Spring is here and we welcome it with open arms! I happened upon these whimsical, delightful pastel meringues. Immediately, Mother’s Day sprang to mind – little kisses with chewy centers and soft colors.. the perfect gift to show your mom how much you love and appreciate her.
- Preheat oven to 215 degrees F.
- Line baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
- Place egg whites, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine.
- Add a couple of inches of water to a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Then place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.
- Heat for about 3-5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.
- Return mixing bowl back to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until glossy stiff peaks form (about 5-7 minutes or until the bowl of the mixer is cool to the touch).
- Halfway through mixing, add in the cream of tartar and salt.
- With about 1 minute left, add in gel food coloring.
- Stop mixer and removed bowl from stand. Add in whichever “extra” ingredient you would like: dried raspberries or cranberries, pistachios, chocolate shavings and orange zest, coconut or almonds, and gently fold with a rubber spatula to combine.
- Using a small ice cream scoop, or teaspoon, place dollops of meringue on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Then sprinkle with your toppings used in the meringue: pistachios, raspberries, craisins, chocolate shavings and orange zest, almonds, or coconut.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 1- 1 1/2 hours, or until the outsides are crisp and dry and the insides are chewy.
- Serve immediately after cooling or store in an air-tight container away from any humidity.
In many European countries Epiphany is celebrated as a National Holiday. Last year, I was blessed to be serving at Via Sacra in Italy where I learned about the magical Christian legend of La Befana, an important character in the Christmas festivities. The story of La Befana has been in Italian tradition since the XIII century. The legend tells that la Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men who asked her to lead them to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in a manger. La Befana was too busy sweeping her house, so she declined the offer to go with them. Soon she realized that she had made a mistake, so she gathered up a bag full of gifts and set off alone, flying on her broom in search of the baby Jesus. Though she followed the same star as the Magi, she was unable to find the stable. Undaunted, la Befana continues to travel the world to this day, searching every house for the Christ child, leaving gifts. On January 6, the first day of Epiphany, Italian children search their stockings for gifts from La Befana as a sign that they have been good that year.
Celebrate Epiphany with us by baking Dreikönigskuchen (A Cake for Three Kings) a specialty sweet roll found in bakeries all over Liechtenstein at this time of year!
Dreikönigskuchen (A Cake for Three Kings)
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and add sugar – wait about 5 min until the yeast starts to work. Add the rest of the ingredients, starting with the liquids and going to solid, adding the flour last. Add the flour 1 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and it springs back to the touch. You may not need all the flour.
- Once a soft, smooth ball forms, set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours. Be sure to cover it and place in a warm spot.
- Divide the dough into 8 Pieces, one a little larger than the rest.
- Roll each piece into a ball and arrange the 7 smaller balls around the slightly larger one on a sheet pan, forming a flower. Poke an almond into the bottom of one of the rolls. Let rise another 30 minutes, then brush with the egg wash.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare the glaze by mixing the apricot jelly with a tablespoon of hot water.
- Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Brush with several coats of apricot glaze and sprinkle with the coarse sugar. It’ll sparkle in the sunlight, like a beautiful jewel
- Next, add a real crown. You can make one out of a brown paper bag or, if you happen to have one of these laying around…
- Let a lucky someone find the almond and be royalty for the day! Serve it with a big cup of tea or coffee and … an epiphany or two.
Sitting in the refectory with my early morning coffee, I watched a young Sister stirring up something in the baking area of the kitchen. I speculated that she was making a treat of some sort to take to the office since she works at Paraclete Press, the Community’s publishing house. It was not out of the ordinary for this to be happening especially at this time of year. Homemade goodies are known to increase production as well as good spirits in the workplace so it was no surprise to see her doing this. What was a surprise was finding a little plate of Jan Hagel cookies on my desk after returning from church.
As I savored each bite of the crisp buttery delicacies, I asked myself “Why have you not ever made these yourself”? Almost every year someone I know has made these traditional Dutch shortbread cookies and I have enjoyed them at their hands, but have never made them myself. These are the perfect treat to have with a cup of tea with holiday guests and to send home with them as a simple holiday remembrance. I set about to whip up a batch….simple, quick, easy and satisfying. I suggest you consider doing the same. You’ll be glad you did!
Jan Hagel's Dutch Cookies
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk and beat until creamy.
- Add the flour and mix well
- Spread thinly on a cookie sheet
- Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with nuts and a little sugar if desired.
- Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 – 30 minutes. Cut into squares or triangles while hot.
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.