Terri’s Whole Wheat Raisin Walnut Bread
by Erin Otto
Many years ago, way back when I just couldn’t seem to bake a decent loaf of bread, I had a friend who was particularly good at bread making. Terri and I used to go on nature hikes through the wooded trails of Wisconsin with our children and a big picnic lunch that we ate alongside the trail. Her kids’ lunches were made with this nice fluffy bread that she made entirely with whole wheat flour, while my kids ate the stiff, unappealing sandwiches I packed with the brick-like bread I had made. Thankfully, my kids were too small to know bread was supposed to be any different.
This raisin walnut bread was our favorite of three loaves Terri once shared with me, and this is her recipe. Because it rises in the pans right after it’s kneaded (without any initial rise), it’s a very quick bread to make, particularly when a tough machine like the Bosch does the kneading for you. You can knead it by hand, but the Bosch really makes the bread almost effortless to make, especially when you add the nuts and raisins. These can be difficult to incorporate by hand.
By the way, with some really good coaching from Terri (and also a book she recommended to me), I eventually did learn to make good whole wheat bread. Our little nine year old daughter, Megan, actually did most of the work on the loaves in these pictures.
3 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
2 tablespoons yeast
1/4 c. gluten
6 c. freshly ground Prairie Gold whole wheat flour
2 1/3 c. warm water (115 degrees)
1/2 c. rapadura, sucanat, or the sweetener of your choice
2 tablespoon butter, melted (cooled slightly)
2 cup raisins (I only used one cup this time, and I think you’ll agree from the pictures that it would be nicer with two cups.)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Measure the flour, salt, yeast, and gluten and mix to combine slightly.
Add the water, rapadura and butter to the dry mixture and mix everything together. If the dough seems too wet at first, it’s best to wait a while before you add more flour. Whole wheat flour soaks up water slower than white flour does, and if you wait, you may find you don’t need to add any flour at all.
Knead the dough for about 15-20 minutes by machine, longer by hand. It takes this long because of the added gluten, which needs extra time to develop.
Anytime you make bread, it’s wise to check for a gluten window to see if the gluten is fully developed and ready to rise, or if you need to keep kneading. You can see here that I stretched the dough between my fingers, and it tore instead of becoming nice and thin. So it’s not ready yet.
But after a few more minutes of kneading, the dough forms a thin, almost transparent “window” as I stretch it. This shows that it’s ready.
Add the walnuts and raisins at this point and mix them just enough to thoroughly combine them within the dough.
At this point, I give the dough a few kneading strokes by hand. The dough will transform from a messy blob…
…into a smooth ball with most of the walnuts and raisins tucked neatly inside.
Here you can divide the dough into six equal parts to make two braided loaves as we did, or to make cinnimon swirl raisin walnut bread, divide it in half, press the halves into rectangles, sprinkle with cinnamon, and roll them up jelly-roll style.
For each braid, take three sections of dough and form each piece into a “snake” a little bit longer than your bread pan. Braid the three “snakes” starting from the middle and working outwards.
Place each braid into well-buttered pans, cover the dough with plastic wrap and/or a moist towel, and place the loaves in a warm place to rise. The rising time is relatively short for these loaves, only about 30 minutes before they’re ready to bake.
Bake the loaves in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown. I brushed mine with butter when they came out of the oven to soften and shine the crust.
(See what I mean? I should have used 2 cups of raisins.)
Are you struggling to make a decent loaf of bread as I was? Or are you a seasoned baker? Feel free to share your questions or comments.