strong white flour (my dad got stuff with seeds in X__X as you may be able to tell from the pictures. It worked okay, but would be better just normal)
2 tsp salt
7g sachet easy-blend yeast
140g raisins
125ml milk
125ml warm water
1 egg
2 tbsp orange marmalade
1 tbsp sugar

For glaze:
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water

1. Make the dough by putting the flour in a large mixing bowl withthe yeast, salt and raisins. Measure the milk into a jug with 125ml warm water, then break the egg into that and whisk it together with a fork. Pour the eggy liquid into the bowl of flour, spoon in the marmalade and stir it all together with a wooden spoon into a mass of soft, slightly sticky dough (if it's too sticky add a little more flour; if it's not coming together add a little more warm water).

2. Flour your work surface and turn the dough onto it. It'll be rough and saggy, so it has to be kneaded til it's smooth and bouncy, which should take about ten minutes intensive kneading. If you're familiar with my approach to cooking, you'll know that patience is not a virtue I posess in abundance; I whacked it around a bit while watching Neighbours and hoped it would be enough. You know, that's probably the influence for the Neighbourly theme on HLS today, I didn't realise that until now...

3. By the time your arms have got insanely tired, you can shape the dough into a neat ball, put it back in the bowl and cover it with cling film (or a damp tea towel) to prove. Put it somewhere warm, away from draughts, but not too hot (like a radiator) or the yeast will die. If you have an Aga, apparently you can leave it in the warming oven with the door open, my mum tells me (but I didn't know this at the time, so I just left it in the kitchen).

4. Leave to rise for about 1.5 - 2 hours. I went off and did some coursework redrafting for an hour or so, and then I got bored, so I casually overlooked the rest of the rising time. It should have risen to 'a great big puffy ballooned mass, at least twice its original size'. I hadn't been paying attention when I'd left it, so I had no idea what its original size had been. Therefore I pretended it was done.

5. Grease the base and sides of a large loaf tin (aprox 13 x 23 x 7cm). Pull the dough out of the bowl and knead for about thirty seconds on the work surface, then flatten it out a little into a round disc. Roll it up roughly like a carpet so it's a puffy sausage shape, then tuck the sides underneath the base so it's like a pillow. Place it in the loaf tin; it should come about halfway up the sides.

By some miracle, mine did... I don't know how that happened seeing as it was so unlike a 'great big puffy ballooned mass' otherwise.

Cover it with cling film or the tea towel again and leave to rise for 20- 25 mins. I had a guitar practice (grade four exam on Monday, sigh...)


6. Heat the oven to 220C. Place the tin in the oven and leave to bake for about 12 mins, then turn the oven down to 190C for another 10 mins. I didn't need quite this long (perhaps I put it at a too high heat?). To see if it's done, turn the bread out of the tin and tap on the base - it should sound hollow. If it doesn't, but it directly on the hot oven shelf for 10mins.

7. Let the bread cool on a wire rack, and begin to make a glaze for the outside. Put the sugar and water in a small pan and stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved to make a syrup. Let it simmer for 1 min, then remove from the heat. Use a pastry brush to brush the warm syrup all over the top and sides of the bread; this looks stunning ^__^

You might be able to tell from the pictures that my bread wasn't actually fully cooked in the middle after all; it was still doughy on the inside (oops). Fortunately my mum and I both like it like this <3


I made this in the evening when there was no natural light, so I don't have any pictures of the glazed outside in nice light, since it was mostly eaten by then, haha. But you can get the idea from these:


This one on the right is what I believe professional food photographers call 'giving up and using the flash'...

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