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French Bread (raisin)



Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir. Cover and set aside until it foams and doubles in volume. In a large mixing bowl, pour in 1-1/2 cups of tepid water, then add the maple syrup and salt. Add the foaming yeast mixture, and beat in 2 cups of the flour, mixing well after each addition. Cover mixture and let stand for a few minutes.

Add more flour until a stiff dough is formed. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, using only enough additional flour to knead into the dough if it becomes too sticky. Knead well, about 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a warm, greased bowl. Cover with a damp dish towel. Set aside in a warm place until the dough doubles in bulk (about 1-1/2 hours).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide it in half; then knead each piece well until all the air bubbles have been worked out. Before shaping the loaves, add 1/2 cup of the drained raisins to each of the balls, kneading them right into the dough.

Now shape into 2 long loaves, tapering at the ends. Place each leaf on a greased baking pan sprinkled lightly with cornmeal. Cover lightly with a towel and set aside in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

Preheat oven to 350. Before putting the loaves in the oven, slash each one diagonally 1/4 inch deep about 2 inches apart. Brush or spray the tops of the breads with a little saltwater before baking and then once or twice more during baking. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes for crusty loaves. When done, cool on wire racks.