When I think back to ‘food memories’ from my childhood, several kinds of bread stand out. One is a dark, crusty rye bread baked at ‘Bernie’s Bakery’ around the corner from my grandfather’s house. We would go there, on Sunday mornings and load up with all the fresh baked breads hot and fresh. Right out of the oven. I grew up in rural northeastern Canada, in Nova Scotia.
This is a place of long, cold winters and short, not too warm summers. This is a place of comfort foods specially made for the cold climate we lived in. Where many of the locals were first, or at most, second generation Canadians, coming from immigrant European backgrounds. Bernie, himself was Polish and many others were from Russia, the Ukraine, Germany Italy and lots of other places.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of sitting in our family kitchen eating freshly toasted raisin bread slathered with butter and/or peanut butter (I admit it, I’m hooked on PB!) and my mother’s homemade strawberry jam. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, of course, but my mother still makes the jam, and I make raisin bread to put under it. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours from start to finish.
Here’s what you’ll need for 2 loaves:
- 1 cup milk or water (milk makes softer richer bread)
- 6 tbsp shortening or butter (butter makes softer richer bread)
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 2-1/2 tsp salt
- 6 cups bread flour, about
- 1-1/2 cup raisins, add after 1st rise
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional but great)
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. Warm the milk/water and the shortening/butter in a saucepan over low heat until it all melts and combines. Do not let it come to a boil. Then let it cool to barely warm.
2. Add the water, sugar, yeast, salt and half the flour (about 3 cups) to the milk mixture and mix well. Slowly add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough that is not sticky.
3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes.
4. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat, and cover. Let it rise until doubled, about an hour.
5. De-gas the dough then roll it out into a rough rectangle, spread on the raisins and the walnuts (if using) and then knead them into the dough until they are evenly distributed. Continue kneading for another 5 minutes or so.
6. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a loaf shape the length of your loaf pans. Place each loaf in a lightly greased loaf pan, cover and let them rise until doubled, about 1/2 hour.
7. Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped.
Make sure to remove the bread from the pans, and let the loaves cool on a rack. If you leave them in the pans, they will get soggy. Enjoy!!
David B. Weiner, PhD.