Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Musings # 3 - Christmas baking

When my kids were small, I wanted them to have as part of their Christmas memories the smell of baking in the air. These last few years, some of that has gone by the wayside as busy schedules and travel made it impractical. And Austin has a couple of good bakeries - Lone Star Bakery in Round Rock and Great Harvest Breads in Austin.

But this year, I wanted to do some of my "traditional" baking. I found my beat up December 1981 McCalls where some of my most cherished recipes originated.

I used the bread maker to make the dough for the Santa Lucia Ring . . . not entirely successful, it did not rise as much as it should - still looked pretty and festive, but the original recipe makes two rings . . .

Santa Lucia RIng

1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine softened
3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
2 pkg active dry yeast
6 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed cardamom
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups light or dark raisins
1/4 cup ground blanched almonds

1. In small saucepan, heat milk until bubbles form around edge of pan: remove from heat. (I use reconstituted dry milk to avoid that step.)
2. Add sugar, salt, and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Cool to luke warm.
3. If possible check temperature of warm water with thermometer. Sprinkle yeast over water in large bowl: stir to dissolve. Add milk mixture.
4. Add 3 1/2 cups flour and the cardamom, beat with wooden spoon until smooth - about 2 minutes.
5. Beat in eggs: add raisins and almonds. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing in last of it with hands until dough leaves side of bowl (dough is soft).
6. Turn out dough onto lightly floured pastry cloth. Cover with bowl: let rest 10 minutes.
7. Turn dough, to coat with flour; knead until smooth - about 5 minutes.
8. Place in lightly greased large bowl; turn to bring up greased side. Cover with towel: let rise in warm place (85F), free from drafts until double in bulk - 1 to 1/1.2 hours. Punch down. Turn out onto lightly floured pastry cloth.
9. Divide and shape: On lightly floured pastry cloth, divide half of dough into three parts. With hands shape each into 20 -inch roll.
10. Place on lightly greased large cookie sheet. Braid loosely. Shape into a circle; pinch ends together to seal.
11. To make holes for candles, insert sevenl balls of foil, 1 inch in diameter, between strands of braid, spacing evenly. Repeat with rest of dough.
12. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (85F) free from drafts, until double in bulk, about 60 minutes.
13. Preheat oven to 350F.
14. Brush braid with egg white (See Note) mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons ground almonds.
15. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden-brown. Cool on wire rack. Before serving remove foil balls, and insert 7 inch red or white candles in holes, first wrapping bottom of candles in foil.

Note: Instead of brushing with egg-white mixture, bake rings, cool slightly and frost with this icing: Mix 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar with 2 tablespoons milk.. Decorate with candied cherries cut in half.

(I frost and use the cherries on top.)

Merry Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Crumb Mixture
1/3 cup Sweet Cream Butter
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour

8 ounce pkg cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup EACH chopped glazed red and green cherries (I've also used dried candied fruitcake fruit.)

In 1 1/2 quart mixer bowl combine all crumb mixture ingredients. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1min.) Reserve 1/2 cup. Press remaining into ungreased 8" square baking dish. Bake at 350 Degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. In same bowl beat all filling ingredients except cherries at med. speed until smooth (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in cherries. Spread filling over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Continue baking 18 to 20 minutes or until filling is set. Cut into bars: cover and refrigerate. Yield: 3 doz.
Note: I like to double this recipe - easy to do and I use a rectangular baking dish.


This year I cheated and used a box mix for a Cranberry bread. I still have a pumpkin bread mix to use.

My daughter made the pumpkin and pecan pies.

And, yes, the diets start January 1st or whenever the "goodies" run out.

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