A bit different than what you’re used to picking up in a plastic wrapper.
Quite a few raisin bread recipes descend from the brioche family and produce something like a loaf-shaped panettone: light, sweet, and eggy. Others are cousins of the pain de mie (which we discussed in the post for Yesterdish’s Pullman loaf), with a fine, tender crumb that requires you to delicately spread peanut butter over its surface, because one slip of the wrist and your sandwich will dissolve.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you like that sort of thing, but it has its shortcomings.
The muscovado sugar’s hints of toffee and smoke linger with the vanilla, fruit, and spice to create a complexity of flavor to rival (or harmonize with) an elaborate blend of coffee.
If you’re trying to make a bread pudding or a French toast, by the time it absorbs enough egg to take on a custard-like texture, there’s no way to move it to the griddle. And if you want something more substantial than peanut butter–say, peanut butter, bacon, and fresh apple slices–the bread’s softness is not an asset.
The result is fearlessly crusty while also sticky-sweet. Where the softer raisin breads are cousins to brioche, this loaf is a brother to a Nutella-stuffed baguette.
One way of harmonizing that sweet/salty divide is using dark muscovado sugar. We borrowed muscovado from Spanish (mascabado) or Portugese (mascavado), where it’s the past participle of the verb describing the process of separating sugar from molasses. (In theory, the word goes back to a portmanteau from vulgar Latin: minuscapare, or something along the lines of “reduced head.”)
We talked about the history of sugar production in the post for white layer cake from Lutz, Florida. Muscovado sugar is simply a name for sugar where some amount of molasses has been left behind; the darker the muscovado, the more molasses it contains, and as a result, the sticker it is. We used dark muscovado, which is why it has a texture a bit like wet sand.
But the flavor. Oh, the flavor. The muscovado sugar’s hints of toffee and smoke linger with the vanilla, fruit, and spice to create a complexity of flavor to rival (or harmonize with) an elaborate blend of coffee. And yet, it still has the gluten and yeast to pair beautifully with butter, like a mincemeat pie made richer.
The Oxford English Dictionary references the earliest mention of something by the name raisin bread to an 1845 edition of Blackwood’s Magazine. I haven’t found anything earlier, but I do think the context of that mention is kind of fun–here it is, reprinted in the March 29, 1845 edition of the Gardeners Gazette in London:
Oatmeal versus Flour.
(Click to expand portion omitted for space.)
Professor Johnson, in the recent edition of his elements, tell us, that, from experiments made in the laboratory of the Agricultural Chemistry Association of Scotland, it turns out that oats are far richer in all the three things essential than the best wheat flour grown in any part of England–that they contain eighteen or twenty per cent of that which forms muscle, five to eight of fat, and sixty-five of starch.
The account, therefore, between shelled oats (groats) and fine wheaten flour stands thus. One hundred pounds of each contain–
What do you say to these numbers Mr. Cockney?–You won’t pity us, Scotch oatmeal-eaters, any more, we guess. Experience and science are both on our side. What makes your race-horses the best in the world, may be expected to make our peasantry the best too.
We offer you, therefore, a fair bet. You shall take ten English ploughmen, and feed them upon two pounds and a half of wheaten flour a day, and we shall take as many Scotch ploughmen and feed them upon the same weigh tot oatmeal a-day–if they can eat so much, for that is doubtful–and we shall back our men against yours for any sum you like. They shall walk, run, work–or fight you, if you like it–an they shall thrash you to your heart’s content. We should like to convince you that the Scotch parritch has some real solid metal in it.
We back the oatcake and the porridge against all the wheaten messes in the world. We defy your home-made bread, your baker’s bread, your household bread, your leaven bread, your brown Georges–your fancy bread, and your raisin bread–your baps, rolls, scones, muffins, crumpets, and cookies–your bricks, biscuits, bakes, and rusks–your barth buns and sally luns–your tea-cakes, and saffron-cakes, and slim cakes, and plank-cakes, and pan-cakes, and soda-cakes, and currant-cakes, and sponge-cakes, and seed-cakes, and girdle-cakes, and singing hinnies–your shortbread and your current-buns–or if there be any other names by which your designate your wheaten abominations, we defy and detest them all.
We swear by the oatcake and the porridge, the substantial bannock and the brose–long may Scotland produce them, and Scotchmen live and fight upon them!!–Blackwood’s Magazine.
Too long; didn’t read? Allow me to sum up. The author says whole-grain oats are better than refined wheat flour, and also the following:
Raisin bread is one of those things that the Food and Drug Administration has awfully specific feelings about. Specific enough to appear in a regulation that requires, among other things, that “[n]ot less than 50 parts by weight of seeded or seedless raisins are used for each 100 parts by weight of flour used.”
(Click to expand the full regulation, if you're curious.)
Title 21 CFR Part 136 — Bakery Products
Subpart B–Requirements for Specific Standardized Bakery Products
Sec. 136.160 Raisin bread, rolls, and buns.
(a) Each of the foods raisin bread, raisin rolls, and raisin buns conforms to the definition and standard of identity and is subject to the requirements for label statement of ingredients prescribed for bread, rolls or buns by 136.110, except that:
(1) Not less than 50 parts by weight of seeded or seedless raisins are used for each 100 parts by weight of flour used.
(2) Water extract of raisins may be used, but not to replace raisins.
(3) The baked units may bear icing or frosting.
(4) The limitation prescribed by 136.110(c)(6) on the quantity and composition of milk and/or other dairy products does not apply.
(5) The total solids are determined by the method prescribed in 136.110(d), except that section 14.091(b) of “Official Methods of Analysis of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists,” 13th Ed. (1980), which is incorporated by reference, will apply. Copies may be obtained from the AOAC INTERNATIONAL, 481 North Frederick Ave., suite 500, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, or may be examined at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to:http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/code_of_federal_regulations/ibr_locations.html.
(b) The name of the food is “raisin bread”, “raisin rolls”, “raisin buns”, as applicable. When the food contains not less than 2.56 percent by weight of whole egg solids, the name of the food may be “raisin and egg bread”, “raisin and egg rolls”, or “raisin and egg buns”, as applicable, accompanied by the statement “Contains _ medium-sized egg(s) per pound” in the manner prescribed by 102.5(c)(3) of this chapter, the blank to be filled in with the number which represents the whole egg content of the food expressed to the nearest one-fifth egg but not greater than the amount actually present. For purposes of this regulation, whole egg solids are the edible contents of eggs calculated on a moisture-free basis and exclusive of any nonegg solids which may be present in standardized and other commercial egg products. One medium-sized egg is equivalent to 0.41 ounce of whole egg solids.
[42 FR 14400, Mar. 15, 1977, as amended at 47 FR 11826, Mar. 19, 1982; 49 FR 10096, Mar. 19, 1984; 54 FR 24894, June 12, 1989; 63 FR 14035, Mar. 24, 1998]
Finally, don’t over-react if you take your loaf out of the oven and you see something like this on the side when you peel back the parchment:
No, that’s not a burn (unless you have the weirdest oven hotspot ever); that’s just a place where molten sugar seeped through the side of the bread. While you’ll need to be a little bit more aware of the risk of the sugar burning when toasting them, it’s totally edible and totally fine.
One last bit of housekeeping. Sorry for the intermittent original recipes lately–I’m moving at the end of the month and going to NYC for a bit soon, but in August things should be back to normal-ish!
From Yesterdish’s recipe box.
Yesterdish’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread
- 7 cups bread flour
- 5 tsp. yeast
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 cup raisins (or more) [consider much more–2-1/3 c.]
egg for glaze
[demerara or muscovado] sugar for crust and for loaf (1 cup)
[2 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste]
Mix everything except [raisins, vanilla bean paste] cinnamon, glaze and sugar–15 minutes with mixer.
Let rest for 40-45 minutes. Punch down.
Measure 50 oz. for a large Pullman loaf, 13x4x4.
Flatten dough–sprinkle with cinnamon, demerara sugar, raisins.
Roll tightly. Place in prepped loaf pan (parchment and spray). Rest 50 minutes.
Bake in preheated oven at 400 deg. for 20 minutes; internal temperature should be 200 deg.