Raisin, Cinnamon, and Nut Bread

Raisin, Cinnamon, and Nut Bread

1/2 cup warm water (100 degrees to 115 degrees, approximately)

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon instant dry yeast

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 3/4 cups warm milk (heat in microwave)

5 to 6 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup raisins, soaked in brandy (I used white grape juice)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon cinnamon

freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

melted butter

In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the warm water, honey, and yeast; allow to proof. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk and butter, then add the proofed yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, start with 5 cups of flour (reserve the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour) and add the salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; whisk to combine. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture at a time, beating well with the paddle attachment after each addition. When the dough begins to stick to the paddle, change to the dough hook. Add the nuts and raisins (drain liquid from raisins before adding), and continue beating until the dough clings to the hook and starts to clean the bowl, adding the reserved flour a little at a time, if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until the dough is soft and elastic. The dough should spring back when lightly pressed with your finger. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl, turning the dough to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch the dough down and divide in half for 2 large loaves. (Or you can make 4 small loaves.) Place into two well greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until doubled, about one hour. Bake loaves in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Brush the loaves with melted butter when they are removed from the oven for a tender crust. Cool before slicing.