Two Christmases ago, I gave my mother a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day  by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois . I’ve written about this marvelous bread baking book before. It is truly one of my favorites and one of the most used in my cookbook collection. My mom has never been much into baking, except during the Holidays. She loves freshly baked bread, but doesn’t have the patience to make her own from scratch. I just knew that having Zoe and Jeff’s book  would make her a bread-baking convert. And it did.
The other day, Mom told me that she had a yen for raisin bread and was planning to make some using one of the recipes from the book. All of the commercial raisin breads have cinnamon in them and she can’t eat cinnamon, so she wanted to make a loaf that she could enjoy without getting sick. Well, as soon as I hung up the phone, all I could think about was eating hot, fresh from the oven raisin bread! I tried to distract myself with other things, but I couldn’t. It was ridiculous! I was absolutely obsessing over that damn raisin bread!
Eventually, I could stand it no more. I dug out my copy of the book and started making some dough. I decided to go with the challah recipe. It’s buttery, eggy and rich, but in a very, very good way.
Making the dough for this bread is easy with a capital “E”. You know…because you don’t have to knead it or anything. All you do is mix your ingredients together and let the whole thing sit while you do other stuff, like tweet, play Guitar Hero  or clean your house. (Guess which one of those I didn’t do.) Once your dough is ready, just roll it out and fill it with whatever you like. I used a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, and added golden raisins. Then, you roll it up, slap on a little egg wash and let it rest some more.
Okay, I’ll admit it doesn’t look very appetizing lying there like a lump with raw egg dripping all over it.
But, after you bake it…
Just look at that soft, pillowy crumb! And, check out those dreamy swirls! Pepperidge Farm  – you’ve got nothing on this!
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Challah
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
1-2 tablespoons raw sugar
- Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter (or oil) with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (no airtight) food container.
- Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
- Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
- The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time.
- On baking day, whisk the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. Butter a loaf pan and set aside.
- Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
- On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a loaf shape. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle (as close as possible). Use just enough flour to prevent it from sticking. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Sprinkle the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly all over the top of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with the raisins. Roll up the dough, jellyroll-style, starting at one of the short ends, being sure to seal the bare edges. Chill the roll in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Allow the bread to rest and rise, covered, in the loaf pan for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
- About 10-15 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with the raw sugar.
- Bake near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time. The challah is done when golden brown and offers resistance to pressure. Due to the fat in the dough, challah will not form a hard, crackling crust.
- Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve as is or toasted with butter and your favorite jam.
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.