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Monday, April 1, 2013

Traditional Bread - Don't Dare Call it Raisin Bread

As long as I can remember, bread has been a part of Easter celebrations.  My great grandmother used to make an Easter Bread and while it did contain raisins, it was NEVER to be called raisin bread.  Everything is a bit of a blur beyond that as far as great grandma's version, but the last 30 years or so of my mother's version are a bit clearer.  Most years my mother and sister have done the baking and I try to participate when my schedule permits and for the past several years, a great aunt assists as well when she visits from out of state.

The recipe morphed from one found in this cookbook:

and it looks something like this without the icing:

Though baking requires careful measuring and precise direction, my mother uses this particular recipe as a guide only.  All materials are gathered in advance including not only ingredients but bowls and pans for the number of loaves we will make in an assembly line style.

First, flour and yeast are placed in a fairly large bowl...

which is then actually transferred to the mixing bowl.  Looking back...why not measure the dry ingredients directly into the mixing bowl in the first place?  Don't know.  Don't ask.  Tradition?  Doesn't matter because one bowl per loaf is still needed.  It will make sense at the end.  Remember, I am the last person in the family who should be baking.  Yeast scares me and don't ask what I think about all that rising then punishing the dough for rising then asking it to do it again....what?

Then, butter, sugar and milk are melted in a small saucepan over low heat.  My mother shared a story from her early bread making days which involved the bread not rising and her being told by a woman of the next generation that it was likely due to the butter mixture making the yeast too hot.  See, yeast is temperamental and unreliable.  I don't trust yeast.

The warm mixture is gently stirred into the flour and yeast.  An egg is lightly whisked in a mixing bowl then poured into the mixing bowl of all other ingredients which is next whirred around with the paddle attachment for a few minutes.  If needed, add more flour before dumping into the original bowl.

Raisins are then added - regular and yellow.

The mixture is then kneaded...

and kneaded...

until finally it forms a ball.  Then it is allowed to rest and rise once tucked in (ok, just cover it - I'm trying to be poetic).

Once it rises to double it's original size it is kneaded again or punched back down into submission then given a chance to rise again.  

The bread bakes and I make inappropriate religious jokes regarding the celebration of the bread rising.  We each are given a loaf of the holiday bread to enjoy with our own families and we all enjoy the finished product when we are together on Easter morning.  Ok, I may just pass the tradition on to the next generation.  My sons may enjoy punching the dough back down after it rises.  Carrying on tradition leaves us feeling Fed Well.

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