FOR THE YEAST::
1 strip (3 packets) of dry yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of flour
½ cup of lukewarm water
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl first. Then, add the lukewarm water and continue to mix until completely dissolved. Cover the bowl and let set for 5 min.
PREPARATION FOR THE DOUGH MIXTURE:
1 cup of milk
1 stick of butter (cut into pieces)
Heat the butter & milk together until the butter is melted...do not scald the milk.
Roll 1 lemon on the counter first to prepare the lemon to release its juice. Then with a microplane, zest only the yellow part of the lemon in a bowl (the white part is bitter). Cut the lemon in half and juice the lemon into a separate bowl making sure there are no seeds. You can add all the pulp into the bowl...it will add to the flavor.
1 cup of raisins
Place the raisins in a bowl and cover them with water. Let the raisins set for 5 minutes to plump them up. Then, drain and squeeze as much water out of the raisins as you can. Place the raisins in a separate bowl and lightly sprinkle them with flour. Place them aside to be added to the dough later.
MIXING DOUGH: In a very large bowl, add the following ingredients:
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 lemon (zest & juice)
2 beaten eggs (room temp). *use an extra egg if your eggs are small*
Warmed milk and melted butter mixture
5 cups of flour (add 1 cup at a time into the bowl while kneading)
Keep an additional cup of flour to the side. Use this as needed if your dough is too sticky.
Knead the above ingredients until they are all incorporated. Dough should be formed into a ball. Add a drop of vegetable oil to help bind the dough.
Once the dough is incorporated, continue to knead the dough for an extra 10 minutes.
Add the floured raisins during the last minute of kneading. Before placing dough back into bowl, oil bottom of the bowl and swish the dough around, then turn over and do the same once again.
RAISING THE DOUGH:
Place the dough bowl somewhere warm to rise. After dough has risen, you need to punch down the dough and let it rise again. After the dough has risen a second time, place the dough on a floured counter & cut into 1.25 l.b. pieces.
Grease your bread pans with baking spray.
Place each dough ball into the greased bread pan and stretch the dough to fit it into the corners. Now, place each pan back to rise one final time.
BAKING THE BREAD:
Heat the oven to 325º. Place bread pans into the oven making sure there is room between each pan for air to circulate. Bake the dough for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
FINISHING THE BREAD:
Take the bread out of the oven and immediately remove them from their pans. Brush the tops of each loaf with butter and allow to cool on baking rack.
** I sometimes brush the bread with my homemade honey butter to add a sweeter taste. However, this will make your bread a bit sticky on the top. **