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Raisin Bread!

I’m remembering the bread…aw the bread, I can practically taste it, hmmm there is nothing like the smell of homemade bread.  How excited my husband was at the prospect of having his little woman learn to make bread. And I, anxious to be the dutiful wife, was ridiculously compliant.

So, on a bright and sunny Saturday morning my husband takes me and the kids to the home of his friend. After a brief greeting and an even briefer goodbye, he’s gone. It appears that his friend has arranged an outing for the guys so that we women can do our womanly things in the kitchen. A little nervous but excited I await instruction from the wife, a person I don’t know well, but have heard much about. My husband incessantly raves about her amazing homemaking skills. How will I ever measure up to this paragon of domesticity I wonder?

As my boys busy themselves outside in her backyard, we sit at the kitchen table. She pours us a cup of tea. She is talkative and shares many funny and interesting stories about her job. She continues to sip her tea while I begin to fidget a little waiting for my lesson. Finally, not wanting to be rude but being acutely aware that the morning’s slipping by; I ask her when the bread making lesson will start? “Oh of course the bread,” she says, then smiling conspiratorially, compels me to swear that what she is about to reveal must stay between us.

Down in her basement we go. Opening an oversized freezer chest she takes out a bag. With bag in hand she leads me back to the kitchen. Next, she takes out five loaf pans….greases the bottom and sides of the pans before turning on the oven. Cutting open the bag, she removes five loaves of bread dough. Placing one loaf in each pan she greases the tops, sets them on the stove, and covers them with tea towels, then sits down at the kitchen table… looking very smug indeed.

Stunned, is understating my reaction! This is the home-made bread my husband has been raving about. Before I’m able to utter a sound, she reveals her long kept secret! 

‘Rhodes’ frozen bread dough, the most fascinating and wonderful innovation for homemakers. My new friend goes on to explain that she has been executing this ruse for years now without the slightest sense of guilt.

“Well, I’ll be…!”  Sitting at this woman’s table and at a complete loss for words, she tells me to relax while she makes the kids a picnic lunch. And so it is that we share a lovely afternoon; relaxing and enjoying the kids as they play in the yard…while our bread rises undisturbed, in the pans. By the time the guys return home, supper is ready and the piece de resistance’ homemade bread!  

I can well imagine the pleasure and fantasizing my husband experienced when he walked into the wonderful smells of freshly baked bread wafting throughout the house.

Months went by as I revelled in the art of bread making. The guilt of deceiving my husband was steadily reduced by his incessant need to brag, annoyingly, to everyone we knew; about his cleverness in arranging for his friend’s wife to teach me to make bread.

I’d almost forgotten the secret buried deep in my freezer; until one night; absentmindedly, while walking out the door of our apartment, I suggested to my husband that he go through the freezer and pick out whatever he wanted for dinner the next day. As I walk down the hall with garbage in hand, I can almost see my husband in my mind’s eye. He’s lounging on the couch; occasionally tugging on a rope he’s attached to our daughter’s baby swing. Now he’s probably getting up from the couch and wandering into the kitchen, anticipating another beer.

Then suddenly it hits me…oh No! Quickly, I open the garbage room door, toss the garbage bag in the chute, and run back to the apartment. Out of breath and terrified that he’s already inside the freezer rummaging around, I barrel through the front door and into the kitchen!

No husband. Before I have a chance to say a word, he calls out from the living room that he couldn’t leave the baby long enough to check the freezer because if he stops swinging her she might wake up. Would I grab him a beer since I’m already in the kitchen? Phew…close call!

There is a saying that all dark deeds get uncovered and I know this firsthand in my life…I always get caught! Always get found out; that’s why I normally wouldn’t get involved in what was becoming a “Lucy and Ethel”1I Love Lucy TV sitcom 1951 to 1957 scene.  Well….this may not be accurate, since in actuality I  do have a propensity for landing knees deep in trouble.

It was a typical Sunday night dinner. My husband, and the kids and I were sitting at our dining room table, enjoying the evening meal. It was during this dinner that my husband dropped the bomb. “Ok Sam, now that you’ve mastered “bread making” I’d like you to make my favourite kind.”

“Your favourite kind of bread isn’t white?” I comment nervously.

“No, actually I prefer raisin bread. You don’t mind, do you? I mean how difficult can it be to add some raisins?”

“Sure hon” I mumble, as beads of perspiration develop on my forehead.

The next day I called my baker-in-crime and explained my dilemma. She becomes defensive and a little nervous herself. It appears that the Rhodes company makes white and brown bread and even rolls now, but not raisin bread “So far Rhodes is the only company making frozen bread dough!”

“Well, I’d better hang up and figure something out.”  I’m choked, and in far too deep, now that my new friend is at risk of being found out; and I must say she’s not a happy camper.

OK! I’ve got it. I’ll just defrost some Rhodes bread. Once it’s defrosted, I’ll add some raisins to the bread dough before I bake it. I’m feeling apprehensive at the prospect of ruining the Rhodes bread and more importantly the ruse! When the bread has thawed, I add raisins, trying desperately to knead the raisins into the dough. It’s not working…it’s just not co-operating, the dough is like glue and elastic combined, adamantly refusing to accept my raisins…

How, pray tell, am I going to get the raisins inside the bread? As I frustratingly toss out the first batch of dough I realize I’m going about this all wrong. What I need to do is find something that will allow me to shove the raisins into the oven ready loaf individually and as deeply as possible.

After trying numerous methods without success, I came up with the perfect solution. I’ll just use pieces of my corn broom! The corn stalk is fairly strong and is thick enough to push the raisins a good distance into the bread. After defrosting more frozen bread dough, and allowing it to rise, I begin the painstaking job of pushing the raisins inside the dough; all the while mumbling, “if this is the only way to make him raisin bread, he won’t be getting it again, any time soon!”

Dinnertime came and we ate a lovely meal.  With less trepidation than I’d experienced all day I put the ‘hot out of the oven’ bread’ on a cutting board and placed it on the table. My husband hesitated for a mere nanosecond before grabbing the serrated bread knife.

First, he cut one slice; then as each of the kids asked for their own piece he cut more. Each slice revealed raisins, but only on the outside of each slice and none…not a single one in the middle!  My husbands’ quizzical expression was worth the price of admission. The kids pretty much shared his comical look as each examined their unusual looking bread. Not wanting to hurt my feelings, the kids stayed silent. My husband, on the other hand, with his typical  diplomacy said, “What did you do to this bread?”

That was the straw (forgive the pun) that broke the camel’s back. I had fretted for two days, barely had any sleep, and received a chilly attitude from my baking partner in crime. I had worked laboriously inserting hundreds of raisins into two loaves of bread with a straw, only to have the heat or the yeast push them back out.

“What did I do to the bread, you ask? You have a lot of nerve! (The best offence is a good defence). I worked and slaved all day to make you raisin bread…it wasn’t enough that I learned how to make white bread! Now you want what? Julia Child2Julia Child, August 1912 to August 2004, author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, TV celebrity!”

“No, no I’m not complaining, it’s just that I’ve never seen a raisin bread that looked quite like this before. And without another word he and the boys proceeded silently, to demolish the curious but most edible loaf of raisin bread; as I muttered indignantly “Well just for the record, if you want raisin bread again you’re out of luck! My bread making days are over”…and believe you me they were.

This is my story and I’m sipping it!

1 – I Love Lucy TV sitcom 1951 to 1957
2 – Julia Child, August 1912 to August 2004, author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, TV celebrity