The Best Raisin Bread Ever! Pan Tramvai!

The Best Raisin BreadI know, I know, not another bread recipe so soon.  But seriously, this has to be the best raisin bread you can make.  It is so chock full of raisins the dough can barely contain them.  How chock full?  Well the amount of raisins in the bread is equal to the amount of flour used.  This Pan Tramvai (or Pane all’Uva) isn’t going to last long in our house!

Cheryl is always letting me know (“nudging” as she puts it) how much she likes breads with fruit and/or nuts, so when my mom sent me the Italian baking book I mentioned a couple of posts ago I knew I would have to try this raisin bread right away.  According to the book this particular raisin bread is Milanese in origin.  Apparently there was a bakery near a tram stop which would make and sell this bread to commuters (hence the name, “go by tram”).  At the time of the book’s publishing (1985) it was still a favorite in Milan.  Don’t know about Milan today but it’s a favorite here.

Now I’m sure there are plenty of raisin breads all over Italy, and I’m also certain your mom’s raisin bread really is the best, but this one rocks.  It’s a very simple bread, no cinnamon or sugar filling, just raisins.  3 cups worth of raisins, and that’s before plumping them up!  To say it was a challenge getting them all incorporated into the dough is an understatement, but I did it.  Or as you can see in the second loaf in the photo above, they’re even on the outside.

In terms of bread baking mechanics, I was surprised by the amount of yeast used in this recipe (almost 4 teaspoons).  A lot of what I’ve read about using yeast told me you don’t need much to get a good rise out of dough (especially if you use flour with a chip on its shoulder), a teaspoon will do, but after seeing and tasting the results of this I may have to experiment some.  This raisin bread turned out very spongy, soft, and has kept well.  Not that that’s an issue, as it will be gone quickly!  And I don’t think I need to tell you but, this particular bread is perfect toasted for breakfast or your own commute.  Of course it’s best eaten with a cup of Italian coffee.

Pan Tramvai (Pane all’uva, Raisin Bread) from The Italian Baker, Carol Field

  • 500 gr (about 3 C) dried dark raisins
  • 3 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp malted grain syrup
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 500 gr unbleached all-purpose flour (3 ¾ C)
  • 2-3 Tbs flour for the raisins
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

Soak the raisins for 90 minutes in a large bowl with enough warm water to cover them.

Drain and reserve 1 ¼ C of the raisin water for the yeast.

In your mixing bowl, warm the raisin water a little and add the yeast, malt syrup, and sugar.  Mix and let stand for 10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

Stir in the butter.  Add the salt and flour, mix until dough comes together and knead with dough hook for 2-3 minutes (if using a mixer) until the dough turns firm and elastic.  (I always start with the dough hook and finish kneading by hand for 8-10 minutes).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double in volume.

Onto a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and using either your hands or a rolling pin flatten it into a large circle, about 14 inches across.  Pat the raisins dry and toss with some four.

Sprinkle ⅓ of the raisins on the dough, turn in the sides and roll the dough up.  Flatten the dough out again and sprinkle half of the remaining raisins on top.  Roll up the dough and set aside to rest for 10-15 minutes.  Roll the dough out again (for the last time), sprinkle the raisins on, and roll up.

Shape the roll into a long tapered loaf.  If making two loaves, cut in half and shape.  Make sure the ends are tucked under.  Try to keep the raisins from coming through the dough (it will be very difficult so don’t worry if you fail, the bread is still delicious).  Place the loaf on a floured peel or baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cover with a floured towel and allow to rise until puffed and almost double in size, about 60 minutes.  Give it a final shaping roll if it needs it and make sure the ends are still tucked under.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  If using a baking stone, sprinkle some cornmeal on the stone before putting the loaf/loaves in.  Bake 5 minutes at 450°F.  Reduce heat to 400°F and bake for 40 minutes more.  Remove and cool on racks.

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