My boyfriend and I have two favorite brunch places in this city of brunch. One is Community on Broadway right by Columbia on Morningside Heights (superior vegan burger; less stellar tofu scramble) and the other is Spring Natural on the Upper West Side (superior tofu scramble; less exemplary vegan burger). At Spring Natural, they give you these delicious house-baked breads while you wait: often they’re some variation of whole wheat bread with a light crust and moist, soft, warm interior with just a hint of sweetness, that goes equally well with a dip in good olive oil or a spread of jam. (You see where I’m going with this?) Often we finish the bread basket with embarrassing speed. (When I go with Jen, our features editor, I try not to ask for the second bread basket for decorum’s sake).
So when I was invited to participate in the Virtual Vegan Potluck, and was assigned “Bread,” I was drawn to make my own restaurant-style vegan cinnamon raisin bread. I mostly bake quick breads that use baking powder/baking soda and have more sweet, cake-like tendency. This time though, I wanted something that could accompany dinner–or be toasted with vegan butter and jam for breakfast the next day. Having almost no yeast bread making experience, however, my first attempt was not successful (that will become a bread pudding recipe soon! Stay tuned). But I tweaked the recipe and the second time around, voila! I had it! This was the moist, savory/sweet and delightfully yeasty bread I was looking for…mmm just out of the oven, spread with some vegan butter and Bonne Maman, it was soo yummy!
I added my own addition of almonds, which adds a wonderful crunchy contrast to the fluffy, soft interior. This makes for a lightly sweet and not very heavily spiced bread–if you want it to have more distinct, dessert-like sweetness like most cinnamon breads, feel free to add 2 more tbsp sugar.
Vegan Almond Cinnamon Raisin Bread
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (also may sub 1/2 the amount with regular all purpose)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar plus more for yeast
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup non dairy milk
3/4 cup warm water
1 packet yeast
1/3-1/2 cup almonds, crushed or slivered (I just pulsed whole raw almonds)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1. Place 3/4 warm water (think hot bathwater–not scalding, but not lukewarm either) in a small bowl. Add about a teaspoon of sugar. Add the yeast packet and place in a warm place for it to activate. It will start to bubble up almost immediately and in about 10 minutes, you’ll see it thicken and froth up. If it doesn’t show any signs of life, discard and start over.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of the flour, sugar, raisins, almonds, and salt. Add in oil, non dairy milk, and yeast water. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture–it will be very liquid-y. Keep churning until it starts to bind together. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as you keep churning and creating a sort of wet dough.
3. Knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes. Cover and place in a warm place for about an hour.
4. After rising, add the cinnamon and knead the dough second time. Kneading should be easier this time as the dough is more elastic and less sticky. Cover and let sit for another 1/2 hour. In the meantime, heat oven to 375 degrees F.
5. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Shape the dough into a loaf shape and place on the tray. Bake for 30 minutes–the crust should be nice and golden brown. Pick up the loaf and tap in at the bottom–if you hear a sort of hollow sound it’s fully cooked. Bon appetit!
And now, get ready for another great vegan recipe on Virtual Vegan Potluck, Curried Pumpkin Peanut Soup by Dianne over at Chic Vegan!! (Oh la la!)
More vegan bread recipes: The Best Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling