St. Lucia Bread

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

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St. Lucia Bread
SERVINGS
2loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
20-25mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
2-3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large mixer, soften the yeast in the warm water
  2. Heat the milk until warm. Add the oil and sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Add this mixture to the yeast mixture in the mixer
  4. Add salt and saffron
  5. Add the 3 slightly beaten eggs and mix with dough hook.
  6. Add the lemon zest, citron and almonds and continue mixing
  7. 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.
  8. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 min, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic; adding flour as necessary.
  9. 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).
  10. Divide the dough into six equal balls and roll into large ropes and then braid three together, making two braids.
  11. Pinch the two ends together and tuck under, forming two circular loaves.
  12. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two sheet pans with baking paper, or grease, and put a braided loaf on each pan.
  13. Cover and let rise in a warm place, until doubled.
  14. Combine the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash, and brush on the braids.
  15. 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.
  16. While the bread is baking, prepare your frosting, mixing all ingredients until smooth and on the thicker side. Cut your cherries in half.
  17. Remove bread from the oven and cool slightly, then decorate, using the green cherries as leaves, and the red as berries.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Years ago, we were asked by the local Episcopal church to help them with their annual Devonshire Tea, a lovely traditional English tea served every summer in the church gardens.

The lady who for many years had been responsible for them, met with me to discuss the details. The simple menu consisted of three items: biscuits, coddled cream, and strawberry preserves. Her main concern was the size and shape of the biscuits. To ensure their correctness, she carefully sketched them on a page from her personal notebook and gave the page to me.

The biscuits’ size and shape were of utmost importance! She was certain I would make the cream perfectly, and as far as the preserves were concerned, any I chose would be fine. My choice was a vibrant colored fresh strawberry jam sometimes referred to as “freezer jam”, although none I’ve ever made stayed around long enough to reach the
freezer!

Perfect for the occasion, it met with great applause and added a most beautiful touch to this splendid event.

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Strawberry Freezer Jam
SERVINGS
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
5mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
25mins (plus 24 hr setting time)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine crushed strawberries with sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. While the strawberries sit, dissolve the pectin into the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and add the salt and lemon juice to the saucepan.
  4. Stir the boiling water into the strawberries and allow to stand for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour jam into containers and let set overnight or for 24 hours.

Enjoy with coddled cream and biscuits or as an ice cream topping, in a milkshake, or on toast...the possibilities are endless!

Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently, I had the privilege and gift of studying for a week in the Essentials of Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center in New York City. Once known as the French Culinary Center, ICC has some of the most renowned pastry chefs in the United States – such as Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres. Their alumni are some of the most noteworthy in the food and hospitality industry. It was a week of intense learning as well as exploring an area of personal inadequacy. Give me a savory dish over a fancy rolled fondant cake anytime! But, little did I know what a week of good, concentrated study could do to boost my confidence. Leaning into our insufficiency can sometimes prove “sweet” results.

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Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes
Tip - use a digital scale to weigh these ingredients and always be sure to "tare" your scale after putting your mixing bowl on it; that is, reset the scale to "0" before you start measuring ingredients
SERVINGS
16cupcakes (approx.)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cupcakes (approx.)
COOK TIME
15-20mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
45-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease 16 cupcake tin or line with muffin papers.
  3. In a bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. Combine butter, oil, cocoa powder, and water in a bowl and whisk until warm over a bain marie.
  5. Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk until combined; add to butter mixture.
  6. Stir liquid ingredients into the sifted flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Portion the batter into the prepared cupcake molds until 3/4 full and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 min. (Bake as soon as you fill them; otherwise, they won't rise as much in the oven.)
  8. Test the cupcakes for doneness - your finger should bounce back to the touch.
  9. Immediately unmold the cupcakes onto a cooling rack Let them cool completely before icing.
Fudge Icing:
  1. Place all ingredients for the icing in a saucepan and warm, stirring to combine.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Dip the cupcake tops by inverting into the cooled icing and then twist and place right side up on a cooling rack. Iced cupcakes are best served the day they're made. Add sprinkles on top if desired.

Hot Cross Buns

One of our favorite Lenten traditions here at the C of J is the baking and sharing of Hot cross buns on Good Friday a.m. First attributed to a 12th century monk, it has blesses countless numbers of believers over the years. This meaningful little act is a significant way of remembering and acknowledging our Lord’s death on the cross on our behalf.

There are many legends connected with this tradition. One of my favorites is that a fresh baked bun hung in your kitchen window will bring blessing upon all the baking done there throughout the coming year.

Each year I intend to do this, but before I get to it every bun has disappeared.

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Hot Cross Buns
SERVINGS
1dozen buns
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen buns
COOK TIME
25mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the very warm water and add a pinch of sugar to activate.
  2. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until about 100 degrees F. (but no more than 110 degrees)
  3. In a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warmed milk to the yeast mixture.
  4. Plump the raisins (or currants) and citron in the microwave with a little orange juice; cool and set aside
  5. To the yeast & milk mixture add the remaining sugar, melted butter, egg yolk and extract.
  6. Add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to the mixture and continue kneading.
  7. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  8. Remove the orange juice from the raisins and citron and discard.
  9. Add the raisins and citron to the dough and mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky and not dry.
  10. Knead until soft and elastic, about 8 min. Shape into a ball.
  11. Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hr. 30 min. **
  12. To form the rolls: Pam a 9x13” pyrex pan. Turn the dought out of the bowl and roll into a log. With a dough cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each of these pieces into a round bun shape, tucking the edges under.
  13. Place them seam side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each roll. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 min. or longer.
  14. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare your egg wash.
  15. Prepare glaze: In a mixer, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla or almond extract and oil until smooth (the oil will give it a high gloss). The icing should be quite thick. If too runny, add more powdered sugar. Transfer icing to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.
  16. Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the rolls and brush the buns with egg wash. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, about 25 min. (an instant read thermometer inserted into the roll should read 190 degrees F.)
  17. Ice buns with a thick cross shape on the top of the warm buns and serve.

Matzo Ball Soup

Just out of High School I was working in our city’s leading flower shop. The owner of the shop was Jewish and from time to time his mother would surprise all of us employed there with one of her home cooked Jewish dishes. Her chicken Matzo Ball soup with its distinctive flavor was my favorite.

When the sister cooking our convent lunch this week agreed to make this for us I could not have been happier. For many of the sisters this was a brand new taste experience. For me it was a reviving of one of my happiest early life memories.

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Original Streits Matzo Ball Recipe
SERVINGS
4servings (16-20 Matzo Balls)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings (16-20 Matzo Balls)
COOK TIME
1 1/4mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
1 3/4hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

Matzo Balls
  1. Beat eggs in a bowl. Then add water, margarine/oil, salt and pepper to the beaten eggs. Mix well. Add Matzo meal and stir.
  2. Refrigerate at least one hour.
  3. Form into balls and drop into pot soup or boiling water. Cook 20 minutes.
Soup
  1. Mince the garlic and dice the onion, celery, and carrots.
  2. Sauté the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots with the vegetable oil in a pot
  3. until the onions become transparent.
  4. Add chicken broth, 2 cups water, pepper, and one or two sprigs of dill to the pot.
  5. Place a lid on the pot and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. After the soup has simmered, add the shredded chicken breast to soup.
  7. Add matzo balls to the soup and let them simmer for 20 minutes without removing the lid.
  8. Garnish with fresh dill before serving

NOTE: The soup can be done while the matzo balls are chilling in the refrigerator

Super Smoothie with Super Taste

At the beginning of January, I was feeling a bit run down – most likely due to excess sugar consumption over the holidays!  I had three intense weeks of recording preparation ahead of me and with 18 other singers in the group, none of us could afford to get sick. One of the Sisters made me this super smoothie to help boost my immune system. I’m always a bit hesitant to try “trendy’ drinks, but because she was being so kind, I thought I should give it a whirl. Wow! It was refreshing, light, tasty and really did up my game in the energy department. I started drinking this as a part of my daily routine. It takes discipline to eat healthy, but after 3 weeks of eating a low sugar and low carb diet, I feel so much better and haven’t gotten the flu!

This recipe makes two large drinks – one for you and one to gift (or save it for later). You can use any combination of fruits you like (3 cups in all). It’s packed with antioxidants and a quick on the go meal with no nasty taste – Enjoy!

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Super Smoothie with Super Taste
SERVINGS
2servings (32 oz)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings (32 oz)
COOK TIME
0mins
PREP TIME
5mins
READY IN
5mins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh spinach packed, (or other leafy green)
  • 2 cups water coconut water, coconut milk, or almond milk - whichever you prefer
  • 2 cups fruit mango, pineapple, berries, oranges, peach, pear, apple, grapes
  • 1 banana or a cup of other fruit if you don't like banana

Instructions

  1. Blend leafy greens and liquid base together in a blender until smooth
  2. Add fruit and blend again until smooth
  3. Boost it with chai seeds, almond butter, flax seeds etc

**If you want your smoothie to be extra chilly use frozen fruit and not ice.