Since St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) is just around the corner on December 13th, we thought we’d share this special Swedish bread with you – fantastic for the Holidays. The celebration of the day comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden. “St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head, so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.” (see note below**)
December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old ‘Julian’ Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia’s Day. It is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Thus, the wreath of bread dotted with candied “berries.” If you’d like you can also add small candles to the cake as well for a more festive look.
** read more at https://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/sweden.shtml
- In a large mixer, soften the yeast in the warm water
- Heat the milk until warm. Add the oil and sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Add this mixture to the yeast mixture in the mixer
- Add salt and saffron
- Add the 3 slightly beaten eggs and mix with dough hook.
- Add the lemon zest, citron and almonds and continue mixing
- One cup at a time, add the flour and mix well after each addition. Stop adding the flour when the dough starts pulling away from the side of the bowl. Adding more flour if necessary.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 min, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic; adding flour as necessary.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hr. (At this point, you can refrigerate the dough, if you want to work with it later).
- Divide the dough into six equal balls and roll into large ropes and then braid three together, making two braids.
- Pinch the two ends together and tuck under, forming two circular loaves.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two sheet pans with baking paper, or grease, and put a braided loaf on each pan.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place, until doubled.
- Combine the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash, and brush on the braids.
- Bake for about 20-25 min or until the loaf feels firm to the touch. If you would like to use a thermometer, the internal temperature should read about 190 degrees.
- While the bread is baking, prepare your frosting, mixing all ingredients until smooth and on the thicker side. Cut your cherries in half.
- Remove bread from the oven and cool slightly, then decorate, using the green cherries as leaves, and the red as berries.
We are so fortunate to have a good friend and neighbor who grows vegetables for a nearby upscale restaurant. Whenever he has a surplus of a particular vegetable, we’re the happy benefactors. Yesterday morning, I cheered when walking into the Convent kitchen. I found three large flats of fresh, happy looking Baby Bok Choy on the counter. In no time at all, it was in and out of the sink and into the skillet for our noon meal. What a blessing!
Simple (and delicious!) Bok Choy
Great anytime in the week, this easy recipe will turn a side dish into the star of the show on any table!
- Heat broth, butter, and garlic in a deep skillet, cast iron is preferred.
- Arrange the bok choy evenly in the skillet and simmer until tender--about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bok choy onto a serving dish and cover to keep warm.
- Return to the skillet and reduce the broth by half. Add sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the broth reduction over the bok choy and enjoy!
There’s just something about the aroma of freshly baked bread that brings one back to their childhood – but a torture when allergic to yeast!
I was baking for a friend recently, and this was their story. So, I did a little experimenting to see what I could come up with besides biscuits and quick breads – I really wanted something they could enjoy as a sandwich bread. I never thought pita bread would rise without the presence of yeast, but in this easy and quick recipe, it surely does, AND creates a wonderful pocket of joy that can be filled with your favorite sweet or savory fillings.
Yeast-Free Homemade Pita Bread
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the water and olive oil and knead to form a moist dough. Form into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 5-30 min.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Roll out the dough into a long log on a very lightly floured work space.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal parts and form 8 balls.
- Using a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten each into an 1/8" high flat disk
- Lay pita bread on two sheet pans lined with baking paper - spacing the disks apart from each other.
- Spray lightly (or brush) with water and bake immediately for 6-8 min. or until puffed and golden.
8. Remove from oven and serve immediately or allow to cool to store for later. Store in a zip lock bag or air tight container.
Bumper crop! Our community has several gardens, an orchard, and a vineyard, and every year
seems to have a harvest highlight. So far this has been the year of the cucumber. After serving
cucumber salad in numerous forms, and making at least two multiple batches of sweet
refrigerator pickles, I have to admit that I sighed when I saw the next tub of cucumbers arrive in our kitchen. Garden bumper crops are faith building but can offer a challenge for speedy
processing and creative recipes. One year it was plums, and we saw plum pork, plum sauce,
plum butter, plum muffins, plum cakes, and frozen plums in the freezer for quite some time.
We found ourselves praying for a peach!
But this year – it’s the cucumber! Someone mentioned refrigerator dill pickles, and although I
was initially daunted by the idea, I found myself researching several different recipes and quite taken by lovely images on the internet of homemade dill pickles. With the beautiful ingredients in this recipe, you’ll end up with colorful jars of refrigerator pickles to give as gifts, or to keep on hand for eating. Once opened and served, expect them to disappear quickly! This recipe also can be multiplied out easily. (I made two gallons of pickles.) However, if multiplying, do use less garlic.
Rumor has it that this will also be our year for the apple. The initial drops and first fruits have already started to roll in….stay tuned.
- Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a stainless steel or Teflon pan over high heat. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Transfer the liquid into a bowl and whisk in the cold water. Refrigerate brine until it has cooled enough to add to the cucumbers (approx. 30 minutes).
- While brine is cooling, place cucumbers into two clean 1-quart jars, leaving a little room to add the dill and spices.
- Then, when brine is cooled, add the coriander seeds, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, dill sprigs, and chilled brine into jars, dividing evenly.
- This is the fun part, as the finished product looks lovely! If necessary, add a bit of cold water until the brine covers the cucumbers.
- Cover and refrigerate about 24 hours, then serve. Cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.
There’s a crispness to the air, a welcome relief to the humidity and heat of our 2018 Cape Cod summer! This past Saturday, our entire community joined in a “beehive” of activity as we
tackled a daunting list of tasks and projects, left in the wake of a busy summer. Digging out attic spaces, weeding gardens, scrubbing the bell tower floor, getting the barn clean and ready to house animals for winter, and cooking meals ahead for an upcoming choir recording were some of the projects accomplished last weekend. But it was also the beginning of harvest time. We culled apples and pears and gratefully recognized what a bountiful harvest it was going to be. The Sisterhood celebrated with brunch on Sunday. And since I was “in the mood,” I whipped up some ingredient-packed muffins that had all the essence of Fall – complete with cinnamon!
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Grease muffin cups with non-stick spray and line with muffin papers
- Beat eggs, oil, orange zest and vanilla in a bowl to blend
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl
- Separately, mix carrots, zucchini, apple, raisins, coconut, and almonds together - add the egg and oil mixture
- Sift flour mixture into the vegetable mixture and mix all together by hand until well blended.
- Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin cup with one scoop of batter.
- Bake until center of muffin springs back to touch - about 20-25 min.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.