Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cardamom Bread

Hi all and Merry Christmas Eve Day to you!

As promised here are the fruits of my labor on Tuesday. The baking of this bread is literally an all day project, but it is totally worth it as you will soon see!

So first you must picture my grandmother on my Dad's side....known as Grams to me. Sadly I don't have a picture to share with you today....I should scrounge up some photos and scan them so can see where I get my "good looks" from sometime...but today is not that day. Anyways, she was this little Sicilian lady who loved to cook and eat. The classic "What? You had a bad day? Have a cookie! You are not feeling well? Have some spaghetti! No, thank you?!?! What is this No, thank you! What?! You don't like my food?! Hurmph!" oh I love my Grams and miss her dearly (she passed away when I was in middle school)

Well, Grams' legacy lives on each Christmas as a labor of love to prepare her famous Cardamom Bread.

Here is the recipe, written in her hand....on the back of a news flier! Too funny!

I know it's impossible to read here; it's hard to read even in person as this point (this recipe was written out as she taught my Mom to make this recipe the Christmas after my Mom and Dad got married-so something like 35 years ago?) but I'll walk you through it, step by step!

First up you combine a quart of milk, 1 cup of sugar and 1 stick of oleo (that is margarine to the rest of Grams always called it oleo, not sure why....) and heat gently on the stove until the milk is just scalding (small bubbles form).

Now that you've heated up the milk mixture it has to cool back down.

Once it has cooled at these ingredients: 4 eggs (one at a time), 1 heaping tablespoon of cardamom spice and 1 active packet of yeast (follow the instructions on the packet to activate).

Next add this:

No, I'm not literally will add the entire flour bin- 13 cups to be exact. One at at time. BY HAND. (well I guess if our mixer was big enough you could do it by machine...but our mixer isn't big enough for this job, dough hooks or no!)

After 5 cups I think?

After 11 cups....

I had to switch to a wooden spoon...the whisk wasn't strong enough at this point!

After the last cup (lucky number 13!) is mixed in, transfer the still very sticky dough ball to a well floured counter top (flour your hands too!).

Kneed the dough, adding flour (~1 more cup as you go along) until the dough is smooth (aka, not sticky any more) and elastic.

Grin like the flour covered goon you are (or I am!) at some point too.

Transfer it back to your scraped clean and greased with shortening to rise for 2 hours.

In the meantime go for a 1.1 mile run (if you are me this Christmas!) and perhaps shower your stinky self too!

Ok, 2 hours are up!

Now punch the dough down and remove from the pot (you shouldn't need any more flour from this point on). Kneed the dough a bit more to remove excess air and then using a serated knife divide your dough into sections. This recipe can produce 4 sandwich sized loaves if divided into 4 equal sections....we make 3 large loaves and 3 small loaves though for gifts to family and friends.

Now divide each loaf portion into three equal amounts and roll out into strands, making sure to remove excess air pockets as you go.

Braid the three strands (just like a basic hair braid) and tuck in the ends.

Carfully tranfer your braid to a shortening lined bread pan. After you have braided all your loaves they need to rise for another hour.

Time's up! Pop your babies (bread babies, guys!) into a 350 degree F oven for about 30 mins or until the tops are lightly browned.

Remove the loaves from their pans (a quick flip should do the trick-careful they are very hot!) and then top with a smear of maragine and a sprinkling of cinammon sugar! Oh so good!

I think they turn out so pretty and each loaf is unique.

These are my two favorite this year:

Nearly perfect and symetric!

A cute little round puff!

This bread makes excellent toast, sandwich bread (we use it for our ham sammys at midnight on Christmas Eve), not to mention French Toast! Yum!

Now I'm off to blare the Nutcracker and finally wrap some presents!

Love to all,
~the once a year baker, Jess


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