In pursuit of the best raisin bread ever

(Photos from a cell phone camera.)

Last weekend, CR offered Saturday breakfast out in the world, and I sleepily pulled myself together, thinking we were going to the usual spot, The Egg and I, which is not far away.   Instead, he steered toward the highway and when I asked where we were going, gave me his mysterious little smile and said, “You’ll see.”

The MIP* features breakfasts and one of the things I’ve been in pursuit of is the perfect Cinnamon Raisin Bread.  Since I’ve been baking many loaves to find that perfect blend, he knew what was going on, and in his usual brilliantly supportive way, took me to breakfast in a place he knew had not only exquisite cinnamon raisin bread, but also cinnamon raisin bread French toast, made with slices a solid inch and a half thick.   Fantastic.

The café is The Pantry in Green Mountain Falls, which is a spit of a little town slapped down in a valley on the way up Ute Pass between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park.  It’s picturesque and quaint, with a pond and a gazebo, and trailheads close by.  There are weddings in the gazebo, and the café is madly popular.  We were there very early, so made it in ahead of the crowds, but even still there were runners in GoreTex and tights, hikers in khakis and fleece and baseball hats, a quadrant of old men who seemed as if they’d been meeting there for fifty years.

Although I was desperately tempted by the cinnmon roll French toast (the house specialty: secret recipe cinnamon rolls split, battered and grilled, served with a heap of others things, like eggs and potatoes and bacon), I stuck with the plan.  I didn’t have my big camera, so these are cell phone shots, but you get the idea.  Delicious!  I asked the waitress if the bread was a secret recipe, and she gave me a smile.  “Of course.”

Of course.  So I couldn’t have that recipe, but sampling it brought me closer to perfection. The cinnamon is mixed through the bread, and there are lots and lots and lots of raisins (which was my impulse, and I kept pulling back), and the slices are very thick.  The beauty is that there is so much flavor in the resulting French toast that you don’t need any syrup.  A dusting of powdered sugar is exactly right.   Mmmm.

If I were not a writer, that café would be my ideal life.  It would be a blast.

Here’s the question of the day:  who has absolutely brilliant recipes for cinnamon raisin bread?  Or a genuinely stunning French toast batter?

* Manuscript In Progress, or sometimes Mess In Progress and even (rarely, and only for brief, tragic seconds) Masterpiece In Progress

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7 thoughts on “In pursuit of the best raisin bread ever

  1. Yvonne Erwin

    How funny is this, and I am hurrying because my computer has kicked me off now seven times and so I may not make much sense and I certainly won’t spell right BUT, I gotcha covered.

    What is so funny is that the other day, I said to my younger son, “you know what I haven’t made in a long time? Cinnamon french toast.” And so this post brought a grin to my face.

    I’m sending this before I get kicked off again. If you want the recipe, I’ll get it to you, one way or the other. Rotten dial up.

  2. I don’t have any stunning raisin bread recipes to share, but I will share a potential tip! I’ve found, when making oatmeal cookies w/ raisins, that choosing the baker’s raisins really makes a difference. Those raisins are fatter, more delicious, than regular old raisins. I’ve also tried and enjoyed mixed raisins–white, red, purple. I hope you find that perfect recipe, Barbara. And then, I hope you share it with us. :-)

  3. Sharon Kay

    No recipe for cinnamon raisin bread but you did cause me to remember my favorite resturant in Oklahoma City (and Tulsa I found out accidently). JIMMY’S EGG Has the wonderful whole wheat raisin bread that they grill on the flat top and 100+ omelets.

  4. Droolworthy! That sounded so delicious and I can relate the lure of wanting to run a cafe. I love the sound of The Egg and I – what a beautiful name. We need some bakers on here to give us the recipies!
    I do think these look like fun though, even though they’re hotcakes and not bread, it’s still breakfasty.
    http://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/applemaple_buttermilk_hotcakes.htm

  5. Please share recipes, everyone, and stay posted, because I’ll be asking for more. If I use something you gave me, I’ll definitely give you credit in the acknowledgments of the book.

    Yvonne, please do share your recipe! And Teri, that’s a great idea to use mixed raisins. My grandmother and mother also used to soak the raisins for cookies an a mix of eggs and vanilla. Might try some version of that.

    Jimmy’s Egg sounds great, exactly like the restaurant in my imagination!

    Thanks for the link, Robyn. Yum!

  6. Yvonne Erwin

    I’m back.

    I wish I could say this is my own recipe but it isn’t. I found it in a magazine when my boys were little and I’ve been making it since.

    Here is the egg bath:

    4 large eggs
    1 cup milk
    1/2 teas. cinnamon

    Bread:

    1 1/2 cups milk
    1/4 honey
    1/2 cup butter
    2 packages dry yeast
    1/2 cup warm water
    2 large eggs
    3 cups unsifted whole wheat flour
    1 1/2 teas. cinnamon
    1 teas. salt
    3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    2 cups dark seedless raisins (soaking will plump them up)
    1 large egg white
    2 TBSP water

    In a saucepan, combine the milk and honey, heat until bubbles form around the side of the pan and then remove from heat. Stir in butter. Cool until warm.

    In large bowl (heavy-duty mixer), sprinkle yeast over warm water, stir and set aside to soften, about five minutes.

    Add the milk mixture and eggs to the yeast mixture; beat on low speed until well mixed. Add whole-wheat flour, cinnamon and salt; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. With the mixer’s dough hook (I use my hands), knead the dough, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary to make a manageable dough, until it is smooth and elastic, about five minutes.

    Lightly oil large bowl. Shape dough into ball and place in bowl, turning to oil the whole surface. Cover with cloth and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes.

    Punch down the dough. Knead in raisins. Return dough to the bowl, cover again and let rise about 45 minutes, until double in size.

    Grease two bread pans. Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured surface and cut in half. Shape each into ball and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each into a loaf and place in pan. Cover again, let rise for 35-45 minutes.

    Heat oven to 375°. Combine egg white and water, brush over loaves and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool.

    When you are ready to make french toast, slice your loaf into 10 thick slices. Make your egg bath in a shallow pan, melt butter in a skillet. Dip bread pieces, one at a time, and coat evenly. Cook in skillet until brown. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven on low until all bread slices have been cooked. Serve with confectioner’s sugar, butter and maple syrup.

    Enjoy!

  7. Yvonne Erwin

    Hey Barb,

    I’m thinking back, and I don’t know that it matters to your MIP but, I thought I’d share with you the memory of my own two white-blond headed boys, sitting erect, expectantly, at the table, blue eyes so blue and so happy, comfortable even, waiting with their forks in hand, for cinnamon raisin french toast. The bright light in their eyes said it all.

    I am so happy to have raised boys into men that not only love me but respect me. You may not know this but I raised them primarily alone and, while when they were little, I did not particularly care to win any kind of popularity contest, I wanted them to understand the way the world works. I have to say now that I am very happy and pleased that we are the best kind of friends – I’m still the parent but they are now adults and so much more interesting than when they were children! Their opinions, their points of view on the world, their knowledge of FOOD. Both of them have opinions on food, hey now, that is a good thing, in my book. My oldest, Michael, even cooks on ocassion. He’s not bad.

    Back to my earlier paragraph – Those are some of my best memories. We’ve always congregated in the kitchen, me and my boys, for any reason at all. Well, that is where I was a lot of the time so it made sense. But, there is also such an earthiness, such a sense of love and warmth that comes from a kitchen, and early on, I tried to ensure that my sons felt that connection. I’ve always wanted them so feel the comfort that comes from hearth, home hearth. That spells kitchen to me, the smells, the expectation from whatever is cooking, it’s all within that one word – hearth. To me, it just spells comfort, a balm from the world outside the door and so, I’ve really worked on sharing that with my sons. There are so many memories down through the years, so many conversations, so many revelations, that I just could not tell them all, but I thought I would share that sense of home and hearth with you.

    So. I hope that you’ve gained something from this feeble posting. Just wanted to share this with you and whatever you do with it, it’s yours.

    Talk to you later.

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