brown sugar raisin bread

I bake way more than I can eat. Okay, I lie. I COULD eat everything I baked but it would be baaaad. Like, I'd need my own zip code bad. I'm a Weight Watchers Lifetimer and bread is one thing I'm not willing to compromise on–in fact, I STARTED baking bread when I rejoined WW about 3 years ago–so instead, I follow the Points guidelines, eat reasonable amounts and enjoy the fruits of my labors immensely. Quality vs. quantity, my friends. Quality vs. quantity. All the rest I give away, mostly to my co-worker buddies. It's definitely an ego-puffer because they're a VERY appreciative audience. They pretty much snarf down whatever I give them but every once in a while they'll hint oh so subtly (as in hit-in-the-head-with-a-mallet subtle) for something specific. This was one of those times. Sweet attack! So on the spur of the moment, I decided I'd bake up a surprise as soon as I got home from work (bit of a glutton for punishment here, since I pulled my back on Sunday dragging a huge bag of potting mix and it really, really hurts. A lot. I'm either the nicest, most selfless person on the planet or an idiot. I'm leaning towards the latter.)

I chose a brown sugar raisin bread that I'd made a couple of times before. It wasn't too time consuming, which, considering I don't get home til 6:30, was a plus because it meant I wouldn't be heading to bed in the wee hours. And even better, rise times would be accelerated too, since it's on the warmish side these days. Major win.

Kudos to me! I actually mise en placed (Is that a word? Don't spit on me, French people!) everything first, something I'm really, really bad at. And I grabbed the Assistent instead of the Kitchen Aid, which came in handy since flour had to be added by half cups while the dough mixed. Try THAT in a KA without ending up in a flour cloud. (The Assistent is worth every penny and every second of the 10 months it took me to pay it off on Amazon. Thank you Amazon Store Card!) This is a smooth elastic dough, even with all of the raisins, and it mixed up beautifully and quickly. A little hand kneading at the end and into the proof bucket. It poofed up in about an hour, I patted it out–and I'm getting pretty good at eyeballing measurements because I got 'em spot-on at 8x12–sprinkled the sugar mix, rolled it up, and then it was off for a second rise. Another hour later, into the oven and VOILA! After 45 minutes, out came two beautiful loaves.

Of course, the big moment with any rolled, filled bread comes when you slice into it for the big reveal. Did you end up with a nice, tight roll or huge gaps that scream LOSER? I've had the gap issue before but a little Googling turned up a tip that told me the trick here is to roll more spirals. Okey dokey! So I tugged as I rolled, spiraled madly and crossed my fingers.

And how'd I do? Not bad! A couple of small gaps but none of those great gaping caverns you could house a family in. It's got just the right amount sweetness–nothing cloying–and the maple sugar I added put it over the top. Hope you enjoy, Work Buddies! (They did!)

You can find the recipe on Williams-Sonoma. (I subbed two tablespoons of maple sugar for white sugar in the dough and two more for the brown sugar in the filling. Oooh, maple…) It's a keeper.

P.S. See those perfectly uniform slices? Machine, you say? Nope, that's just lil' ole obsessive-compulsive me. Remember Phil Hartman's Saturday Night Live bit, "The Anal Retentive Chef?" Well, he ain't got nothin' on me. I'm one of those people who can't sleep at night if Mr. Shaggy Dough Story opens an aspirin bottle and doesn't pick off every molecule of the foil safety seal. Or tears open a bag leaving a ragged edge. OR CUTS BREAD SO THAT IT LOOKS LIKE IT'S BEEN RIPPED APART BY WOLVERINES. I just lose my tiny little mind. So I have to pre-slice my bread before I present it to people, because clearly, they can't be trusted to do it right. And if this is not enough to have me committed, my slices Must. Be. Perfect. So I bought myself this handy-dandy slicing guide and all is well with the world–I can breathe again, knowing that there will be no wonky slices to make my life miserable. AND STILL…for those really crusty breads, I've also got an electric bread knife. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I'm really edging closer and closer to the point of no return, aren't I?