Nowadays, I can't get enough of this little bursts of tart sweetness. Right now, I have some currants, sultanas and raisins slowly sozzling in an apple brandy and cointreau bath, langurously waiting to be stirred in a christmas pudding in a few days.
Dried fruit is great for people watching their sugar intake as it provides a desirable level of sweetness to cookies or baked goods that you would seek in a bar of chocolate otherwise. Sure, they still have sugar but they are (fairly) unrefined. And I don't mean that in an anti-Coco Chanel type way.
So. Rewind to Christmas 2011. Paul has bought me a breadmachine. So we just go crazy making bread. Some work, some don't.
And then the machine stops being used as post-Christmas realities hit. It sits there, gathering a little bit of dust, waiting patiently. Maybe it feels a touch of panic when the big news hits the kitchen gadgets that we've just become vegan omg.
Don't you worry, breadmachine. For whilst eggs, milk and butter will no longer grace your breadpan interior, ground flaxseed will make it's glorious first appearance, replacing the sticky egg binder. Soya or Nut Milks will replace cows milk and my favourite spread, Pure, will replace butter. And to great success might I add.
I refuse to give up my non-vegan cookbooks. Particularly the baking ones. I used to adore baking and now being a vegan has rekindled that love of creating something homely, comforting and maybe a little bit wonderful, just from flour, fat and milk. And a few other bits and bobs.
So, time to dust off the breadmaker and my copy of Judith Fertig's Artisan Bread Machine cookbook. 250 amazing recipes that seem easy to veganise. We started with - what else? - The Miller's Cinnamon and Raisin Bread.
The only unusual ingredient in many of Fertig's recipes, is Vital Wheat Gluten. I had never even heard of VWG until I became a vegan. It is what makes chewy meat substitute seiten. It is also improves and texture and rise of your loaf. I have had to source VWG online but the recipes use only a few teaspoons at a time so a bag lasts forever.
The first time I made this recipe, I misread it and added FOUR TABLESPOONS of VWG instead of TWO TEASPOONS. I also forgot the salt. I have no idea how this happened. However, the bread turned out almost perfectly! The second night, I used the exact recipe (using flaxseed instead of egg) and the loaf was heavy, under-risen and had a strange burnt taste.
So, combining the first two night's experimentation, I adjusted the salt and the VWG to produce a pretty great Cinnamon Raisin Bread!!
Here's our recipe, based on Judith Fertig's:
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes 1lb Loaf
3/4 cup Non-Dairy Milk (I used Soy)
1.5 Tbsp Pure Spread (or equivalent vegan butter substitute)
2 Tbsp Soft Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed whisked up 6 Tbsp Water
2 Cups Plain (all-purpose) Flour
2.5 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
4 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 sachet Instant Yeast
1/2 Cups Raisins or Currants, soaked in Earl Grey Tea or other aromatic tea
In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the sugar and Pure until bubbles start to appear at the side of the pan and the milk starts to steam a little. Pour into the breadmachine pan and, using a milk thermometer, let it cool to between 30-35c.
Once cooled to lukewarm, add the salt and mixed flaxseed.
Spoon the flour on top, followed by the wheat gluten, cinnamon and yeast.
Add the drained raisins/currants to the dispenser.
Set to Basic/White cycle with medium crust. My machine has a Basic Raisin Loaf setting.
Remove from the machine as soon as the cycle is finished and leave to cool (if you can manage it!). Serve toasted with vegan butter!!