Monday, September 19, 2005

Lithuanian Toasting Bread

When we have time around the holidays, my mom and I make her Lithuanian grandmother's bread from scratch, a sweetened egg bread with raisins in it. Somebody had the good sense to corner my great-grandmother, who used to make the bread by feel and in a wood stove, and stop her at each step to measure, count, and record the process for posterity (me). My recipe card still instructs "pooshem", her word for kneading.

When I was in tenth grade, we decided to make up a batch of it for my teachers. So we did all the usual stuff. We put the yeast in warm water, added enormous quantities of butter, flour, and eggs, mixed, kneaded, waited, kneaded, waited, and baked. It came out round and bread-shaped but overly dense and chewy. We guessed that the water for the yeast had been too hot, but it was too late to try again.

My mom suggested, "It always seems to taste good toasted, no matter how it turns out." We toasted a bit of it and tried it, and sure enough, it tasted pretty good. How should we encourage the recipients to toast the stuff, then?

Mom came to the rescue again. "They're selling something called Australian Toaster Biscuits. Why don't we label it Lithuanian Toasting Bread?" That is precisely what we did, and the next day, I handed around six or seven miniature, dense loaves to my teachers.

Wouldn't you know it, my English teacher liked the stuff! Naturally, she asked for the recipe. I told her it was a family secret. What was I supposed to say? "First, you boil the yeast..."


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