Spiced French Coffee Bread.

Coffee bread butteredLast weekend’s weather was miserably perfect (cold, rainy, snowy, gloomy) for bread baking. And with a French theme going -- we watched “Amelie” while dining on rustic Tomato Tart (this time with cheddar cheese instead of creme fraiche) -- I pulled Spiced French Coffee Bread from my favorite Old World Breads cookbook.
Coffee bread ingredients
“This comes from Southern France, specifically the Armagnac District,” quoth Old World Breads. Hmmmm ... Armagnac? as in the brandy? Well, yes, there IS brandy in this bread. “Many of the region’s breads are flavored with it,” continueth the book. At which point I pondered the merits of moving to Armagnac. (‘alo, beautiful!) The amount of brandy is small--just a tablespoon poured over the raisins, and the whole lot is thrown into the dough after 15 minutes. I warmed the brandy/raisin mixture for about 15 seconds in the microwave, to fully soften the raisins.
Coffee bread wet doughUnlike “coffee cake” which is meant to be enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee or tea, coffee bread actually has strong coffee in it -- decaf, of course. (I’m sure the French would scoff heartily at this.) Also grated lemon rind, the brandy-soaked raisins, and pinches of cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves. The recipe calls for a half cup of chopped nuts, which I contemplated adding. But nuts in bread is a tricky thing -- not everyone’s cuppa. So, no nuts.Coffee bread unrisenThis bread is, in some ways, similar to the scrumptious (if I say so myself) Yorkshire Breakfast Bread I baked a while back. The difference is the coffee, which adds lovely color and subtle depth of flavor. Even with spices, lemon, coffee, raisins and brandy, the flavor is not overly strong or perfumey--the ingredients blend together quietly, although toasting (and smothering in butter) raises the volume deliciously.
Coffee bread punchedOld World Breads does a great job explaining the basics of breadmaking, although my other favorite bread book -- Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno -- does it just as well and with pretty photos. If you haven’t tried making bread, both of these books can walk you through it comfortably.
Coffee bread in ovenThere is nothing like the fragrance of baking bread wafting through your home ... except maybe tucking into a warm slice of that freshly baked bread (don't forget that butter).
Coffee bread bakedTo keep your heavenly loaves from drying out, cool thoroughly, slice, wrap well (I use ziplock freezer bags), and freeze. Then thaw or toast on demand, which I guarantee will be often. Bon apetit!
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