Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sweetly Fragrant Sturdy Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread

Sometimes doing a end of year clear out of the bookcases brings a surprise. That's what happened to me. I found a small paperback by Peter Reinhart mixed in with the mysteries. In it I found what I think is the perfect March bread for gathering round our Bread Baking Babes kitchen table. Since I'm Kitchen of the Month, I'm inviting you, dear reader, to bake it too.

Peter Reinhart has been encouraging bread baking for a long time, especially slow food bread baking where the dough is given plenty of time to develop its flavor. When Struan bread was available commercially at the market in the 90s, I often bought it for making sandwiches. I loved the complex flavors and the substantial body of the bread, still rare at a time when most sandwich bread was soft and squishy. 

I have a copy of a book he wrote in 1994 called Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe - Recipes and Stories from Brother Juniper's Cafe'. In it he gives the recipe for his (at the time) all time favorite bread - Cinnamon Raisin Struan, which is a variation of Struan bread.

This is supposed to be a complex bread, consisting of lots of grains and ingredients. Brother Peter says, "Struan, incidentally, aside from being the name of a Scottish clan, also means "the convergence of two or more streams" which he feels is quite appropriate considering all the different convergences of ingredients. You will need to cook some brown rice ahead of time and allow it to cool to room temperature and be prepared to knead longer than usual. You might have to make a trip to the store for polenta, wheat bran and/or buttermilk, but most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.

This recipe makes a lot of bread - three 1 1/2 pound loaves. As long as you keep the ingredients in proportion, you can reduce the amounts of ingredients to make less.

In keeping with my no-dairy regime, I substituted a combination of soy milk and plain yogurt (which doesn't seem to bother me, probably because of being fermented) for the buttermilk. I also forgot all about doing oil and cinnamon sugar on the top of the loaf (probably because I was baking these well after dinner time and my brain turns off, mostly, after about 7 pm). I also divided the recipe in half and still made two smaller loaves. This bread is fragrant with the cinnamon...a full tablespoon per loaf!...and has a nice sturdy crumb and thin but delicious crust. One loaf received only cinnamon...I forgot all about the sugar...and the other loaf received some melted butter and brown sugar along with the cinnamon. Both were delicious in different ways.

Come on, become a Buddy! Bake this bread and then email me at plachman at sonic dot net, along with a photo of your bread and a short description of your baking experience. Get it to me by March 29th to be included in the round-up. Don't be surprised if this bread is gone in a flash. While it is baking in the oven the kitchen begins to smell like those cinnamon rolls at the mall and soon everyone wants a taste. Just let it cool a bit or you might get a burnt tongue from the hot sugar!

Be sure to visit the blogs of the other Bread Baking Babes, too, to see what they have done with the recipe. I'll do a post tomorrow with links if you don't have them already.

Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread
makes three 1 1/2 pound loaves
from Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe by Br Peter Reinhart

7 cups high-gluten bread flour
1/2 cup uncooked polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup wheat bran
4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons active dry yeast activated in 4 tablespoons lukewarm water
(alternately, use 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon instant yeast, mixed with the dry ingredients)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup buttermilk
About 1 1/2 cups water (be prepared to add more if needed)
3 cups raisins
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 2 parts granulated sugar)
4 tablespoons melted butter, margarine, or vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the salt and yeast (unless you are using active dry yeast, which should be activated in warm water and added with the wet ingredients.)

Add the cooked rice, honey, and buttermilk and mix together. Then add 1 cup of water, reserving the rest to add as needed. With your hands, squeeze the ingredient together until they make a ball. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the ball out of the bowl and begin kneading. Add small quantities of water as needed.

Because Struan has so many whole grains, it takes longer to knead than most breads. Allow at least 15 minutes, but be prepared to knead for 20. The dough will change before your eyes, lightening in color, becoming gradually more elastic and evenly grained. The finished dough should be tacky, not sticky, lightly golden, stretchy and elastic, rather than porridge-like. When you push the heels of your hands into the dough it should give way but not tear. If it flakes or crumbles, add a little more water.

When the dough seems ready, add the raisins and knead for 2 more minutes, until the raisins are evenly distributed. (I kneaded my raisins in after the first rise.)

Wash out the mixing bowl and dry it thoroughly. Put in the dough and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, or place the bowl inside a plastic bag. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it has roughly doubled in size. (Mine took longer...closer to two hours. Once I kneaded in the raisins, I put it in the fridge overnight for more flavor.)

Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces (or more if you want to make smaller loaves). With a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a rectangle. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sugar over the surface, spreading it evenly (used brown sugar and some melted butter on one loaf at this stage). From the bottom of the long side, roll up the dough into tight loaves, tucking and pinching the seams into one line on the bottom. Put the loaves, seam side down, in greased bread pans (for full-sized loaves your pan should be around 9 x 4 1/3 x 3 inches). Cover and allow the loaves to rise until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the loaves have risen, cresting over the tops of the pans, place on the center shelf and bake for about 45 minutes. The loaves should be nicely domed and dark gold. The bottom and sides should be a uniform light gold and there should be an audible, hollow  thwack when you tap the bottom of the loaf. If the loaves are not ready, remove them from the pans and place them back in the oven until done. They will bake quickly when removed from the pans.

When done, brush a little butter, margarine, or oil over the tops, then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar, coating each loaf with a layer of cinnamon crust. (Didn't do this part.)

Allow the breads to cool on wire racks for at least 40 minutes before slicing. This bread makes exceptional breakfast toast and French toast!


  1. Thanks for a wonderful recipe! I loved it. I've made four different versions of struan, and love them all. I love how Peter tweaks it every time.

  2. Anonymous12:32 PM

    I had the privilege of making struan with Peter at a Johnson & Wales University workshop last year. It was an amazing 1/2 day and the bread would be high on my list of best ever.

  3. Oh you used golden raisins too! Loved this loaf, making another batch of two today. :)

  4. Gorgeous loaf from a winning recipe.
    Perhaps if I ever get to unpack the boxes of cookbooks I'll find a long forgotten treasure like this!

  5. Golden raisins for me as well. Delicious!!

  6. I have always hated squishy bread - doesn't even make good toast. On the other hand - this looks fantastic. What a fun find in the bookshelves!

  7. Thank you for choosing this recipe. Struan is a winner for sure! I love the look of the golden raisins in your loaf.

  8. Thanks for a great recipe pick, Elle. Your loaf looks lovely. I used golden raisins too. :)

  9. wow picture perfect Elle! Love the slashes. My family loved this bread especially for toasting. I baked so early and nevertheless didnt manage to post in time. I'm on it!

  10. So glad you cleared out your bookshelf. This was a wonderful bread. I will probably be forced to go out and buy a third loaf pan.

  11. I'm finally going to make this (better late than never...) I've just cooked the brown rice and am reading the recipe. Wow that's a lot of yeast!

    But your bread looks gorgeous. I'm really looking forward to it and will try to get the post up before the end of March (eeeeek, I'd better get cracking!)

  12. You got me started in the direction of this fantastic Peter Reinhart's recipe in his new book, Bread Revolution. Love using buttermilk, cinnamon and raisins in making bread. Thanks for hosting this for the "buddies."