Nanny Hemeon's Sweet Raisin Bread

Nanny Hemeon was my daughter-in-law's grandmother and this is her recipe for molasses raisin bread.  I've known the Hemeons for years.  When I was a kid I first became friends with Louise and Barbara at summer camp. We kept in contact over the years and then I moved to the same town.  We attended the same church and I came to know their mother, Mrs. Hemeon, as a lovely Christian woman who always had a smile for this young teacher miles from home.    Mrs. Hemeon raised a family of 14 children and was well known for her baking and cooking skills.  Who would have known, all those years ago, that my son, Peter and Mrs. Hemeon's granddaughter, Vicki (who were not even born) would fall in love and get married. 

In Newfoundland raisin bread is just as likely to be called "Sweet Bread" or "Lassy Bread" and everyone knows it contains raisins. Traditionally, raisin bread and a meal of salt fish are served on Christmas Eve.  But raisin bread is also one of the mainstays at a church tea and bake sale, a kitchen party or a bedtime snack (a lunch, as we would say).  It can be found squeezed in between the cookies and desserts at a wedding buffet or in a lunch box sandwiched together with butter.  There's nothing better than sitting down with a slice of buttered raisin bread, a cut or two of cheese and a cup of tea or glass of milk.  Raisin bread makes one great tasting grilled cheese sandwich and don't forget to toast this for a tasty breakfast treat.

Sweet bread can be found in any grocery store or bakery in Newfoundland but the best bread is homemade.  There must be hundreds of recipes for raisin bread (maybe one for every baker) but I'm sure each family who bakes this bread, thinks their recipe is the best.  The lovely aroma while this bread is baking makes home feel cozy and warm.   

Makes 6 large loaves.
The original recipe made 6 large loaves of bread or 8 smaller loaves and would have been just enough for a couple of meals at the Hemeon table.  I've reworked the original recipe to use instant quick rise yeast and made only half the recipe so I could make it in my stand mixer.  I like lots of raisins so I used the full package.  Raisin bread made with molasses will take longer to rise than a white bread.  The extra sugar and molasses will inhibit the yeast.  Let it sit in a warm place until it rises nice and light.

Start this bread early in the day as it a long process, waiting for the dough to rise.  You could speed things up by doubling the yeast amount if you are in a hurry.  Reserve Raisin Bread day for staying home, cleaning the house or maybe reading that book you've always wanted to start.

Sweet Bread 
9 cups flour
½ package raisins (I used the full 250 gram package of raisins.)
½ teaspoon spice (cinnamon)
½ teaspoon cloves
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar 
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons instant yeast (I increased the yeast to 1 tablespoon as it was so slow to rise)
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup molasses
Warm water as needed, about 2 ¾ cups

Melt butter.  Put  8 cups flour, raisins, cloves, spices, sugar, yeast and salt into mixer bowl fitted with kneading attachment and mix well.  Add melted butter, molasses and enough warm water to make a smooth dough, not sticky.  Add more flour as needed.  You may use just a little more than the 1 cup.  Mix 10 minutes after dough leaves sides of bowl.  Place dough in a large greased bowl.  Grease top of dough and cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel and put in a warm place to rise. (I turn on my oven to 350 degrees for 1 minute and then turn off.  This gives a nice warm place to rise the dough.) When dough is doubled in size, punch down.  This may take 2 hours or more.  You may then form loaves or let rise again.  A second rising will help develop the gluten better and even help with flavour.   Grease 3 large or 4 medium bread pans and put 2 or 3 buns in a pan.  Let rise until double.  Bake 1 ½ hours at 250 degrees F.*  The long slow baking ensures the bread will not burn. When baked, turn out on wire rack and brush tops with melted butter for a soft crust. 

*I increased the oven temperature to 300 degrees as my oven is not hot.  You know your oven, so adjust the oven temperature accordingly.  I also decreased the baking time to 1 hour 15 minutes because I made smaller loaves.

Raisin bread dries out quickly because the raisins draw moisture from the bread.  If you don't have a large family to eat this bread quickly, freeze the extra loaves and buns and leave out what you will eat in a couple of days. 

Dry ingredients mixed together.

Yummy ingredients.

This is the inside of the mixer.  It's hard to see but the dough(on the extreme lower left) has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. 
The dough has been kneaded for 10 minutes and is now in a greased bowl ready to rise.

Dough has doubled in size.
Punch down and form into loaves.

Ready to rise.
Rising loaves sitting near a sunny window.

Wrapped in a clean tea towel to keep rising dough warm.
In the oven.

Out of the oven, golden brown with a coating of butter.

First slice, hot and steamy. 

This is not going to last long.  Oh, so good!

All gone!


  1. Yummy! Now I want some of this bread! :)

  2. Your wish is my command. I have some put away for you.

  3. This recipe looks wonderful and reminds me of my childhood days. My aunt used to send us every Christmas (from NL to ON) raisin bread and we would devour it. Do you use AP flour or Bread flour? Thank you!

  4. I would have used AP flour but you can use the bread flour as well if you wish.


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