Yakityak's Sure-fire Raisin Walnut Wheat Bread

For breadmachines or Kitchenaid mixer

I could hardly rattle on about how to use a mixer instead of a breadmachine without giving out a decent recipe for reliable bread. I love this bread. Sure, I play around with other bread recipes... but I always find myself going back to this old standby... she never lets me down. I hope you have the same luck with it as I have. You can make this in any breadmachine that makes larger loaves (1.5 lbs, I think), and of course, you can do this in a standard Kitchenaid mixer. The fairly detailed instructions below are for the mixer and written for the novice baker - for the breadmachine, follow your manufacturer's recommendations.

1 pkg active dry yeast
2 & 1/4 cups white bread flour 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or rye flour if you choose, but it will not rise as well)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup lukewarm water

1. Proof the yeast. Not only does this give the yeast a head start, this allows you to check on the quality/viability of the yeast. To do this, warm the water so that it is a little warmer than lukewarm - too hot and you will kill the yeast. Add one of the 3 tsp sugar to the measuring cup and dissolve thoroughly. Add the entire packet of dry yeast. If the yeast is viable, the cup will become frothy after about 10 minutes.

2. Place all other dry ingredients into the Kitchenaid mixer bowl. Unlike the breadmachine, it is not necessary to reserve the raisins for the second kneading, since the kneading process is so brief. Using the dough hook, thoroughly combine all dry ingredients by turning on the mixer for a minute or so.

3. Turn off the mixer, and add all wet ingredients. Do not fret if there's some yeast left over in the measuring cup - you've given it a head start, so whatever is left behind in the cup will be negligible in the long run. If it makes you feel better, pour additional water into the cup first if it is necessary to add to the dough.

4. Start the mixer on low, and then move the speed up to two. (If you have a mixer pouring shield it can be useful for the first 30 seconds or so to keep the flour from poofing up.) Once the dough is combined as much as it is able, you can judge whether or not you need to add more water or flour. If it comes together very quickly and is quite sticky to the touch, add more flour (by the tablespoonful) until the dough is smooth and elastic but still stays together. Conversely, if the dough ball does not stick together or you simply cannot get all the flour to combine, add more water by the tablespoonful. One way to facilitate integration in this case is to take the dough ball and mash the left-over flour into it before turning the mixer back on. Be sure to allow the dough hook to completely integrate your new additions before adding in another dollop - it can take longer than you think and it pays to be patient.

5. You are now ready for the first rising. If you are not going to use your mixer for anything else, you can let the dough rise in the bowl. Otherwise, dump it into a non-stick or lightly oiled breadpan. Allow the dough to approximately double in size (usually an hour) in a warm and slightly humid place. I find that an oven that has been turned on briefly and then shut off again is ideal, and I place a bowl of water in next to the breadpan/mixer bowl. Do not be overly concerned about the exact amount of rising you get out of this first stint - it is important, but not nearly as critical as the 2nd rising.

6. You are now ready for the 2nd kneading. Place the dough back in the mixer bowl. Using the dough hook, punch down and knead the dough by setting the mixer on speed 2 for 2 minutes.

7. You are now ready for the final rising. I use a large size breadpan for one loaf. If you want a pretty loaf, stretch the dough out as a thick gloppy sheet so that it is 2 times the length of the breadpan you will be using in one direction, and so the width is the same as the length of the breadpan in the other. Roll the dough up in a tube lengthwise so that it fits neatly in the pan. (If this confuses you, don't worry about it - it's not necessary to do this. You can just dump the dough down in the pan and mush it out so it's roughly the same dimension from one end to the other and be done with it.)

8. Place the pan back in your chosen rising spot. Allow the dough to rise until it is at least doubled in size - usually an hour. The dough usually rises just above the top of the pan.

9. Time to bake the loaf. REMOVE THE BOWL OF WATER. Set the oven to 350 F. Bake for 30 minutes at least - do not disturb the loaf by opening the oven once it starts baking - you can wind up with a collapsed loaf that way. Check after 30 minutes - the loaf should be a nice brown... if necessary continue baking until it browns a little.

10. Remove the loaf from the oven and take it out of the pan immediately. If you have a baking rack, great... let it cool on that. Otherwise, put the loaf in a place where the dog can't get it and it will have decent air circulation for a good 10 minutes, minimum. You're done!

For the record, it is ideal to take the risen dough and put it directly into an oven that is at temp... 350 degrees. If you only have one oven and you do your rising in the oven, this isn't possible. This recipe is fairly forgiving... the loaf should not collapse if it is brought up to temperature slowly, although not all bread recipes do well this way. Also, convection ovens cook/bake differently than conventional ovens. If you have a convection oven, adjust the temperature and baking time as needed.

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