We’re crust people. It’s just part of who we are. My dad and I share a common understanding about the complexities and deliciousness of the perfect crust. My mom isn’t as discerning, which is totally fine. Sometimes life is simpler when you’re not so particular.
I adore crusts of all textures, shapes, and sizes that come from all types of bread. I love it plain, dipped in good olive oil, or smothered with butter. For us, the crust is arguably the best part of the bread. We enjoy making bread of all varieties, from super crunchy yeast breads in Dutch ovens to beautifully braided challah to sweet zucchini loaves. Each type is delicious in its own special way and boasts a distinct texture of crust.
Here, I want to share my favorite bread in the whole world with you – our sweet raisin bread. When this bread comes out of the oven, the smell is nothing less than heavenly. It will toy with your emotions. Those 15 minutes you must wait while it cools on the drying rack are agonizing. But once you get past that stressful period, I think you’ll realize that it was well worth the wait. The inside of the bread remains buttery and sweet, dotted with raisins. The crust is perfect and crunchy on the sides and slightly softer on its rounded top.
This recipe originates from my aunt’s mother-in-law, but dad has become the main baker of this beauty over the years. For every family holiday meal, it is an unspoken requirement that my dad supply this sweet, soft bread. (We wouldn’t dare show up to my aunt’s house without it. I’d fear a riot.) When serving guests, we try to cut it into normal person sized pieces, but I promise that you can’t stop at just one. So, when I’m alone, there is no need to bother being reasonable. I cut a GIANT piece (and still go back for another half piece). I slather it with butter and demolish every bite. If you still have leftovers after a few days, this bread loves to be transformed into French toast.
Even though my dad and I share this love for crust, I have gone to more extreme measures to maximize my crust intake. Many years ago, I remember one particular evening when a fresh loaf of this very bread had just come out of the oven. (I should preface this story by saying that sometimes, I can be a little impatient. But seriously, after waiting for this baby for 3.5 hours in the bread machine, a girl wants some bread! And this bread is at the peak of perfection when it is warm and fresh.) I ate a slice of the bread but still longed for more crust. So, I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I proceeded to slice off ALL of the crusty sides, leaving a naked, crust-less loaf on the cutting board. (OK, I probably only cut off one more edge of the loaf, but my memory and subsequent retellings have generated some embellishment.) Well, let’s just say that my dad wasn’t thrilled. I pretty much mutilated his bread. But it was totally worth it. No regrets. I wouldn’t dare do it again though.
These days, when this sweet raisin bread comes out of the oven, my dad jokes with me that I better not hack up the beautiful, unscathed loaf. More importantly, he now saves the first end slice for me so that I always get my dose of crust love.
Mrs. V’s Sweet Raisin Bread
2 lb bread machine recipe
- 1 1/4 cups milk (2% or whole)
- 4 oz butter, room temperature, sliced into about 6-8 pieces
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 3/4 cup raisins
Place the milk and sliced up butter into a glass measuring cup and microwave for about 1 minute so that the butter is just melted. Add to the bread machine. Mix the eggs in the same glass measuring cup and add them along with the next 5 ingredients. Now, start up your bread machine! In my Breadman Pro, I use the #1 white bread setting, dark crust and 2 lb settings.
After several minutes of mixing, scrape down the sides of the bread machine bowl. If you are used to looking at normal bread, this bread will be very soft. You may have to add a tablespoon or two of flour if the mixture looks more like a liquid and does not hold its shape. The mixture should remain softer than normal bread, however, so don’t add too much additional flour. Add the raisins when the machine beeps.
When the bread is done, remove the pan from the machine and let the whole thing rest on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes to let the loaf set, as it will be very soft. Then, use a soft plastic scraper/icing spreader and run it down the sides of the pan to loosen the loaf from the pan. Now, you can remove the loaf and place on a cooling rack to cool further.
Now is the hard part. Since the loaf is very soft, you need to wait about 10 to 15 minutes before cutting it with a serrated knife. Some of us like it plain and some like to add a little butter. Hope you love it:)