News for December 2012

Julekake. And jule thank me.

I married into Julekake. Yet another example of how I married up. This is a sweet cardamom Christmas (Jule – pronounced like you’ll-uh) Bread (Kake- pronounced like poop in Spanish). I’m sure my rootsier scandinavian readership will happily clear up any cultural and pronouncial details. In the same way my English major friends will make up for not working in their field by kicking me in the ouchies for making up the word pronouncial. (Relax, Mr. Keillor has got your back.)

A couple years ago I scoured the Internet for recipes and I found a wide range. So I tried to remember what Aunt Laurie’s Julekake tasted like then I made a guess based on the various recipes I found and every year tweak it a bit. Over the last 3 years it’s come into a focus a bit. This year I tried two new things. I shaped it more like a batard and I experimented with an egg glaze. The new shape I like. Traditionally they’re in big rounds (boule) but I like the more predictable size of each slice I get with the batard. The egg glaze? Didn’t do it for me. Skip it. You get to drool icing over the top anyway, that’ll be plenty pretty.

So here is what I did this year.

9 cups / 1575g        all purpose flour

1 cup / 250g            warm water
1 1/2 cups /400g   milk
1/2 cup                       butter
3 eggs

2 1/4 tsp                     yeast (1 package)
1 Tbl                             salt
3/4 cup / 160g       sugar
2 Tbl                           cardamom

1 cup white raisins
1 1/2 cup candied fruit (totally unnaturally red and green cherries, candied citrus is good)

Heat the milk to about 180-190 F
Remove from heat
Add the butter to cool the milk and melt the butter
Add water – use cooler or warmer water to end up with a 90-105 F mix. Keep in mind the temperature of the eggs you’re about to add – again, the end temp of all the liquids
should end up around 90-105 F to create a comfort zone that allows your yeast to be fruitful and multiply.
Add those eggs
Sprinkle the yeast on top
Whisk it all up
While that’s doing it thing mix the flour salt sugar and cardamom in a a big bowl
Add the liquid and use a big spoon or your hand and make a big lump of dough
Cover and let rest for 15-20 minutes
Add the raisins and candied stuff.  This is sticky and messy just so you know.  But even when dough seems like a disaster, carry on, it knows how to be dough and it will come back to what it’s supposed to be.
Knead. Like 10-12 minutes probably. It should be a slightly wet dough.  If you need to add moisture spread the dough out flat, dimple with your finger and sprinkle a little water over it.

Cover and let rise. Mine took about two hours to double. I put a plastic bag over the bowl and stick it in the oven with the oven light on. The bag retains moisture the light keeps it a little warmer than our house normally is this time of year.
Form into 4 boules or batards and place on parchment paper (2 per pan)
Let rise again. Generally half the time of your initial rise.
Do not score, you won’ be getting that kind of spring
Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes – I do one pan at a time and keep the waiting pan somewhere cool so it doesn’t over proof before going in the oven.

After the loaves have cooled you can drizzle icing over the top. I’m not sure what the measurements are for the icing because I used some that was leftover from making ginger bread houses and added a little hot water and almond extract to make it a little smoother. If you mix powdered sugar, a little butter, water and a dash of coffee (for real) and a bit of almond extract I’m sure you’ll end up with something fattening that your body will respond positively too.  I might actually just go try that to see for myself.  Yum.

Garnish with some of those freakishly bright candied cherries.

We like ours lightly toasted with butter and a thin slice of gjetost (yay! toast.)

Merry Christmas folks. I may not blog next week so keep busy with something else, okay?

Bake more bread,

Posted: December 20th, 2012
Categories: Uncategorized
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I went to Menards this morning in order to save big money by way of spending it which still doesn’t make sense to me but why would the colorful talking box lie to me? As I handed over my play money/credit card, the man in front of me apologized for being slow and mentioned he was having surgery the next day. We talked a bit about it. Hip surgery. He was looking forward to it being done with. And then he headed out as I bagged up my ‘savings.’ When I started my car I noticed he was walking back from putting his cart away. He was using a cane and I could see more clearly how badly he needed that hip replaced.

By this time I had started driving through the parking lot searching for a way out – as is my custom – and I thought, ‘I should pray for him.’ And then I thought, ‘I should turn around and get his name.’ And then, ‘That’s weird.’ But self rebutted with, ‘If I was having surgery I’d be okay with a stranger asking my name and saying they would pray for me.’ Quickly countered by, ‘Aha! I finally found the exit, this is my chance to flee this internal dialogue!’

And then I turned around.

He hadn’t got back in his car yet, in part to the hip I’m guessing. His name is Jim. I said I’d pray for him. I gave myself an internal pat on the back for doing my holy deed.(I make a point of celebrating such a rare occurrence.)

On saying I’d pray for him his face lit up and he thanked me and then he turned it around and said, “I just think of it as one of God’s little interruptions. I mean, just think about Mary. God interrupted her life and it worked out okay.”

By ‘Mary’ I’m assuming he was talking about the Baby Jesus Mama.

Interruption. Rupture. Breaking open. Breaking into. Shattering the norm. The status quo dashed.

I’m ready to be interrupted. Preferably without major surgery.
I’m ready for this world to be interrupted.
I’m ready for the immense capacity for violence in this country to be interrupted.
I’m ready for hate to be interrupted with love.
I’m ready for heartbroken parents to be interrupted by their child’s embrace.
I’m ready for death to be interrupted with resurrection.
I’m ready for another shitty manger to be interrupted with the presence of God.

Posted: December 19th, 2012
Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: 1 Comment.

Saint Lucia Buns. Yes, Taylor, I send buns.

December 13th is St. Lucia day. I spent 31 years of my life not knowing this. The first 31 to be exact. Living in Scandisota has taught me that there are many dates I spent much of my life oblivious to and in doing so I missed out on a lot of butter, flour, sugar, and calories in general. I’m working on rectifying this.

Last year for Christmas I received Pat Sinclair’s cook book, Scandinavian Classic Baking. Today’s recipe for St. Lucia Buns comes from this fine book. I’m not going to reprint her recipe here because, duh, it’s not mine and I would need permission to do that. You can find plenty of recipes out there on the interwebs if you want to have these ready for tomorrow morning. Or you can rush down to Ingebretsen’s and get your own copy of Scandinavian Classic Baking. I recommend it. Cookbooks are vinyl in an mp3 world.

So if I’m not printing a recipe why read on? Because I’m going to give you a few tips that’s why dummy. Nothing like a good insult to up the readership.

Tip #1. Don’t forget to add the eggs. I did till a few minutes into kneading. Though I’m guessing it would’ve worked I didn’t feel like kneading eggs directly into the dough. What worked for me was to crack two eggs into a bowl and whisk in a 1/4 cup of flour or so to make them less slimy. Then I flattened out the dough, made deep finger divets in it and poured the egg/flour combo over it. Fold it over and start kneading. It’ll ooze out a bit, but stick with it and it’ll all come together. And adding flour won’t hurt because you just added more moisture and they should balance each other out.

Tip #2. If you’re dividing dough into 16 equal pieces and don’t feel like busting out the scale here’s what I do. (adjust #’s as needed) The knife I cut my dough out with is 1 1/2 inches wide. 1.5 x 16 = 24. Roll the dough (like a snake) into a 24 inch long cylinder. Start at one end and lay the knife flat on top of the dough so the dull side of the blade is lined up with the end of the dough. Upright the knife (now the sharp side is in a cutting position on the dough) and cut a disc of dough. Repeat. Work down the length of the dough and you’ll have 16 equal size pieces of dough. And yes, a picture would’ve been worth a thousand words in this case.

Tip #3 Make them the night before and bake them in the morning. I made the dough, let it rise, punched it down, divided and formed my little S’s and layed them on parchment lined baking sheets. Now cover them with plastic wrap or put in a big plastic bag and immediately put them in the fridge to retard the dough. In the morning take them out and let them warm up and rise. I accidently woke up at 4 so I went ahead and pulled them out of the fridge and put them in the oven with the oven light on to rise. When I got up at 5:30 I pulled them out and preheated the oven. By the time the oven was up to temp I put the first tray in and they came out wonderful.

Oh. And for those of you keeping track of my imperfections: I didn’t use the signature ingredient, Saffron. The roads were crap and I didn’t want to make a special trip for it. But I do love Cardamom. And so I used that (1 teaspoon).

Break more rules. Bake more bread.

Posted: December 12th, 2012
Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: 1 Comment.

Wheat and Flax Seed Bread

The following is a work in progress. This is the third variation of a recipe I’ve been working with for about a year. It’s getting there. Baking is a science to some and an art to others. Sometimes I weigh, time, and check temperatures at every stage. Other times I eyeball the entire process. Don’t let the details bog you down. Bread knows how to be bread.

2 C / 300g Wheat Flour
5 C / 750g Bread Flour
1/2 C / 50g Oatmeal (uncooked)
5 T / 50g Flax seeds (raw, whole)
2 T / 30g Salt
1 T / 12g Yeast

3 C / 700g Water (room temp)

Mix Flours, Oatmeal, and Flax Seeds in a bowl.
Add the water.
Get your hand in there and bring it all together so that the dry ingredients are wet. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic bag and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Add Salt and Yeast, remove from bowl and knead for about 10 minutes.

Place back in bowl and cover with towel or plastic bag (I prefer a bag) and let rise until double. This will take 2 or so hours depending on water temp and room temp. (The last time I made this I used cold tap water and our house was chilly so it took about 3 hours.)

After it has doubled, gently push it down, rework it into a round, and place back in the bowl for a second rise. This will take about half the time of the first rise.

After it has doubled a second time, remove from the bowl and cut the dough into two equal pieces. Round each piece into a ball. Set the balls on a parchment lined or corn meal sprinkled baking sheet. Lay a towel over the top and let rise a third and final time.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
When the formed loaves have risen to nearly double use a lame, razor blade, shiv, what have you, and make a few decorative slashes in the top of your loaf.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes then lower the heat to 375 and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Let cool on a rack for at least an hour before cutting.
That lower right one came out a bit wonky.  I’ll admit I rushed these a bit because I had to get some DVD’s back to the library before it closed.  But even rushed it turned out nice.  I think with the next batch I’m going to add sunflower seeds and toast them with the flax seeds before adding them.   The possibilities are endless folks.  Let me know how yours turns out.

Bake more bread,

Posted: December 5th, 2012
Categories: Uncategorized
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