Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5, 2012 Tradition

RECIPE: Coffee Bread (Vetebrod)
Cardamon flavored bread, enjoyed with coffee

Tradition comes in many forms, especially where holidays are concerned. One of our favorite traditions is baking together with my mom, sister, cousins and great aunt. Every year we gather together in early December to make our Scandinavian Coffee Bread . Without getting into the whole family tree, let’s suffice it to say that there is a strong Scandinavian heritage. My Norwegian grandmother (my Dad’s mom), who passed away 14 years ago, was the recipe source. Her version of a recipe was “a spoonful of this, and a sprinkle of that...”  My Swedish grandmother on my mom’s side, carefully watched her, and wrote out a true recipe with standardized measurements. We are all grateful for this, because I am sure we’d never be able to make our beloved bread otherwise. 

The Swedish bread bakers in our aprons

The bread is called “Coffee Bread” not because it is coffee flavored, but because of how lovely it is with coffee (a Swedish staple; “the best earthly drink” as my grandmother would say). The Swedish name for the bread is “Vetebrod”; it is a braided loaf of cardamon flavored bread...lovely indeed. 

I will, of course, give you the not-so-secret family recipe, and warn you that the bread (4 large loaves) takes about 5 hours in total to make. At our celebratory baking party, the time goes by in a flash. There’s the morning coffee break while the dough “rests”, then a luncheon while the dough rises. There’s lots of chatter and laughter, party favors, champagne, and sweet treats. While both of my grandmothers are gone, I enjoy the comaraderie of my family as we carry on the tradition.

Baking our bread has a beautiful, rich history. The smell of the cardamon is the smell of Christmas for me. My children love the bread, as I do, and wait with anticipation for the first slice. And so, the tradition continues...

There was the year I tried to dress up my sister as Santa Lucia with her candle wreath crown, until my sensible cousin intervened, imagining my sister’s golden locks aflame. 
Our very own Santa Lucia- LOL!

The Christmas season is packed full, and the TO DO list is long...but, these are the days I look forward to all year. Connecting with family and friends, creating memories. 

What are your traditions? Do you bake or cook something special at Christmas? Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

Coffee Bread
1+ TBS freshly ground cardamon seed
1 QT whole milk
1/2 C butter
1/4 C crisco
2 tsp salt
2 C sugar
11+ cups flour (buy 5 lb.)
3 pack of active dry yeast
1/2 C very warm water
1 TBS sugar
egg white
cinnamon sugar
VERY large bowl
wooden spoon
4 standard loaf pans

Heat milk in a sauce pan until scalding, not boiling (scum will form on top).
Remove from heat and add cardamon, butter and crisco; after they melt, add 2  cups sugar. Cool.
In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup very warm water (not boiling) with yeast and 1 TBS sugar. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes (it will expand), then add to the above mixture. 
While waiting for the yeast, sift 11 cups of flour. 
Add the liquid to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. 
Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, covered with a cloth. 
(Take a coffee break:)
On a floured pastry cloth, knead for 20 minutes, adding more sifted flour if the dough feels sticky, a little at a time.
Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a cloth; allow to rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Dough should double in size. 
(Have lunch:)
Punch dough. Divide into 4 equal parts. Divide each quarter into three and braid into 4 loaves. Place in standard size loaf pans (spray with cooking spray) and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Brush tops of loaves with egg whites and heavily sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake in a preheated oven of 350 for 30-45 minutes. Bread should be well browned. 
Remove from pans and cool. DO NOT slice bread until completely cooled.
Slice and toast. Serve with butter and cinnamon sugar...and coffee, of course.

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