Wow. I am so happy with how this bread turned out that I can confidently say it is one of the best yeast breads I've made so far. The taste is phenomenal (although I am biased towards cinnamon-y raisin-y things) and bread itself is thick, chewy and not at all dry. Furthermore, this was one of the best bread doughs I've worked with. It didn't stick to the countertop or my hands AT ALL so there was no need to keep adding excess flour.
I really don't think I have any complaints to make here. Although it was a bit difficult for me to knead in the raisins and the walnuts, I think it's generally just a difficult thing to do by hand. After some trial and error, I found the "spread and roll" method to work best: I would spread a layer of raisins (or walnuts) across the flattened dough and then roll the dough up into a log and repeat as many times as necessary until everything was incorporated.
Another great thing is that I think this is a wonderful base recipe. What I mean by that is that I think you could eliminate the cinnamon, raisins and walnuts all together and have a great tasting whole wheat bread. You could also use different nuts, seeds and spices in place of the walnuts, raisins and cinnamon. And, on top of all that, it was super easy and not too time consuming to make (as far as bread goes). Right now I'm imagining using it to make some decadent french toast or even... bread pudding!? This one is definitely a keeper.
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
Adapted from ZestyCook
*One of the things that wasn't in the original recipe that you should be sure to do is soak the raisins (or any dried fruit) in warm water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the dough. Doing this plumps them up and prevents them from hardening or drying out when the bread is baked. To see the original click on the ZestyCook link. As always, my changes are incorporated into the recipe below.
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup raisins, soaked
2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°), plus more for soaking raisins
2 Tbs. honey
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour [I used unbleached bread flour]
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped [I could take or leave these]
In a large mixing bowl, stir together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Add whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups of white flour (I used unbleached bread flour), cinnamon and salt. Stir until well combined. Add enough of remaining white flour until dough leaves sides of bowl (I added a scant 1/4 cup extra).
In a small bowl add raisins and enough warm water to cover and soak for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle flour on a flat dry surface. Turn dough onto the surface and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Don’t make the dough too dry. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover with damp cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet.
Punch dough down and turn on to floured surface. Knead raisins and walnuts into dough. Shape (round, long, square,) into 1 large loaf and place on prepared baking sheet [I made one small roll and put the rest into a loaf pan, but I think it would all fit in a pan]. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Using a spray bottle spray loaf with water (I didn't do this and it still turned out well). Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on rack before slicing.