Raisin Bread

Mar 18th, 2011 | By | Category: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Dough, Featured, Flour, Honey, Lent, Olive Oil, Recipes

The very first time I had raisin bread was back in 1974 – the summer of ’74 when I had just turned 7 years old and I embarked with my mom on my first trip to Greece. I was nervous and excited at the same time: it was my first time flying and that means there’s always fear of the unknown. I would be meeting grandparents that up to this point I had only seen in photos or heard of through storytelling from my mother. I would meet aunts, uncles but no cousins. From my mom’s side of the family…I am the oldest so all of my 1st cousins in Greece were born later that 1974. The extra attention as the lone grandchild/nephew was not something to harp about.

One morning, my Pappou (grandfather) asked me to go to the bakery and buy some raisin bread. He have me a fifty drachma note and reminded me that I should also be receiving some change with the bread. My grandparents ( lived in the Neapoli area of Thessaloniki) and off I went to the bakery and and I was easily distracted by the toy store that I passed on the way to the bakery. I stopped and noticed a display of toy soldiers in the store front. They were those small plastic ones and the box (if purchased) would contain an army of blue and red soldiers.

Back in 1974, Greece had just ousted a Junta-run government and in the summer of ’74, Greece was embroiled in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The mood between Turks & Greeks was not good and I was even dressed by one uncle in camouflage fatigues and plastic machine gun. I thought to myself, this toy set of plastic soldiers would be the perfect complement to my military attire and another outlet for me to play-out slaying “bad Turks”.

I reached into my pocket, told the shop-owner I wanted the toy soldiers and handed over the 50 Drachma note. The transaction was complete and I headed back to my grandparents’ home with toy soldiers in hand – but no raisin bread. Oooops! I could do no bad in the eyes of my grandparents but my mom was none too pleased. I remember feeling the wrath of the pantofla (the sharp sting of a slipper) and I followed instructions thoroughly when sent on future errands.

My grandfather went to the bakery and bought the raisin bread that I was supposed to buy. I had it for breakfast, still warm from the bakery and unsalted butter smeared on the slices. I loved that rustic bakery-style bread and it’s been a fave of mine ever since. Back here in Canada (and likely where you live), one can easily find loaves of raisin bread that resemble slice bread with raisins in them. If that’s what you’re looking for here – sorry.

This raisin bread recipe pays homage to that raisin bread I had in Greece (Thessaloniki) back in ’74 with a nice crust, soft inside with some good chew. What you have here is a riff on your usual crusty bread one buys from a good bakery or…if you’re like me – you bake your own. There’s a few departures here: the first and obvious one being the inclusion of raisins….lots of raisins. Second, the bread has to be a little sweet and being a Greek guy, I chose honey rather than sugar to make this bread as wholesome as possible. The final ingredient I’ve added is milk powder, something many of us can buy at the supermarket or bulk stores.

The milk powder’s function is to help impart a sweeter flavour to the bread, a more tender crumb) and it helps the bread achieve the warm brown colour to the crust. Powdered milk is often used in bread recipes instead of milk so as it doesn’t interfere with the rising process of bread making. The end result was outstanding: a lovely aroma wafted out of my kitchen, the texture of the bread (tender crumb with good crust) was a delight and smearing unsalted butter on some lightly toasted raisin bread took me right back to Greece in 1974. Who woulda’ thunk that an oven could also double as a time machine?

For this Raisin Bread (Σταφιδόψωμο) recipe and more, please buy my Everything Mediterranean cookbook.

2 Tbsp. active dry yeast

3 1/2 cups tepid water

1/2 cup of honey

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. of coarse sea salt

3 Tbsp. of powdered milk

6 1/2 cups of unbleached (or all-purpose) flour

1 1/2 cups of dark raisins

cornmeal for crust and topping

  1. In a large bowl or plastic container,  add the tepid water, yeast and honey and stir and for the yeast to foam & activate for 10 minutes. Now add the salt, olive oil, milk powder and add in the flour – one cup at a time mixing with a large wooden spoon, your hands.
  2. At about the 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour stage, add your raisins into the dough while the dough mixture is still soft. Once the raisins have been mixed in, add the remaining flour and mix until well-incorporated (no dry patches of flour). If the dough mixture is too dry, add a bit of water, mix in. The dough should be smooth, not too tacky (sticky) or wet.
  3. Cover but leave the lid slightly ajar (allow gases to escape) and place and allow to rise for at least 6 hours (or overnight). You may also place in your fridge but allow the dough to come to room temperature (about 1 hour) before working with it.
  4. Your dough should at least double in size when ready. Empty your dough on a lightly floured work surface and cut the dough into three equal pieces. Ensure you have some flour on your hands and shape the dough into three loaf shapes. Sprinkle the tops of your loaves with flour and allow the dough to rise for an hour to 90 minutes.
  5. Place your pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and pre-heat to 425F.  Sprinkle cornmeal on your pizza peel/paddle and place one or two loaves on top (your bread should not stick anymore) and sprinkle tops of the bread with cormeal as well. Allow your oven to heat for another 20-30 minutes after it’s signaled that it’s reached 425F. Fill a baking tray with hot water from your tap and place on a rack set to the highest position in your oven.
  6. Slash the tops of your dough and slide into your oven and bake for 30 -35 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove the loaves and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Bake your next batch in the same fashion.

 

 

NOTE: If you want the same results with your bread, then use a pizza stone to bake the bread on and a pizza peel/paddle to form your bread and slide into the pre-heated oven. Go on splurge on these two items – a couple of the best investments in the kitchen.

* Omit milk powder and this raisin bread is Lent-friendly.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2011 Peter Minakis

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© 2011 – 2014, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

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29 Comments to “Raisin Bread”

  1. Simone says:

    O my god, those shots of the bread in the oven are just mouthwateringly beautiful Peter!! I have just this weekend been baking a lot of bread but not all as successfull unfortunately.. I am still learning! And posts like this give me more insights on how to go about it. Great idea actually to use a pizzastone for baking these types of bread.

  2. Ah, Peter, what a great story about you, a 50 drahchma note, toys and the Junta. I wish I met my pappou – he died a few months after I was born and everyone says we are the same person – especially when I go back to Greece and talk to the remaining family from his generation. On a side note, love the raisin bread! Never made it before but I am very curious – I like the powdered like the powdered milk addition but it’s not lenten friendly, whomp whomp!

  3. bellini says:

    In 1974 I was in highschool and dreaming of trips to Greece. In 1977 I went on a trip to Eurpoe but sadly did not get to Greece until 30 years later. The only raisin bread I recall as a child is the exact storebought version you described. It was still a special treat but not memorable!

  4. Rosa says:

    What gorgeous loaves! They look so delicious.

    A nice story.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. Anna says:

    Lovely post!
    Indeed 1974…the year no Greek should forget.

  6. Anita says:

    I loved your story! We’ve all been under the wrath of the “pantofla” lol. Your raisin bread is screaming out to me, it’s a beautiful site from this side.

  7. Dragon says:

    Did you get to keep the toy soldier? I love raisin bread with a crusty outside and a chewy inside…these sound perfect and the photos are pure beauty. Well done. :)

  8. ειρήνη says:

    it’s a great bread for breakfast!

  9. Peter – That story is just precious and makes reading your blog so much more interesting than just seeing a recipe. I would never have figured raisin bread as a Greek thing but shows you how much I know. By the way, I realized after reading the Greek word for slipper – Pantofla, that the Italian – pantofola – is nearly the same. More people here are probably familiar with ciabatta which also means slipper in Italian.

  10. ELENA says:

    Πήτερ απόλαυσα την ιστορία με τα στρατιωτάκια:)
    Το σταδιδόψωμό σου λαχταριστό!!
    Φιλιά, καλή βδομάδα εύχομαι!!

  11. Laury Bakie says:

    Hello Peter…….

    I am now giving you a “Standing Ovation.” Bravo ! What a lovely story you told with this recipe. I enjoyed reading this so, so much and the photos are spectacular. Thank you for bringing a big smile to many faces with this…..

    All the best,
    Laury

  12. Pete, those artisan raisin loaves are to die for! They are the best raisin bread I have ever seen! Excellent!

  13. Joan Nova says:

    My mouth literally watered when I saw that photo! Love that it is so rustic — not the usual sliced, packaged variety you see in supermarkets.

    Really nice post with your childhood recollection. So, it’s fair to conclude…you were always a bad boy?!

  14. Jan says:

    Toy soldiers – bless you! Such a sweet story. LOVE your raisin bread – Mmmm yum!
    Ps: When I was a kid I saw baby chickens for sale in the pet shop (years ago they sold puppy dogs and everything in pet shops – glad it’s not like that anymore)……….
    Anyway I had £1 in my pocket and so I bought 2 chickens as they were 50p each. Then I had to walk the streets for ages not wanting to go home as my dad would go mad at me! But when he saw them he soon forgave me :) ……..Daddies girl I know lol

  15. Steve says:

    Beautiful bread and beautiful photography, and an old penintariko! Popo, I have many years to look a such!

  16. What a wonderful story, love it. Your photos are amazing. The thick cut piece with the crusty outta and soft inner, delish. Wonder if I’ve enough time to whip up a batch before work today?

  17. The bread looks outstanding but it was your story that rang true with me. I recently made some raisin bread that was my Grandmother’s inclusion in a church cookbook probably 90 years ago if not more. Making that bread wasn’t about bread, it was all about her and the wonderful memories that the process brought back to my mind of spending time baking with her. You were a brave boy…if I had done what you did? Ouch. That’s all I’m saying.

  18. I am making this bread! It looks too good to pass up. Loved the story too, and the pantufla thrown! haha! in French it is “pantoufle”. I guess in those days parents were not worried about being accused of child abuse! Of course a 7 year old kid is going to buy a toy not bread, when given money! Did you give them change back? anyway, great story

  19. Cathy says:

    Poly oraia historia kai fotos pou ………kai emena mou trexoun ta salia!! I think I can feel the crunchy sound of it and the sweet taste of the raisins……MIAM!

  20. Antonia says:

    Love the story about the toy soldiers! I also love raisin bread but have to confess that I’m a cheat and use my breadmaker. Like the idea of using honey rather than sugar to sweeten – might try that in future. I also add a little cinnamon to mine. The crust looks great on your loaves there – I can almost hear the sound of it breaking as you tear through it!

  21. The wrath of the “pantofla”!…LOL! I laughed so much! But I have to say the raisin bread looks glorious Peter. So plump and rustic…and thanks for the tips regarding powdered milk.

  22. Jamie says:

    Okay, first: WHAT??? I am older than you are? Oh no! Second: Adorable story! I am just picturing you buying those soldiers, you naughty boy! Three: gorgeous raisin bread (which I so love) and am bookmarking this fabulous recipe! Thanks, Peter!

  23. Beautiful loaf Peter! I bet your house smelled amazing!

  24. kiki says:

    Δείχνει ελκυστικότατο Πήτερ!

  25. Looks very appetizing! I loved both the photos AND the memories…!

  26. Laura says:

    That is gorgeous and I love the story too. I love food which has wonderful family or friend memories.

  27. Maureen says:

    I looked at those photos and closed my eyes and I swear I can smell that bread. I’ve got to make this bread tomorrow. Not enough today left to do it now. :)

  28. Andrea says:

    Making this right now….can’t wait to taste it….6 hours is a long time to wait!! :(

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