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Special Bake of Pumpernickel Raisin Bread

Special Bake of Pumpernickel Raisin Bread — June 2-3

a slice of pumpernickel bread with  brown raisins in the middle with a crust around the slice of raisin bread

A taste of turn of the last century Jewish New York

Pumpernickel Raisin bread may not be prototypical Michigan baking, but it sure is good. For those in the know, Pumpernickel Raisin’s reappearance—even for two brief days—is cause for serious celebration. One of my own favorite Bakehouse breads, it’s a little-known-in-the-Midwest specialty that long ago won over hearts and minds in New York City. Rye—and pumpernickel—were staples of Lower East Side Jewish eating back when folks of the chicken soup-making generation were arriving en masse. (In 1893, when Vivekananda spoke in Chicago, Jewish immigration to the U.S. was starting to really pick up. My great-grandparents arrived in the city about ten years later. It peaked in the years following WWI as Federal restrictions tightened.)

The story of pumpernickel raisin? Orwashers, the famous Manhattan bakery, says it was started at the end of WWII, but I’ve found a few references to pumpernickel raisin bread being sold at Ratner’s dairy restaurant on Delancey Street on the Lower East Side as early as 1905. In part, I have this great bread on my mind because there were folks from Orwashers who attended the ZingTrain workshop I did in Manhattan last month. The story is that Louis Orwasher invented pumpernickel raisin in 1945 after serving in the U.S. Army as a baker!

I also found a funny service story about a Jewish New York waiter who once worked at the Stage Deli, which, for some reason, refused to offer pumpernickel raisin bread. When customers would request it, the service-focused server would slide into the kitchen and personally press raisins into slices of pumpernickel bread for them! That’s what we here in the ZCoB would call an “extra mile.” (See Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service for much more on the subject.)

The Bakehouse’s Pumpernickel Raisin is particularly good spread with the terrific handmade Cream Cheese from the Creamery. It’s very good with the Creamery’s Mini Brie or Manchester as well. Try some with the Koeze Peanut Butter we get from Grand Rapids or the Georgia Grinders Almond Butter. The Pumpernickel Raisin is terrific toasted and spread simply with good butter. Personally, I like it just ripped from the loaf and eaten as is! Stop by the Bakeshop or Deli to buy a few loaves. Or have some shipped to your in-laws in South Carolina!

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