Friday, December 24, 2010

edible christmas traditions

It's Christmas Eve! Christmas EVE. Can you believe it? I certainly cannot. But quietly wrapping up gifts last night, glass of wine in hand and lights turned down low, admittedly did wonders for my holiday spirit. I smiled with every fold of paper and tying of silky bow.

I am a living, breathing, walking cliche. Of this, I am aware.

But now, as I sit in the kitchen, watching my mom gently roll out cardamom-scented Mandelskorpor while curiously glancing back and fourth between several versions of hand written recipes (spread out in varying shades of cream to white, showing their age), I'm reminded of how this holiday, more than any other, is deeply rooted in its traditions. And that charming little fact, is what makes this time of year especially joyful, particularly cozy, and deliciously (albeit gluttonously) comforting.

In honor of Christmas Eve, I thought it'd be nice to share some of your Christmas traditions. Enough about me! Because there's comfort in the fact that even though traditions vary from home to home and table to table, the sentiment is one and the same.

Here's a recipe from new reader, Mary Lu Herron, who has graciously shared a recipe (and story) for a beautiful Swedish Tea Ring. And after being mesmerized by the delectable-looking final product and fantasizing about taking a bite, fresh from the oven, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this cake made its way into your Christmas traditions, too.

"Tradition plays a big part in this dessert in our family. My mother used to make it on every Christmas holiday. When I was young, I seldom thought about the work that went into it, just how good it tasted after Christmas dinner.

My mother died on December 1, 1976, and I decided to make it myself for our family Christmas that year because it would be a comforting, familiar thing in the house. Kneading the dough also turned out to be an unexpected therapy.

It sounds daunting, but it's really easy to make. I continued to make it for years, until I lost the recipe when we moved. We had always called it Mom's Coffee Cake, so I didn't know what it was really called and had no idea where to look for it anywhere else. I found the recipe by accident a few years ago in an old "Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook" from 1950, and decided to make it again, I know my brother and sisters and father (he's almost 94) will be happy to see it this Christmas."

Swedish Tea Ring
Makes 2
Recipe Courtesy of Mary Lu Herron

Dissolve 2 packages dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and 2 tsp. sugar
Scald and cool 2 cups milk
Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 cup butter
Add two beaten eggs

Mix the above with the yeast and flour (7 to 7-1/2 cups). Be sure to keep the dough on the sticky side. Keep in a warm place and let it rise until its doubled in size.

Punch down, knead, and let it rise a second time.

Divide dough into two parts. Place one part on a floured surface and roll out to 9" x 18". Spread entire surface of dough with softened butter. Mix 1/2 cup brown sugar with 2 Tbsp. flour, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Spread this mixture over the buttered side until it's entirely covered.

Roll up tightly, beginning at wide side (as you might for cinnamon rolls). Place sealed-edge down on a lightly greased baking sheet and form into a ring by joining the two ends and sealing them together. With scissors or a pairing knife, makes cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1-inch intervals. Twist and turn each cut section on its side. Allow to rise a third time.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown and baked through. Frost (recipe below) while slightly warm.

For the Frosting:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. or more, warm milk

Mix all ingredients together and drizzle over warm cake.

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