I think most people will agree that an essential ingredient to the
recipe for an “old fashioned Merry Christmas” (or even a contemporary
one) is the baking of homemade cookies. Old favorites are always a
must and adding new ones is also fun, as are cookie swaps where each
person brings their favorites and samples everyone else’s. If you
haven’t done this in a while, you might want to consider it for this
This buttery almond cherry cookie recipe is one I came by in such
manner, and it has remained as a “keeper” ever since. These “cheery”
little creations are great to have on hand for unexpected holiday
guests, or scheduled ones. They can make an attractive gift as well.
However you use them, you will never have too many, so make plenty of
them when you do.
- Sprinkle almonds in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown. Cool 10 minutes.
- In food processor, process almonds until finely chopped; set aside.
- In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
- Add egg and almond extract. On medium speed, beat until smooth.
- On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, and salt until dough forms. Stir in cherries and chopped almonds.
- Form dough into 2 (8-inch) logs. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Cut dough into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices. On ungreased cookie sheets, place slices 2 inches apart. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.
Our Monastic Bake Shop opens for Advent, just in time for people to select delicious home-baked goods for their Christmas table. One of the favorite sweet breads that people return for is the lovely St. Lucia Bread. A rich, dense dough filled with citron, saffron and almonds, and decorated like a wreath, has been a long-standing tradition for our Bakeshop, started by one of our own Sisters, Sr. Lucia.
Traditionally, when we make our first profession as Sisters, we also take on a new name – symbolizing our new life wedded to Christ. Sr. Lucia became a novice in early December. When she was preparing to take her vows, she prayed about what her new name should be. One of the Sisters told her that she had an idea of a name for her. The Sister next to her said, “Now don’t overwhelm our new novice with another big decision!” But she couldn’t bear the suspense, and she told her the name: Lucia. A bit later, a different Sister mentioned that she had received a name for her, and it was the same one! She decided to learn more about who St Lucia was, only to discover that her feast day was celebrated on December 13th — the exact day that the name had been suggested to her! She couldn’t deny that God was speaking. It turns out that her middle name had been Lucille after her maternal grandmother, and years later it was discovered that her actual given name had been Lucia!
- 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.