Hanaa (admin of ABC and also my email buddy :-P) and I started doing a bread baketogether recently where we would both bake the same bread recipe over a weekend and then share our baking experiences through email and our respective blogs. This delicious raisin bread would be the very first bread of our baketogether which Hanaa picked from Nick Malgieri's blog. Raisin bread is one of my favorite breads to munch on so I was really excited to finally learn how to make this at home instead of settling for a store-bought version. And I must say that this recipe is way better than any store-bought raisin bread that I've tried. It's that good!
I've been researching a lot about what makes a good loaf of bread and what natural ingredients I could add to my bread recipes to help improve the rise as well as prolong shelf-life, etc. I've discovered from a few websites, the wonderful things that ingredients like vital wheat gluten (adds gluten therefore improving rise), lecithin granules (makes a tender crumb and prolongs shelf-life), ginger powder (food for yeast), and even ascorbic acid (creates an acidic environment that the yeasts love) can do for my bread. I've used the first three when I made my Multigrain Struan and the loaf turned out so amazingly well (which was unlike any of my previous bread baking experiences) that I immediately concluded that it must be due to these natural enhancers that I used. Since it was my first time to make the multigrain struan, I had no way of knowing if the results were significantly due to these enhancers or if I just stumbled upon a really good recipe.
So in making these 2 raisin loaves, I decided to do a little experiment and make one loaf without natural enhancers and make another one separately and use vital wheat gluten (2 tsp), lecithin granules (1tsp), and ginger powder (1/4 tsp). I was a little skeptical when I was doing this experiment but I was just so curious about these enhancers that I didn't mind making 2 loaves separately all in one day LOL. As you can see from the pics above, the loaf with enhancers is significantly larger than the one without. It apparently got a better rise and was also a lot softer than the other loaf.
After both of the loaves cooled, I sliced each loaf so I could take comparison shots of the crumb. The one without enhancers was denser with little holes while the one with enhancers was a lot fluffier and had bigger holes (indicated a better rise?)
Flavor-wise both were really good but I especially loved the one with enhancers more because of its moister and fluffier texture. It was also the bread that mimics how store-bought breads are -- very light and airy.
I left both breads inside a cake caddy to see how they would be the following day and the plain one got drier (both crust and crumb) but the one with enhancers was still super moist! I'm now convinced that using these ingredients do benefit the bread in a big way.
*Submitting this entry to Yeastspotting :-)