Braided Raisin Bread

Braided Raisin Bread

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I love breads made of enriched dough. Unlike lean doughs which consist of flour, yeast and water, enriched doughs include fats (butter, eggs, milk) which results in soft bread with a tender crumb and a rich, buttery flavour. The addition of sugar also gives a subtle sweetness. Think of brioche, Hokkaido milk bread, hot cross buns, challah, coconut swirl buns, panettone (my absolute favourite!)…I’m drooling just thinking of all of these!

Braided Raisin Bread

I try to limit my breadmaking to just a handful of times a year, since freshly baked, ultra soft bread is my weakness! However, I’ve been here in Malaysia now for a few months, and since my mum loves freshly baked bread probably even more than me, I decided to make one of her favourites, raisin bread.

Braided Raisin Bread

I’ve made this bread many times, always using fresh yeast (I learned breadmaking using fresh yeast, so I’ve just always stuck with that), but since I’m not sure where I can find that here, I used active dry yeast this time. I think some people are of the opinion that fresh yeast makes bread taste better, but I don’t think there’s any difference, really. The bread turned out well and OMG, so tasty!

Braided Raisin Bread

Normally I like to use dark raisins, just because I think it looks nicer. But all we had were golden raisins, so that’s what I used. I’d wanted to top the bread with flaked almonds before baking, but I sprinkled black sesame seeds instead because once again, that’s what we had on hand. My mum had actually already toasted the sesame seeds, so it added a lovely nuttiness to the bread.

Of course, bread is always best enjoyed when it’s freshly made! If you can resist eating it all on the day that it’s made, make sure you let the bread cool down first before placing it in a breadbox or plastic storage bag. Ideally, it should be kept at room temperature (it can keep unrefrigerated for 3 to 5 days, depending on where you live). Since we’re in a hot and humid tropical country though, I’ve kept the leftover bread in the fridge. Before eating, we just cut a few slices and either toast or warm them up for 5 seconds in the microwave before slathering on the butter! It’s so addictive that we’ve been eating it for breakfast AND as an afternoon snack!

Braided Raisin Bread

Did you make this recipe?

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BRAIDED RAISIN BREAD

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

Bread:
300g bread flour (plus extra for kneading)
6g active dry yeast (or 12g fresh yeast)
90 ml lukewarm water
36g sugar
6g salt
2 egg yolks
90 ml whole milk, lukewarm
22g unsalted butter, room temperature
120g raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained and squeezed of excess water
handful of flaked almonds or toasted sesame seeds 

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

1. If using active dry yeast, you need to first activate the yeast. If you are using fresh yeast, you can skip to step 2.

To activate the dry yeast: First measure out the total amount of sugar needed in the recipe (36g) and set aside.  Place 90 ml water in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave about 20 seconds or until the water reaches 110-115F (43-46C). Take 1 teaspoon of the sugar that you set aside, and stir it into the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, then give it a quick stir. Cover the bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes. Bubbles will form on the surface of the yeast solution, and it should look foamy. This means the yeast is ready to use. If you don’t see any foam, either the water wasn’t the right temperature, or the yeast is expired and you need to get new yeast and repeat the process again.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add in:

If using active dry yeast: bread flour, remainder of the sugar, salt, 2 egg yolks, milk and yeast solution.

If using fresh yeast: bread flour, fresh yeast (broken up into smaller pieces), water, sugar, salt, 2 egg yolks and milk.

3. Mix the ingredients on low speed for about 4 minutes. A sticky dough will form. Periodically scrape the sides of the bowl with a plastic dough scraper or spatula, and continue kneading on medium speed for about 4 minutes. The dough will form into a ball but will still be sticky.

4. Add in the butter. Knead on medium speed for 3 minutes, then increase speed to high and knead for 5 minutes. Dough will be elastic and less sticky.

5. Add in raisins and knead just until they are uniformly mixed into the dough.

6. Flour your hands and gather the dough into a ball. If it’s too sticky, you may need to sprinkle a little more flour onto the surface. Place the dough into a large bowl (I just put it back into the mixer bowl). Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.

7. Punch the dough down and remove it to a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 6 roughly equal pieces (you can weigh them, if you want to be really precise). Dust the pieces with flour and shape them into balls. Let them rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

8. Flatten each ball of dough and, using both hands, roll each one on the work surface, into a long strand, about 1.5 ft (45 cm) in length. If they shrink, just let them rest a bit before continuing to roll them out.

9. Take 3 strands, press one end of each together and loosely braid them. Pinch and tuck the ends under and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the 3 remaining strands to make the second loaf. Place it on the baking sheet. Make sure to give the loaves enough room to expand for the 2nd proofing. (Tip: You can also do the braiding right on the baking sheet. It doesn’t leave you much room to manoeuvre, but it saves you the delicate task of having to transfer the braided loaves to the baking sheet.)

10. Place in a warm place to proof for about 1 hour.

11. When the proofing is almost done, preheat oven to 392F (200C) and prepare the egg wash by mixing together 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of milk.

12. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash all over the surface of the braids. Sprinkle with flaked almonds or toasted sesame seeds.

13. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the surface of the bread is medium brown.

14. Remove from oven and transfer the loaves onto a wire rack to cool before slicing.

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