I don't know if I should be proud or ashamed to admit this, but my favorite raisin bread would have to be the Sunmaid brand raisin bread, the one in the "not-so-pretty" red packaging. The loaf has a cinnamon swirl that has just the right amount of cinnamon. I love that it's a mini-loaf so the slices are cutely petite.
When I was much younger, I used to spend loads of time at our neighbor's house. My brother and I called her Auntie Kay, though she was in no way related to us. She was definitely an aunt to us, if not more. I think we used to spend a lot of our free time with her. She looked after sick and injured birds for the SPCA in her home, so we'd help her out, inside in the "bird room," or outside in the garden, catching worms for her to feed to the birds she was caring for. Auntie Kay had a heart of gold; she would do anything for the animals and birds she cared for, and so we helped her (or at least kept her company while she tended to them all). It's kind of funny that, years later, I don't think I'd ever even consider entering a room full of birds (I'm just not a fan), and I'm not sure if I'd be able to dig around the dirt to catch a worm.
I have fond memories of Auntie Kay toasting slices of Sunmaid raisin bread, and serving them to us loaded with salted butter that soaked through the hot slices. We'd devour the little slices of toast with cocoa or tea (if I'm remembering correctly). The raisin bread was a wonderful treat.
It's been kind of fall-like out, and I have been craving that raisin bread. It's going to rain for the next 5 days. The weather is ridiculously depressing. I decided to counter the gloominess with some cinnamon raisin buns. These buns certainly did brighten my week-end, and I am almost positive that it wasn't just a rum-induced glow from the spiked cream cheese icing.
The dough (based on this recipe) can be left in the fridge overnight to rise slowly, but this time I needed quasi-instant gratification, so I let the dough rise in the protected space of my oven with just the oven light on. This takes just under a couple hours and works like a charm. Of course, my recipe makes about three dozen buns, so once I had rolled out and cut them all, I baked one dozen right away for myself, then the second dozen, I left in the fridge overnight and baked them the next day, and the third dozen, I froze for later. Please note that if you refrigerate a batch overnight (or freeze a batch), make sure that you let them come to room temperature before baking them so that they poof up nicely when you eventually stick them in the oven. If the buns aren't room temperature when you begin to bake them, they won't bake up as fluffy. They'll still be tasty, but not as soft and light.
Cinnamon raisin buns
Yields about 3 dozen buns
- 240 grams sultana raisins
- 60 mL spiced rum (1/4 cup)
- 4 tsp instant yeast
- 2 cups warm milk (~105°F)
- 57 grams unsalted butter, room temperature (1/4 cup or 1/2 stick)
- 115 grams granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 tsp salt
- 800 grams all-purpose flour, divided
- 113 grams unsalted butter, melted (1/2 cup or 1 stick)
- 120 grams dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 85 grams cream cheese, room temperature
- 35 grams powdered sugar
- 45 mL (3 tbsp) skim milk
- 15–30 mL (1–2 tbsp) spiced rum
- In a small bowl, mix the raisins with the rum. Let soak over night (if you forget to do this, just microwave the rum and raisins to coax the raisins into absorbing the some of the booze).
- In a medium bowl, combine the yeast and warm milk. Set aside to get all bubbly while you measure out the rest of the ingredients (about 10 minutes).
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and egg for one minute.
- Add the bubbly yeast mixture to the creamed butter mixture. Mix for one more minute.
- Strain the raisins and add them to the mixer. Mix again for 30 seconds.
- Begin to add three quarters of the flour. Add the salt. Mix for a minute or so until the dough mostly comes together, then remove the paddle attachment and switch it for the dough hook.
- Knead the dough on medium-low for about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and feel the dough. If it is very sticky, you will need to add more flour until you get a dough that is just tacky. Continue to add the remaining flour a couple tablespoons at a time, until the dough is tacky, not sticky. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle a little water over and knead it a little more. Overall, you will want to have needed the dough for about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Grease the top of the dough, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Mark the level the dough is at on the bowl so that you will know when it is doubled in size.
- Place the dough either in the fridge to rise slowly overnight, or in the oven, with just the oven light on.
- When the dough is almost doubled, prepare the filling components by melting the butter in a small bowl in the microwave, and in another small bowl, mix the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Set these aside.
- When the dough has doubled, remove it from the oven (or fridge, in this case you should let it warm up to room temperature!) and punch it down.
- Divide the dough into three parts.
- Roll each piece out to a rectangle of about 16x10 inches.
- Brush each rectangle with one third of the melted butter. Be sure to leave a small one-inch border all the way around the rectangle.
- Sprinkle each with one third of the cinnamon sugar. Be sure to leave a small one-inch border all the way around the rectangle.
- Roll the rectangle to get a 16-inch long roll. Trim the ends, and slice into 11 or 12 buns (slice every 1.5-inches or so).
- Place each batch of buns into a greased 9-inch cake round, spacing them out evenly. Cover and let them rise again for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool.
- Prepare the icing by whisking together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, and rum. If your icing is too thin, add a touch more powdered sugar. If your icing is too thick, dilute it with a little milk.
- Serve the cinnamon buns with a dollop of icing and enjoy!