Let me tell you, this bread made for some mighty fine french toast. And a great after-school snack still warm from the oven the day before too. It did take a bit of planning to pull off the timing just right. But when the bread itself is so easy to pull together, I don't mind sacrificing a bit of time waiting around for it to be ready to use. It's so worth the wait...
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
This is a basic buttermilk sandwich bread adapted to make my ideal cinnamon raisin bread. I added some cinnamon to the dough itself so that even if I wasn't biting into the beautiful swirl, I was still getting a bit of the cinnamon flavor. I liked the raisins very much when snacking on the bread, but I might leave them out the next time I make the bread with the intention to use it for french toast- they did have a tendency to burn on the griddle. You can leave them in or take them out as you desire.
For the bread:
1/2 cup buttermilk (I let mine sit a bit to come to room temperature)
1 cup warm water
1 packet yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
In a large bowl or lidded food storage container (I have a dedicated large "take and toss" food storage container that I use for my bread making), mix together the buttermilk, water, yeast, salt and honey just until the honey dissolves. Slowly mix in the flour and cinnamon until they are fully incorporated. Put the lid on your container with one corner slightly loose or cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough raise on your counter top for 2 hours. At this point, you can use the dough or you can refrigerate it for use another day. I found it easier to work with a chilled dough in this case, so I refrigerated it overnight.
When you're ready to make the bread, generously butter an 8 inch loaf pan. I suggest using non-stick or stoneware for extra non-stickiness, any oozing brown sugar filling will tend to want to stay put in the pan. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a rough rectangle about 10 x 12 inches. If the dough springs back and will not roll out easily, let it sit for about 5 minutes to relax, and then try again. Once the dough is rolled out, sprinkle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the entire surface. Keep a couple of tablespoons for sprinkling over the top of the dough. If using raisins, scatter them over the top. Starting with one of the short sides, roll the dough into a log and pinch the seams shut. You'll need to tuck the ends under to fit the dough into the bread pan.
If you are using the dough straight from the first rising, let it sit in the loaf pan on the counter for about a half hour. It will rise slightly in this time, but not as much as a regular bread dough. A dough that has been refrigerated will need more time on the counter, close to an hour or until it no longer feels chilly, for it to be ready to bake. When ready, brush the top of the dough with a tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped on the top.
Cool the bread for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove it and cool on it's side completely. Slice when cooled and serve for snacking, toast and serve with butter, or use for french toast.