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Cast iron bakes up raisin bread spiral

Despite my collection of specialty stoneware, I remain an ambivalent baker.

I’m feeling a resurgence of enthusiasm, however, amid assurances that cast iron skillets are ideal baking vessels. This comes from cookbook author Anne Byrn, cited in my latest food section column, which included her recipe for a citrus-chocolate chip coffeecake.

The column didn’t have room for this more involved, yeasted bread with raisins. It’s a nod to an old Irish fruit pan bread, Byrn writes in her “Skillet Love: From Steak to Cake.” The addition of potato, along with raisins, helps to keep the bread moist.

This bread “spiral” is the sort of slightly offbeat item I’ll take some extra pains to produce in the home kitchen. For a glossy appearance, glaze the bread with a beaten egg before placing it in the oven.

Tribune News Service photo

Potato-Raisin Bread Spiral

1 medium baking potato, peeled and cubed

1 1/2 cups water

1 package (0.25 ounce) active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

1/3 cup sugar, divided

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil, for greasing

Place the cubed potato in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer until potatoes are tender, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain potatoes, reserving cooking water. Mash potatoes in a small bowl and set aside. Transfer 1 cup potato water to a large bowl. Whisk in the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar until dissolved.

Add 2 tablespoons mashed potatoes to yeast mixture. Add 1 cup of the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on medium speed until ingredients are combined. Let mixture rest until it bubbles up slightly, for about 20 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, 3 cups of the flour, the eggs, melted butter, raisins and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until dough is soft and combined. Add 1/2 to 1 cup more flour as needed so dough comes together and away from sides of bowl. With mixer fitted with a dough hook, beat dough until it comes into a ball, for 3 to 4 minutes. (You can also knead by hand until it comes into a ball, for about 5 minutes.)

Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot until dough doubles in size, for about 1 hour.

With oiled or floured hands, punch down dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and roll with your hands into a rope that is 20 to 22 inches long.

Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 12-inch skillet with vegetable oil. Pick up dough rope and lay it in skillet, starting at edge and letting it coil like a snake, ending in center. Cover skillet with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, for about 40 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until top of bread is golden brown, for 20 to 22 minutes. Tent skillet with foil and continue to bake until the bread sounds hollow when tapped, for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of skillet. Lift up potato bread and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing, for about 30 minutes.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

— Recipe from “Skillet Love: From Steak to Cake” by Anne Byrn (Grand Central Publishing; October 2019).