Friday, December 28, 2012

EVENING GOWNS, THE NUNS, AND MY MOM


December 28th and the New Year is nigh. This story came to mind in light of the date –
VINTAGE YSL

After one of my piano lessons, eons ago in the early 50’s, I listened to my Mom and my piano teacher, one of the nuns at my school, talk about evening gowns. Even as I listened I thought it fascinating, and when I was older I came to realize that those gals, those nuns, were savvy creatures. They were devout but not ‘holy, holy’, and they were a bunch of women who had to get along together. They were also a bunch of women with wide interests outside of the classroom.  Wearing the same medieval habit every day was equalizing, and it gave them a keen appreciation for fashion. One of their favorite days of the year was New Year’s Eve. In the early to middle part of the last century there was always a “midnight” mass,  the exact timing of which I wish I knew: right on the strike of twelve mass-goers would have missed the kissing and the Auld Lang Syne. On New Year’s Eve, Sister was telling my Mom, the nuns made sure to be at mass to see all the evening gowns – sort of like an Easter Parade, but with gorgeous gowns and furs – and they would be the topic of convent conversation for days to come.


A simple, slinky Ralph Lauren number
I remember a gown my Mom made in my senior year. It was a strapless floor length white satin “underdress”. I could wear it alone, with or without the various colored hooked-in straps and sashes, and the stoles she made in both red and purple velvet. I could wear the gown with the sheer lavender voile overdress, trimmed in purple velvet. That dress was my senior prom dress. Sleeveless with sort of an over top like a bolero – trimmed in the purple. (I just spent about a half an hour looking for the ad from 1959-60 – I think it was from Modess sanitary napkins… “Modess because” – and saw a lot of great, nostalgic ads, but not the dress!) Anyway, the underdress could also be basted up and then she made an overdress of white voile curtain fabric, the edges were embroidered in a flowery, scalloped edge. So I could wear the underdress hemmed – or! she pulled the whole thing up into a gathered rose she basted in, and I could wear it with the velvet sashes and with or without straps she snapped in. My sister wore the underdress that year with the red velvet for her junior prom and to several occasions in her senior year too. I don’t think either of us ever wore it the same way twice. Oooo, and I don’t have even one picture of either of us in the dress in any of its various permutations. I tell you, my mother was on a roll that year. Well, she was on a roll every year – you can read about more of her sewing in my post A Material Thing.
 
Love that gown! And, of course, you know that's a young Ted Danson backed up
against that refrigerator. I've had this ad for eons in my special scrapbook.
And the Aramis was the one worn by a then special "beau" of mine.
Oh, the memories!

After finishing my blog on The Coat of Many Colors, I got to thinking about all the fabulous gowns I’d seen and loved over the years.  I do love evening gowns. I’ve never had much occasion to wear them once I was past my prom years, but I’ve always had an eye for the elegant ones. Over the years I subscribed to Vogue I pulled out several pages of gowns I’d love to have had. I still have several pasted in my own special scrapbook, ready to be scanned in for this posting. I look at them today and to my way of thinking they’re still in style.
 
Another page from my special scrap book -
This black silk brocade number is by Sophie.


If you have oodles of time you can get your fill of gorgeous creations from decades of designing just by googling ‘evening gowns’, or something like ‘red evening gowns’ under Google Images.  Be ready to sit a spell.
 
 

 

 

Monday, December 24, 2012

RADIO CITY MEMORIES


Radio City Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932
Every year when I was a kid, in the last few days before Christmas, my Mother would dress us up warmly and we’d take the subway into New York City. First we’d go get my Dad. It was always a treat to go into G. Schirmer’s on 43rd Street, especially to see all the musical instruments on display in the store. That’s where I first saw a French horn, my favorite instrument. Dad was Schirmer’s Music Librarian, their cataloger and collector, and the man to go to if you were, for example, putting on a revue, or writing a book about music or musicians. He had some very interesting stories of famous people like Albert Schweitzer coming into the store.  Dad’s office was off the high gallery that ran around above the sales floor, and it was wonderful to look down there and ‘spy’ on everything.

We’d walk up Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center and have a wondering look at all the lights and the big Christmas tree and the skaters on the rink.  Somewhere in there we must have had dinner – probably at one of the Child’s restaurants I remember - and then we’d go see the movie and, best of all, the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.  Or was “best of all” going up and down the grand staircase, or marveling at the acres of carpeting, or the huge, lush ladies rooms, or the Rockettes, or hearing the “Mighty Wurlitzer”? My Dad, also an organist, liked that.

As a kid I was impressed with the enormity of the theater. Years later in the Eighties, after the theater was renovated, I had a little more knowledge and appreciation of what I was seeing. I was still impressed by the size of the place, and best of all, all the things on my “best of all” list were still wonderful.   


 Merry Christmas and Zen Hugs to all my readers (you know who you are!)

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012 – APOCOLLAPSE


From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day - today
 

I’m starting this essay on August 18th. Wired of August 17 gave me the idea for the title of this essay and the nudge to think about what I think about so-called apocalyptic events like these.  Well, there it is: without further thought I used the descriptive words “so-called”. Deep thought or no thought, it indicates I’m not at all worried that the day of doom will arrive.
It’s like ghosts – I’d rather believe in them and find out I was wrong, than not believe in them and find out I was wrong. Know what I mean? I’d rather believe that our world will go on for eons and live as I do now, than begin planning for an end that, if it comes, will be the end: no matter of prep will have helped.
 
Update – November 4, 2012 –Flood and Fire in Breezy Point – here’s how our niece described it:
 
To all, Thx for all of your messages of concern. We are all ok. Our house is standing because of our neighbor's ugly cement fortress wall surrounding their house. When the ocean came roaring up, the wall veered the water to either side. Our house was protected just enough not to receive the brunt of the waves. Billy and Will stayed in the house to ride out the storm and that was a major mistake in hindsight. It was a harrowing experience for both and they are traumatized from the experience. They said fire balls were flying through the wind and landing on random houses setting them ablaze. The sky was bright orange throughout the night. That being said, we are only 1 of only about 20 houses not destroyed by fire or flooding. All of my close friends lost their houses and everyone must find a place to live. We are blessed in that regard as well. My brother has an unsold apt at 302-96th in Bklyn (in the same building as my sister and dad.) We have 3 air beds and a coffee pot. A lot of Breezy people are staying in Bay Ridge so we meet people we know every day on the avenue. The bars are packed with Breezy refugees. (is anyone surprised at that fact???) And so......we are alive, my friends are all alive and what can we do but carry on. Thx again for your e-mails and I would love your continued support in the weeks ahead. Go Giants!! Love ya, Janet
 
This all just mind boggling. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around losing everything. Talk about the Apocalypse! I guess many of the folks hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy must think that it came earlier than predicted: December 21 is the wrong date, too late. Talk about acting and re-acting – I can’t begin to think of such a scenario. I’ve heard about tsunamis and landslides and earthquakes all over the world. I’ve heard the news about devastating forest fires that claim dozens of houses, I heard about, and later saw, the devastation on the Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina, but this, as it would do because I lived in the same area, hits me very close to home. All I can say is “Whew!” My PC home page is the New York Times: their daily pictures and updates from the nearby states - millions still without power, public transportation a laugh, guarding against looters - are an eyeful.
 
 
December 20, 2012 - So the Mayans ended their Long Count calendar on tomorrow’s date.  Clever of them!  They turned to each other and said “Well that job’s done forever. In 2012 we’ll just reuse this” - or words to that effect.  They planned to just roll it around again and start at the beginning.
Also: I don’t believe it disastrous that the sun will align with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in 26,000 years.  Where’d they get that number?  I’m no astrophysicist, but I get a mental picture of our spinning galaxy, and I compare our sun system to a yoyo whirling around on the end of a string: the sun is always in line, on that string, to the center of our galaxy.
I know that a lot of folks out there, even whole cities, are stockpiling food and have built underground shelters.  Didn’t they do that back at the turn of the last millennium?  Nothing much happened then except for a few minor computer glitches.  The scenarios are many and varied. But it seems they’re all preparing for “The End”.  If it is “The End” then that will be that: they – and I – won’t need food; shelter will be no shelter. We won’t know the difference because we won’t be.  I’m posting this a day early – just in case!
 
December 21, 2012  - Well, I was so not worried that I forgot to post this yesterday.  I got to thinking: do you remember the old Kingston Trio ditty called The Merry Minuet: “They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain…” ?   Well, change the lyrics just a wee bit and the world, with the addition of countless electronic gadgets, is just the way it was in the late fifties and early sixties. I don’t think things will ever settle down much – much as we can hope it will.



One last thought, tongue in cheek: my “perpetual” calendar – just like this one -
ends with 2035. Should I be worried?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why the JOY, JOY, JOY

A few of you wanted to know what I was covering with the JOY, JOY, JOY behind my dowel Christmas tree.  This is a "before" picture:

 
The picture is a French harbor scene and the boat has orange sails. In years past this orange background behind the tree has bugged me, so this year I printed up the letters in huge print, one to a page, double-stick taped them together and stuck the whole thing to the picture glass. 


Voila! Goodbye orange sails!  The side pictures didn't bug me at all -
they're rather neutral in effect. 

Much better!
 
 
 
And yes, I made the creche figures: in plaster of Paris when I was 10!...
 
 
...and about ten years ago I made the angels from yarn cones,
 felt, and wooden balls and such...


 
 
...and I made the trees with fake ivy leaves, grosgrain ribbon,
and tons of straight pins on Styrofoam cones. 
 
 
So that's the story - I'm glad you asked!
 
 
                                     


Friday, December 14, 2012

NOT YOUR AVERAGE CHRISTMAS TREE





It’s all over but the baking. The cookies and the Norwegian Yule Kake will be the last, and tastiest, part of my Christmas preparations, and I’ll begin on them next week. Yesterday I put up what passes for a Christmas tree at our house. The ‘tree’ is made of several dowels set into a central ‘trunk’ on a pedestal.  One granddaughter, who was old enough to assess her surroundings, looked at it last year and wanted to know where our tree was. I told her this was a special tree with just our most special ornaments on it. She favored me with one of her “yeah, right Gram” looks of skepticism.

Before we moved to a house with very little storage space, I had an enormous number of Christmas decorations.  Added to that, I usually purchased at least fourteen live wreaths for our outdoor décor and hung most of them on the fences of our rural three acres.  Now I’ve got one wreath to hang on our front door, and all my decorations are stored in just three 14-gallon tote boxes.  When we moved south we distributed most of our tree ornaments to family members and kept the really special ones for the dowel tree. I am of mostly German heritage by birth, but of Scandinavian heritage by marriage, and come Christmas time I am slowly reverting to the Scandinavian way of doing things: less is having to become more.

I’m not too pleased with the way Christmas has become so commercialized.  I can’t blame manufacturers and retailers for wanting to make a buck, but I wish they’d wait until the weekend after Thanksgiving to begin the assault. In retaliation, not that “they” would care at all, I’ve waited until now to do my own thing.  Today, just eleven days before Christmas, and while I’m in the midst of making a big batch of cassoulet and two loaves of bread, I’ll finish the last minor touches of my holiday decorating.

Again this year I’m not going to wrap our ‘street tree’ trunk with white lights as do so many of our neighbors here at SCCL.  Besides what I believe is a waste of electricity, and maybe my halo is on too tight, the curmudgeon in me just resents having to go along with ‘the group’ on this one.  I think it looks dumb.  I remember, as a child of about ten, being driven by car through some neighborhood on Long Island where they did a big light festival at Christmas time.  It must have been my Mother’s always reminding us to turn out the light when we left a room: all those lights on must have seemed to me to be a waste of electricity. It still seems to me to be a waste. The extent of my outdoor illumination will be to leave on the front porch light.

I’ll take down the dowel tree and the other decorations on January 2nd – after all, they’ll have been up for about three weeks. I don’t want them to get too dusty!
 
 
All sorts of things wound up on our tree: a little bell that once hung on our back screen door, a drop from Frank's Mom's chandelier, even a silver earring we found on the street.  Everything has a great memory to go along with it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 12 P.M.

I’ve always love numbers – never played them though! When numbers like my birthday or a familiar address come up on the clock or a license plate, for example, I always make the association. Today’s neat numbers just begged to be recorded, and I see that many are doing just that. I’d been planning to do this quickie post, and was pleased to see one of my favorite bloggers, Tania Kindersley at Backwards in High Heels, with an excellent post, beat me to it. She could: she lives in Scotland. 

I’ve loved great dates since I began working at a bank years ago and started using number dates regularly: 12/12/12 versus December 12, 2012, for example.  Sometimes you even get to add the time: January 2, 2003, at 4:56, a.m. or p.m., your choice! 1/2/3 4:56

I delighted on February 2, 2002, Cecil Bill’s birthday.  You do remember Cecil Bill, pal of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, don’t you?  02-02-02 – Too too too! To you.
 
 
Happy Wednesday everyone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WRAPPING PRESENTS

I suppose I should preface all of this with a Curmudgeon warning.
 
 
A few "brown paper packages tied up with strings"... 


My Christmas wrapping is finished, and a nice carton full of presents is on its way to Texas.  I must pat myself on the head this year: it wasn't a conscious effort, but I didn't buy one single thing for wrapping.  I had the tissue paper and the roll of brown builder's paper from two years ago (caution: you'd better love this heavy but very inexpensive paper because it seems to last forever. I've even used it with parti-colored yarn for wrapping birthday presents and still I've got half a roll left.) I had several editions of the Toronto Globe and Mail, brought by our son from his Canadian business trips. I had gently-used gift bags, and I had tags made from last year's Christmas cards. I've always got lots of inexpensive yarn instead of ribbons and bows. I hate stick-on bows with a passion!
Each year the shelter and decor magazines and blogs are chock full of opulently wrapped Christmas packages.  I suppose in some homes they are part of the overall decorating theme, though a turquoise or aubergine Christmas does strike an off note, and they're wrapped early enough and left lying about so that they'll be seen and admired.  Boosh-wah!  All that fancy wrapping will be ripped off and trown away.  Do you think all those fancy wrapper people recycle and reuse? Not on your old lady's corset cover!

Well, I'll climb down from off my high horse.  Old Ebenezerella Scrooge here is into a one-woman tiff - a very personal fight - with the Christmas Excess powers-that-be.  I'll not change a thing world wide, but I can express myself, can't I?





 

Friday, December 7, 2012

MEMORIES OF HARRODS


Just this past Wednesday, blogger Barbara on The Everyday Home included a wonderful picture tour of Harrods.  What a wonderful treat.  It’s been thirty years since I was in Harrods. It’s evident to me that since then all those Middle East millions have transformed the place into an Arabian Nights fantasy. 
When I was there in 1982 I headed straight for the food hall. Needless to say, I bought several goodies to bring home. I still have the jar the mustard came in. I do remember laughing at the ‘exotic’ imported delicacies: Wheaties and Skippy peanut butter. I wonder what it would be like to have Harrods as my local super market. Do they take coupons?

 

 

ORANGE


Behold the orange.  Orange by color, orange by name.

Orange from the Spanish naranja. Naranja is a very bold, strong word.  In French it is orange, but pronounced with a French twist.  In Italian it is arancia. In German and Norwegian we sense a bit of confusion with some other fruit: apfelsine, and appelsin. 

I must admit that orange juice is one of my comfort foods. As with eggs (usually several dozen) and cheese (several varieties) and onions (no cook should ever run out of onions) - and always some bacon or ham - my fridge is always overstocked with orange juice. Doesn’t that all suggest to you that breakfast is my favorite meal? Honestly, I could have breakfast any time of day. 

Orange, our favorite citrus fruit, blends with most flavors - not with pea soup of course, but only think about pairing it, even in a small way, with things like steak or a chop, chicken, fish, or maybe shrimp, and the idea isn’t repulsive at all.  Of course orange goes with sweets of all kinds.  Next to the wild cherry, my favorite Life Saver is orange. You’ve noticed, of course, that the Life Saver folks canned the lemon and lime in their five flavor roll in favor of raspberry and watermelon – but they didn’t touch the orange! Oh, they tried for a while to replace it with blackberry, but it didn’t do too well and the orange was quickly brought back out of retirement.

And, speaking of candy, do you remember from eons ago when relatives would bring back from Florida those miniature wooden orange crates with the tangy orange candies inside?  I’ve even got an even tinier orange crate for my silver charm bracelet.  I do love oranges – in any form.

One of the nicest ways to eat an orange is to peel and slice it, remove any pits, arrange it nicely on a plate, and sprinkle it with lots of sugar.  That’s how my Mom sometimes prepared them for us, and we thought it was just elegant.  Food memories are good memories.

I once heard it said that you could live nicely on a diet of milk, chocolate and oranges. Not that there’d be much crunch there.  I once went on the Atkins regime and I really missed crunch. I think I’d have to add some walnuts or pecans, but the diet does have an appeal.  There would be all the necessary things like protein, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and all that.  I can visualize myself enjoying this diet while stranded on a desert isle - with proper hut and hammock of course - after my one-woman cargo ship, carrying the requisite food stuffs and a small library’s worth of books, had foundered on a nearby coral reef.  I say if you’re going to dream, dream up a good one.

Does an orange a day keep the doctor away?  Couldn’t hurt! How ‘bout an orange in every Christmas stocking? Orange you glad I wrote this essay?
                                                                
 ?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

FRENCH POSTCARDS

 

I am indebted to Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home, in her piece Letters from a Doting Papa, for reminding me to tell you about the post cards that my own Father sent to my sister and me from France and Belgium during the Second World War.  I had many of them framed years ago, and I took pictures of them for you to see.

HEUREUX ANNIVERSAIRE


What are particularly pertinent at this time of year are the post cards of St. Nicholas and Piet.  This version of St. Nick is the first one I ever knew. The Thomas Nast version was a bit strange to me. In his bishop’s robes, this is the Santa Claus I pictured for years.



I finally saw him in Amsterdam in 1996. It was a raw November day, and I was my birthday – the best birthday I ever had! 
 
 
The parade was long an very colorful, and we stood along the route for what seemed like hours.  I know our feet felt like blocks of ice.  But I was so excited, I was just like one of the kids. They all began to yell “Piet, Piet” when the many Black Peters came by, handing out candies and little cookies – I got some too!
 
 
I took a lot of pictures that day, but when St. Nicholas finally came I was so excited I took only a few – and the one that should have been the best was blurry – it was me, not the camera!  I was absolutely thrilled – still am when I remember it! – to see my version of Santa live.
I smile when I read in the shelter magazines and blogs about decorating for Christmas. I don’t go to even moderate lengths to decorate for Christmas, after all, I’ve got a bit of Christmas around the house every day of the year.

 

                                            Joyeux Noel Y’all

 

 

Friday, November 30, 2012

THE YEAST WILL RISE AGAIN...




 
     …or how I (sort of) rescued my bread.

This is the story of a near disaster – not as disastrous as the Titanic, but it did give me that sinking feeling.  Here’s what happened…

… a day like any day, I started after lunch and had two loaves of bread risen and ready to bake.  Earlier, I had put the loaves in the oven to rise, and the display showed its usual 100° as it always does when it starts out. Because 100° is just about the proper temperature for rising I never noticed, when I did turn of the heat, that the temperature never got any higher. It was a mild day, so the loaves rose nicely in their draft-free spot.

Loaves risen and out of the oven, I entered 450°, the starting temperature, and wandered off to do something else while I waited.  Eventually I realized that the oven hadn’t beep…beep…beeped to let me know it was up to temperature.  Oh, swell – the thing was on the blink.  Now what?

Knowing that yeast is forgiving, I dumped out the dough – it immediately deflated – and put each in a bag and popped them into the freezer.  Then I called the repairman.  Long story short… and over $250.00 for a new igniter… two days later I was back in business.

I had other baked bread in the freezer, so when I did decide to bake up the frozen dough I did it one loaf at a time.  I took out one loaf, kneaded it nicely, formed it into a boule, and baked it.  It was excellent! It had even ‘aged’ a bit and had just a hint of sourdough flavor.  I don’t think I want to go through all that again, but the outcome was good on the first loaf.

The second loaf was another story – and let this be a lesson and a reminder to any bread bakers out there – because dummy me, having a Senior Moment, I just formed a loaf and put it in a pan to rise.  I never thought to knead the loaf as I had the first one.  Yeast is forgiving, yes, but it needs to be kneaded (don’t we all?) in order to recapture the gasses that were lost when it was deflated.  The loaf baked up nice and brown, but it was very, very dense.  I cut it into croutons, and they did taste fine, but they were a bit ‘chewy’, for want of a better word, in a bowl of soup.

This saga rounds out this National Bread Month of baking essays and recipes.  I do hope you’ll try your hand at making bread.  These coming winter months will be a great time to start. The initial ingredients don’t cost very much – much less than for store-bought bread – and the taste of the final product, not to mention the divine aroma as it’s baking, will be well worth the effort.   
 
THIS IS THE FIRST LOAF - THE SECOND LOAF WASN'T WORTH A PHOTO!

 

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

GETTING TO THE ROOTS OF BRUSSELS SPROUTS


Wikipedia says that “Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium.” And that they spread to the northern parts of Europe. No wonder my parents liked them – they were both of German origin, and loved all the strong tasting cruciferous vegetables.  Brussels sprouts? I can take ‘em or leave ’em, and mostly I’d usually leave ‘em, especially when my mother cooked them, as she did most green vegetables, until they were the color of a pallid pea soup. Bright green veggies were a definite no-no.

Up until recent years I cooked Brussels sprouts according to an amazing recipe I found eons ago in the Sunday magazine from the New York Times. It was a recipe for a hot Brussels sprouts salad.  What with the onions and olive oil and vinegar to accompany the shredded sprouts I could manage to eat a portion, generously giving the rest to my husband.  

In recent years I have sometimes managed to find what I call “baby” Brussels sprouts in the market.  These babies have not lived long enough to develop too strong a taste. Steamed and served with salt and pepper and a generous amount of butter, they were pretty good.  Just at the beginning of this month I found a stalk of baby Brussels sprouts at Trader Joe’s.  The price was terrific, and I could see that they were nice babies, so I grabbed a stalk. (I’d once before purchased Brussels sprouts on a stalk – I should have known better because it was obvious that they were mature adult sprouts. I hate to say it, but a lot of those became compost. I can eat Brussels sprouts salad only so often.)
 
I figured the sprouts on the stalk were worth about three suppers for us, so I first snapped off enough for one night. I began snapping at the bottom of the stalk, and was left with some bare stalk and the remaining sprouts. I really didn’t want to give the stalk “house room” in my refrigerator.  Looking around I realized I could treat the stalk as a flower stem – that’s sort of what it is – so I cut off some of it and put it in water in one of the little pitchers in my kitchen.  We had the first sprouts that evening and they were the best sprouts either of us had ever had. Ever! 

But here’s the point of my essay: twelve days later I discovered that Brussels sprouts stalks will root!  Not only did they keep beautifully, without a lot of yellowing leaves as they would have had in the fridge, but they were still deliciously mild. I harvested another third for that evening’s meal and, truth be known, saved some of the largest ones for that hot Brussels sprouts salad – I think it may be even better with these sprouts.

So - next fall if you see Brussels sprouts on the stalk do get them if they look like babies: an inch or less in diameter.  Then use them from the bottom up and plunk the stem in water to keep your babies bright green and tasty.

 

 

Friday, November 23, 2012

SUPER DELICIOUS PECAN RAISIN BREAD


In addition to being just plain National Bread Month, November is, so they say, also National Raisin Bread Month. ‘They’ are several references on Google, but none tell me who, or what entity, originated this celebration. Despite all that, the topic makes for a tasty bit of research: on raisins, which have been around since man first gave a try to some dried-up grapes left on a vine; and on cinnamon, which comes in many varieties, and about which folks can get absolutely snooty with their preferences; and on the many and varied recipes and methods for making said raisin bread.  Other than my own recipe, which I think is a good one, my favorite variation on raisin bread is Yule Kake, the Norwegian Christmas bread, where cardamom is exchanged for the cinnamon. I’ve got some dandy ‘extras’ in my recipe, but my husband’s Grandmother’s recipe is absolutely decadent. I use water and vegetable oil - her recipe uses milk and butter. Oh, the calories!! 
 
The aroma of baking or toasting raisin bread is one of life’s little pleasures.
I’ve developed this raisin bread recipe over the last few years. Don’t be intimidated by the yeast - even if this bread falls it will be delicious. Toasted or not, spread with warm butter or cold, or maybe cream cheese - well, that’s that! I’m off to have some myself. Meanwhile, here’s my recipe:
Note that this is a heavy bread - your loaves will weigh almost two pounds each.  To facilitate the rising, I use a tablespoon of yeast - more than is in one packet.  You might want to empty several packets into a small container, measure out the tablespoon you need, and refrigerate or freeze the rest to be used later.
The recipe is based on the use of a KitchenAid or other similar, heavy duty mixer.
Bread Ingredients:                      Filling Ingredients
 
1½ cups raisins in                       ½ cup white sugar                          
1¼ cups of water                        ½ cup brown sugar          
1 cup of water                            1½ tsp. cinnamon      
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil                   1 cup coarsely chopped pecans   
2 Tbsp. honey            
2 Tbsp. molasses             
1 Tbsp. salt                   
2 tsp. ground cinnamon       
3½ + cups white flour        
2½ cups whole wheat flour   
 
 
Place the raisins in a microwavable bowl, Cover with water, cook on high for 90 seconds. Drain the raisins, reserve the liquid to go into the bread.

Pour one cup of the hot raisin water, along with this second cup into your mixing bowl.                
Sprinkle the yeast over the water.  Add the oil, honey, molasses, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk this all together.  Add the raisins.

Add the flours to the mixer and begin mixing on low.  You can increase the machine speed when the flours start to mix in, otherwise the flour will get flung around. 

 

 
 
 
Depending on how the dough reacts, you may have to add more white flour, a tablespoon or so at a time, if the dough is too sticky. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl and lump up on the dough hook.
      
         Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it by hand for a little while.    Form the dough into a flattened ball on a floured counter.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. 

 
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients: sugars, cinnamon and nuts. 

Also at this time, grease or spray two 8½ x 4½ x 2¾ bread pans. 

Cut the dough in half.  You might want to use a kitchen scale to be sure the weights are even.  

Roll out each half into a rectangle about 8” x 10”.  Sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture.  Starting with a short side, roll up the dough into a log. 

 
 
 
Place the loaf into a prepared pan, being sure that the seam is face down in the pan.  Repeat this for the other loaf.   Place the loaves in a slightly warmed oven - no more than 100° - and let them rise in the oven until doubled and a half. This may take an hour or more.  

Once the dough has risen, remove the loaves from the oven and place them on top of the stove, near the heat of the oven outlet. 

Heat the oven to 450º. When the oven is up to temperature, put the loaves in side by side - maybe three inches between - and time them for 10 minutes.  At the 10 min. mark, turn down the oven to 350º and time the loaves for 30 minutes. 

 
Remove the loaves from the oven and, immediately, from the pans on to a cooling rack.  As seen above, you may have some ‘syrup’ ooze out of the loaf until the loaves cool a bit.  Do not slice the bread until it is completely cool.  Slicing too soon will make for harder cutting, and gumminess where the knife has pushed through instead of slicing cleanly.  This bread freezes very well.


Frank, my handy-dandy bread slicer, likes his raisin bread toasted. Me, I'll take it any way I can get it - but always with lots of butter.