Anything with cinnamon and raisins is a hit in the South. Most American grocery stores carry loaves of the freshly sliced bread right next to the white and wheat, I would always buy it, it’s amazing when you use it for French toast. However, since living in Saudi Arabia I have not had the pleasure of finding some so I just make it myself. Home made is much better anyway, too bad it only lasts for a day though. I prefer to make mine in this long braided version and I love using pearl sugar on top of my sweet breads. It does not melt and taste great. I could not imagine using anything else now that I have tried it, but you can use brown sugar if you would like.
I have also found that instead of baking bread at a lower temp longer that baking it at a higher temp shorter is the way to go. This way the bread is soft on the inside and stays that way like a good sweet bread should. I love waking up in the morning and having freshly baked goods to eat. They taste great and are simple, which I need since I am not much of a morning person.
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup raisins, soaked in boiling water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon milk
1. In a small bowl, add yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and warm water, mix and allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
2. In a mixing bowl, add flour, remaining sugar, salt, mix. Add yeast mixture, cinnamon and butter, mix and add egg. Add milk gradually until a dough consistency has formed. Add raisins and knead for a few minutes until dough is smooth.
3. Add the dough back into the mixing bowl and lightly brush a very small amount oil or butter on the top. Cover and allow to sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
4. On a baking sheet, add foil or a nonstick baking mat, set aside. Lightly punch dough down and divide into 3 even balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a long rope, about 14 inches. Place each rope on the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each one. Carefully braid a tight (not too tight though) braid, tucking the ends into the bottom.
5. Sit the braid in a warm place, cover and allow to sit in a warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F. In a small bowl, add egg and milk, mix. Carefully brush the top of the bread, then sprinkle lots of pearl sugar on top. Place in the oven and allow to bake for 25 minutes.
Yields: 1 (14-inch) loaf