This is a popular bread to serve for breakfast with butter in Belgium. Like its cousin, the craquelin (see the variation at the end of the recipe), it is like a lean form of brioche, a bread enriched with just a little butter, sugar, and egg. It’s also perfect to serve with tea or coffee in the afternoon. This version comes from Wittamer, the best pastry shop in Brussels.
Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch loaf
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk, about 110 degrees
2 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dark raisins
One 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch loaf pan, buttered and the bottom lined with a rectangle of parchment paper
Place 1 1/2 cups of the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer.
In a medium bowl, whisk the yeast into the milk, then whisk in the yolks. Stir the liquids into the flour.
Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on lowest speed for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Add the butter, sugar, and salt to the bowl along with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix on lowest speed until combined. Mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, another 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the raisins on lowest speed.
Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn the dough over so that the top is buttered. Press plastic wrap against the surface and allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
After the dough is risen, scrape it onto a floured work surface. Press the dough into a rectangle. To form a loaf, make sure the surface is free of any excess flour, then stretch the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold in the short ends of the dough until it is approximately the length of the pan, then fold the far long edge over to the middle. Fold over the other long side and compress to form a tight cylinder. Place the dough in the pan, seam side down. Cover with buttered plastic wrap. Allow the loaf to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
When the loaf is almost doubled, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400˚F.
When the loaf has completely risen, place in the oven and bake until it is deep golden and the internal temperature is about 200 degrees, about 30 minutes.
Unmold the loaf to a rack to cool on its sides.
Serving: Cut into thin slices, this bread makes excellent sandwiches and toast.
Storage: On the day it is baked, keep the bread loosely covered at room temperature. Tightly wrap in plastic and freeze for longer storage.
Replace the raisins in the dough with 1/3 cup pearl sugar. After the dough has risen, form it into a disk about 8 inches in diameter and place it on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil. Cover with buttered plastic wrap and allow to rise until double. Brush the top of the loaf with beaten egg and cut two concentric circular slashes in the top of the loaf, about 1 1/2 and 3 inches from the edge. Sprinkle more pearl sugar in the cuts. Bake as above.