26 September 2010

America's Best Raisin Bread

The contest application was sitting on my desk for weeks.  As least once a day, I thumbed through it, read the rules, re-read the rules and searched for inspiration.  The sales team was requesting a "muesli" bread, whatever that is.  "If the Muesli Bread includes raisins, maybe it can crossover into a contest entry," they said.  It went beyond a daily glance of the contest entry form, it was listed on my priority list (which I do not create, therefor it must actually be a legitimate priority and not just something I would like to get to today...this week...this month....)

I used my ride home from work to think of the possibilities.  I knew I wanted lots of healthy bits and lots of texture using pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, oats, bran and a variety of flours.  I would add more flavor with a wheat/rye levain and a poolish starter.  Finally, the raisins would have to be big, juicy and rustic. 

The bread:
After brainstorming for a few days, I came up with a formula and put it to the test.  I shaped a few dozen loaves and I was left with a mass of dough that didn't weigh enough to put into the pocket divider.  I didn't want to throw it away so I dumped it onto the bench, covered it in oats and cut it into rough strips.  I twisted the strips which created a spiral of oats down the loaf. 

Once the samples were baked, I fell in love with the twists and so did everyone else.  The flavor and texture were exactly the eating experience I was hoping to create.  The twisted sticks had a unique character that I adored.  After determining that American's don't really know what muesli is (I don't know what muesli is), the bread was named "Granola Twist."

The contest:
After a little more testing, I filled out the entry form.  My friend Hana took beautiful photos of my loaves to enclose with the application.  I licked the stamp and crossed my fingers!!!

Last week, I got a call from the California Raisin Board telling me I made the finals.  I immediately started calling everyone who helped me get this bread from idea to product but it was Yom Kippur and none of my friends were answering.  I had to sit on the news all weekend before anyone could rejoice with me!!!

The Bake-Off:
On October 14th, I fly to Manhattan Kansas to bake off my bread alongside the other nine finalists.  Three of us will be selected and the winners get to spend a week in Napa Valley touring the California wine country.  My friends at The Patisserie in Milford, PA are donating bakery space to the cause by letting me run a test in their kitchen this week. 

Wish me luck!!!!


  1. Good Luck! Hope it's a huge success for you and have lots of fun too.

  2. Thanks Barbara. I'll let you know how it goes. -R

  3. What a cool contest! I have taken a breads class at culinary school before and I loved it! We made a baguette with a poolish and the flavor was fantastic. I admire your successful experiment and your choice of career. After I graduate from culinary school at the CIA, I would love to pursue R &D work. How did you get started?

  4. Alex,
    I took a non-direct path to get into R&D. I will actually be at the CIA career fair next Tuesday. The company I work for is seeking externs and bakers. You should stop by the Tribeca Oven booth and we can chat.