Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bohemian Raisin Bread-Houska

 © Donna Cook – All Rights Reserved  

My favorite food in the world is houska. It reminds me of my Babi's kitchen with all the warmth and love. Even in the 1950's, Babi used a wood burning stove to cook. She tested the oven temperature by simply putting her hand in the oven to see if it felt right. After she passed away, I bought houska at Bohemian bakeries. They started disappearing over the years. My mom's mother had a church cookbook that had a houska recipe. I had tried to make it myself but it turned out like a door stop. 

My dad's mother is from Obenice, Bohemia in the Czech Republic. We lived with my dad's parents in Cicero, Illinois until I was two years old. Moje babicka (my grandmother in Bohemian) spoke very little English but she was a fantastic cook. I was too young to learn from her. I would love to have learned to make kolacky (pastries with filling), noodles made just with eggs and flour, knedliky (bread dumplings) and houska, a sweet raisin bread.

Years later, I got a bread machine. After some trial and error, the houska recipe works! There are some similarities to challah bread, but this recipe has eggs and milk, so it is definitely not kosher. I do use the 6 strand braiding technique for challah bread because it is so pretty.

Houska is so good that I eat it like cake, without butter, toasting, jelly or anything.


  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, soft
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  nutmeg
  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg separated into yolk and white (2 eggs total)
  • 4 ounces golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • Slivered almonds
  • Total time: 6 hours
    • Preparation time: 30 minutes
    • Cook time:           5 ½ hours
  • Servings: 16-20 slices approximately
  1. Combine all ingredients except raisins, egg white, and yeast in bread machine pan.
  2. Put yeast into yeast dispenser.
  3. Run the bread machine in dough raisin mode.
  4. Add raisins when machine indicates-mine beeps towards the end of the kneading process.
  5. Remove dough when cycle is completed.
  6. Braid dough by strand method or divide between 2 bread pans.
  7. Let rise until double in height, 1-2 hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Brush loaf or loaves with the egg white.
  10. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. 
  11. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness-an inserted toothpick will come out clean.
  12. Slice to any desired thickness and serve. 
Food Facts - Raisins

As you may know, raisins are made from grapes dried in the sun. They belong to the genus and species Vitis vinifera 'Thompson Seedless' in the Family Vitaceae, the grape family. The genus Vitus includes a wide variety of grapes. They are a deciduous perennial, meaning that the plant sheds its leaves and lives for more than two years. Most production is in Califorina. However, the state of Washington is the second largest grape grower followed by Oregon and New York. Raisins are an ancient food found in the Phoenician and Egyptian cultures.

Both regular and golden raisins are made from Thompson Seedless Grapes. The difference is in the processing. Golden raisins are treated with sulfur dioxide to stop the fruit from darkening from oxidation. Natural raisins are not treated with sulfites so the color is darker. If you react to sulfites in foods, golden raisins may not be a good choice as they are very high sulfites. Organic golden raisins are available but they are higher in cost and may not be raised in the USA. 

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