Magazines always have articles this time of year that ask people what they like best about Thanksgiving or what they wouldn't miss about Christmas. The answers are always, "It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without my mom's yeast rolls." or "I have to get home at Christmas for a bowl of my Grandma's bread pudding."
Now, I fancy myself a decent cook. I enjoy cooking and most of the time whatever I cook turns out o.k. But I always get envious reading statements like these because nothing I cook is going to make anyone change their plans just to make sure they are at my house at Christmas .
I decided to change that this Christmas. I decided that I wanted a signature dish that would signal the holidays are here to my kids and when they were in college would have them declaring to their whole dorm that I am the greatest cook ever and that they have to go home for Thanksgving to get a big batch of my....
And that's where the dream ends. I wasn't sure what I wanted to be known for. I make good spaghetti, but who doesn't? Plus since we have that every week I didn't think that would mean anything to the kids other than, it must be Friday since we are having spaghetti. Again.
I thought that I would like to be known for baking something. That seems very festive and holiday-ish. My sister-in-law Cathy makes a wonderful Swedish Coffee Bread. She got the recipe from my in-law's next door neighbor, Jeannette. She makes loaves upon loaves of this bread around the holidays and it is just yummy. They both tell me it is so easy to make but as I read the recipe, I knew it wasn't the one for me. It requires lots of dough kneading and dough resting. And it contains cardamon. Cardamon, people! How many people have a jar of cardamon in their spice rack?
This bread is so good, though, that I actually thought about purchasing some cardamon and giving it a shot. But I have never had any luck kneading anything and the only decent bread I have ever made has been in the bread maker. So I even checked the internet for Swedish Coffee Bread recipes that could be made in the breadmaker. There were none so I gave up on that idea.
As I was flipping through the December issue of Good Housekeeping, I saw a page with the headline HOLIDAY BREAD. The article said the bread was a "simple stollen, a quick version of the traditional sweet bread." It met all of my requirements. Simiple, quick and sweet. That's the bread for me! Sarah and I would make stollen!
It contained ricotta cheese, dried cheries, and lemon zest. It sounded yummy and best of all there was no yeast so I only had to knead it a couple of times before I rolled it out and shaped it up. The prep time on the recipe said "10 minutes". Great! Sarah and I could whip this out in no time! My family would think I was the greatest cook ever and the kids would be sure to come home every Christmas for my famous holiday stollen!
Well, let me just say, when including a 3 year old in the cooking, the prep time should always be tripled, if not quadrupled. And I remembered as I was trying to knead the dough, why I hated to knead dough...I stink at it! It was warm in my little kitchen and my dough was sticky and it seemed to eat up all the flour on my "rolling surface". At one point, I was panicking because the dough was stuck to my hands and my "rolling surface" and Sarah was throwing flour everywhere. I called my husband to "help me! help me!" He came running, calmed me down and got lots and lots of flour on the "rolling surface". We quickly got it kneaded and rolled out and shaped up and onto the pan. I knew based on all the extra flour (and there was a lot of extra flour) that got in the dough that the bread would be very dense...and I was right.
The bread was pretty with the dried cherries but it wasn't something that would make the kids choose coming home for the holidays over going to spend it with their roomate's mom who makes a to-die-for mince meat pie. I was sad but I haven't given up. I am still searching for that special signature recipe and if nothing else, Sarah and I had lots of fun baking together. Well, she had lots of fun. I was trying to have lots of fun. I was trying to relax and just enjoy the moment and not worry about how much cleaning up there would be afterwards.
I had a hard time relaxing while watching flour and salt and sugar fly all over the place while she stirred. But my heart melted when Sarah used the lemon zester for the first time. She screamed "I did it! I did it!" and pumped both arms up and down over her head as if she had just won Olympic gold. So, in the end, I guess my bread wasn't very sweet but spending time in the kitchen with my daughter was more delicious than any stollen could ever be!
Here she is after the stollen was in the oven. Looking at this picture makes me want to go bake something else with her. Look how happy she is!
Here we are the next morning at breafast eating the stollen. My son said it was good and even ate two pieces. Sarah had one piece. My husband said it wasn't bad but he didn't like the cherries. No one asked for it after the first morning so I knew the recipe definitely wasn't a keeper. I'm gonna keep trying though. Suggestions are always welcome.