November 21, 2010

Crock Pot Apple Butter with Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Appley, cinnamony goodness on homemade bread, this is fall food. Have you noticed how all carbs are my weakness?? There are those people who think bread is only to hold a sandwich together (my husband) and then there are people like myself. I can barely wait for the bread to cool from the oven before I slice off a hunk - no accoutrements needed - just plain bread. I love the smell of it baking and the way it fills the whole house with its homemade scent. Ahhhh!

The next day when the bread is cooled and "day old" I love slathering on homemade toppings like butter, jelly (made only with juice), jam (made with juice and a bit of fruit chunks), preserves (chunky fruity goodness), or apple butter. I've made all kinds of jams and jellies, but there is something about apple butter that can't be beat.

Apple butter is very easy to make when you put it in the crockpot, which is about the only thing I ever use mine for. {This is completely off-topic plea, but will someone send me some good crockpot recipes or cookbook? I would really like to use my crock more often, but I've never been tempted by the recipes I've seen as they all look brown and mushy - not fresh and appealing.} This recipe will fill your house with such a delicious aroma, you'll have trouble waiting to eat it - I promise! It's also a great gift to give. Your friends and family will love you for taking the time. You can make it with apples or pears and they both turn out abou the same taste, so choose what's on sale or what you've been given. My wonderful Aunt Sharon just shared a huge box of cooking pears (they stay hard and don't get soft, so they are only good for cooking with) so I decided on pear butter. Aunt Sharon, there is a jar with your name on it!

Crock Pot Apple (or Pear) Butter
Makes 9-10 pints
9 qts of applesauce or pearsauce, homemade or store bought
2 tbsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp of allspice
1/2 tsp anise seeds (optional)
4 c sugar or sugar substitute

If you have just been to the orchard and returned with mountains of fresh apples or pears, you need to make applesauce first. Peel, core and quarter your fruit, unless you have one of these handy food mills for the counter or your Kitchenaid. If you have one of these, you don't need to peel the fruit, since you will be running it through the mill. In any case, you are starting with as many fruit as you can fit into your crock pot and add a little bit of water, just a splash on the bottom. I use a massive 8 1/2 quart crock pot (if your our crockpot is smaller, just reduce the ingredients proportionately). Cook the fruit on high until you have soft mushy apples or pears. You can use a hand masher to aid them in breaking down. After about 12-24 hours (depending on the types of fruit and how hard it was to start) you'll have unsweetened applesauce. This is delicious on it's own and perfect for canning or freezing.

If you want fruit butter, you need to continue in the slow cooker. Add the spices and sugar to your applesauce.  Stir well and set the pot to low with the lid somewhat vented (use a spatula or chopsticks under the lid to keep it up.)  Cook for 10-12 hours. Everything will get dark brown and smell incredible! After cooking you can use an immersion blender to puree it all so it's extra smooth or do it in the blender. Then you can freeze the apple butter or can it in glass jars making it just as shelf-life stable as store bought.

To can, put warm butter in jars and wipe the tops clean. Seal with canning lids and screw tops. Put the jars in a large pot filled with a couple of inches of water. Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars with tongs and set on a kitchen towel until cool. You will hear a popping sound when the lid cools enough to seal. This means you have a good seal and the product will be shelf stable. You can remove the screw lids to store.

To make my tasty cinnamon raisin bread you start with a sweet yeast dough....

Basic Sweet Dough (Sourdough Version)
see bottom of post for commercial yeast recipe
6 c flour
1 tbsp salt
1/2 c sugar
1 c starter
1/2 c oil
1 c warm milk
1/2 c warm water

Whisk only 4 cups of the flour, salt and the sugar in a large electric mixer bowl. Add your starter, oil, and water and mix with a bread dough hook. Slowly you add the other two cups of flour. You may not need all 2 cups, so add slowly. The way you know the dough is ready is when it forms into a "ball". In the mixer, the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and forms a literal ball, like it the photo below.

I love my 6qt KitchenAid mixer. It was a splurge from the outlet store, but it's been worth every penny. If you are using a hand mixer, you'll need to take the bread out of the mixer bowl and knead it on a floury surface for about 10 minutes until the dough sticks well to itself and not the counter and does not spread out immediately when you let go, but instead holds it's shape.

After the dough is well formed, it needs to rise to double in size. Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm draft free place (like your oven with only the light on) overnight or around 12 hours.

The next day make the cinnamon goodness for the middle. You could make just about any kind of filling to flavor the bread at this time like: orange, lemon, strawberry, cheese, strawberry and cheese, gingered apple, chocolate, or maybe a candied pecan. Really let your imagination and your family's favorites flavors determine what to make. Your only limitation is don't make anything too wet or it will interfere with the bread's composition.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Filling
2 c raisin
3/4 c sugar
7 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp melted butted

Combine raisin, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

Once the dough is doubled in size, deflate it gently and divide it in half to form two loaves. Roll out one half of dough on a floured surface into a 10"x12" rectangle with a rolling pin or a glass. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon mixture and drizzle with half the melted butter.

Carefully roll the dough up starting at a short side to make a long rolled log.

This is a messy job, so be warned. If it sticks to the counter, gently lift with a bench scraper or spatula.

When done you'll have this unattached end, be sure to give it a good pinch to seal it back onto itself.

Carefully place the dough seam side down in a greased loaf pan. I usually have to create an "S" shape with the dough to fit it in the pan. Repeat the whole process with the other half of dough to form two loaves. Let loaves rise in a warm place for about 2 hours (or 45 minutes if you are using yeast) until the dough is doubled and doesn't spring back when you touch it gently with a finger.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 mins. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then cool completely on wire racks. Always use a serrated knife to cut bread so you don't tear or compress the loaf.

Sweet Dough Recipe
using Commercial Yeast (from Martha Stewart)
2 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons nonfat powdered milk
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/4 cup warm water and yeast. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes (this ensures your yeast is healthy and active). Add flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 3/4 cups warm water. Mix, using the paddle attachment, on low speed for 1 minute. Change to dough hook, and mix on medium-low speed for 7 minutes. Or knead by hand, 15 or 20 minutes. Let rise in a greased bowl for about 1 1/2 hours. Follow directions above, but your second rise time will only be about 45 minutes.

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