St. Lucia Buns

by Lisa

I’ll bet you didn’t know that today is St. Lucy’s Day.  And that it is also my daughter’s half-birthday. And that her still-beloved American Girl doll, Kirsten, hails from Sweden, where St. Lucy is pretty much the only saint honored. If you’ve read my book, you also might know that we nearly named Ella “Lucy”, after my paternal grandmother.

For a few years, Ella has been lobbying to celebrate her half-birthday/Swedish saint day in a traditional way: with St. Lucia buns, brought by the eldest daughter, at the crack of dawn, to the other members of the household. Usually, this daughter wears a crown of candles.  Historically, December 13 would have been the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, and thus the tradition of the eldest daughter bringing light and sweets.

Last night at dinner, Ella reminded me about St. Lucy’s Day and told me exactly where to find the recipe, and at 6:30 pm, I agreed and set to work making St. Lucia Buns for the morning. I didn’t have saffron or raisins, which means ours were not exactly authentic, but they were good enough.  They’re a sweet, yeast bread and easy to make.

This morning, at about 6:45 am, it was still dark, and Finn came into our room, announcing, “Stay in bed!” Not long after that, Ella arrived (sans scary candle crown) with a breakfast tray bearing two cups of coffee and 4 St. Lucia buns, plated and garnished with candied walnuts, which she’d added in place of the missing raisins.

It was lovely to have a break from the regular routine, to forget about making lunches and emptying the dishwasher and making beds.  We all piled onto our bed, and had a calm, sweet breakfast as the sun came up.

St. Lucia Buns

from Kirsten’s Cookbook

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 package yest
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 T cooking oil
  • 1 egg + 1 T water
  • 24 raisins
  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes until  bubbly and smooth.
  2. Warm the milk and butter over low heat until butter is just melted.
  3. Add the milk and butter to the yeast.
  4. Stir in sugar, egg, salt, and saffron.
  5. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and stir until smooth.
  6. Add enough of the remaining flour so that you can shape the dough into a ball.
  7. Put dough on floured cutting board & knead, adding flour as dough becomes sticky.
  8. When dough is smooth and  springy (about 5-10 minutes) cover with a towel and wash & dry mixing bowl.
  9. Measure cooking oil into bowl, add dough, turn to coat, cover with a towel and set in warm place to rise, 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  10. Punch down the dough, then divide into 6 sections.  Take one section and divide in half. Roll each half into and 8-inch rope. Cross the 2 ropes in the middle then coil the ends into tight circles. Repeat w/remaining 5 buns.
  11. Place buns on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Let rise until doubled, 30-45 minutes.
  12. While buns are rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  13. Beat egg and water and brush lightly over the top of each bun before baking. Decorate with raisins.
  14. Bake buns 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
  15. Cool on cooling rack.

English Muffin Loaf

by Caroline

What’s not to love about a community cookbook, a crowd-sourced collection of family recipes from a school, church, or the local Junior League? I have a small collection of them, some from our preschool and churches my Dad has served, and some I’ve picked up at tag sales because the cover or layout appealed. This recipe comes from a cookbook I don’t actually own (yet!), the Cate School Community Cookbook, and I’ve eaten the bread often visiting our cousins who live and teach at Cate School. It’s one of those rare and wonderful finds: a quick, no-knead yeast bread. You can stir it together, pre-coffee, in your morning haze, and enjoy a piece with your second cup of coffee.

English Muffin Loaf
adapted from The Cate School Community Cookbook, 2002

5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
1 cup water

cornmeal for dusting the pan

Butter two 8×4 loaf pans and dust with cornmeal.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine 3 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and soda in a large bowl.

Heat the milk and water until warm and then add to the dry mixture. Mix well. Stir in remaining 2-3 cups flour, to make a stiff batter. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans, sprinkle the tops with more cornmeal, and cover with a damp cloth. Let the bread rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove promptly from the pans and let cool on a rack.

These loaves freeze well, and make delicious toast.

A New Granola

One of my longest cooking (and eating) rituals is granola; I’ve been making an adaptation of Nigella Lawson’s granola recipe from Feast for over 5 years now, and eating it every morning with some Trader Joe’s O’s and a sprinkling of dried cranberries.

But when I spotted a tasty-looking recipe in the New York Times magazine recently, I thought, there’s nothing wrong with making a second kind of granola. Besides, I knew the coconut and dried cherries would appeal to Ben, who now might join me in my granola habit.

I made the recipe exactly as written, and it’s delicious, but sweeter than I like in the morning, so I might cut back on the sugar and syrup the next time around.

Eleven Madison Park Granola
2 3⁄4 cups rolled oats
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1/3 cup pumpkinseeds
1 tablespoon salt
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3⁄4 cup dried sour cherries.

1. Preheat oven to 300. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pistachios, coconut, pumpkinseeds and salt.

2. In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from heat. Fold liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well.

3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and spread granola over it. Bake until dry and lightly golden, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way.

4. Remove granola from oven, and mix into it the dried sour cherries. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a storage container. Makes about 6 cups.

Adapted from Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, New York.

The Breakfast Score

By Lisa

If it didn’t make the kids happy, you’d call it a rut because they’ve been eating the same thing for breakfast nearly 5 days a week since August. It’s true, that on weekends we mix it up with pancakes, and there’s french toast, or oatmeal, or granola thrown in on occasion, but for the most part, they eat the same thing every single school morning.

This is familiar to me: as a child I ate pb & j on cocktail rye for at least a year straight, along with probably 5 other foods.  My kids aren’t picky, and there’s some variety in their lunches and lots in the dinners.   It seems they’re just hungry for the same thing at this particular meal. Also what changed is that I am now making breakfast. This used to be the husband’s domain, but I took over when we was on deadline illustrating this book, working around the clock.  I figured I could pitch in, and for now, its stuck.

For me, the advantages of consistency are just that: I have a routine. No decisions, no second-guessing, no options.  I know exactly what dishes to pull in what order and how to assemble and cook the parts so that there is food in front of them in less than five minutes, which is less than the time it takes to brew the pot of coffee. I pre-slice and freeze the bagels. I use the same dishes. I pour and slice in the same order every single. I am a breakfast machine.

The magic meal is a fried egg, over easy, a mini-bagel and cream cheese, fresh fruit. and juice. Some times they get toast instead of a bagel.  If we’re out of juice they have milk.  And  plums have replaced the berries of summer, but basically, this is the meal.  I get the eggs at the farmers market, so I feel okay about eating a lot of them.  As I’ve written before, we’ve discovered that small amounts of protein really make a difference in the energy and mood of our athlete daughter, which is how eggs on a weekday first came about.

And this morning, I discovered that unbeknownst to me, they have been competing over this meal. Not only do the eat the same thing every day, they eat the same thing in the same way every day. First they eat all the white away until only the round eye of the yolk is left, then they carefully scoop up the yolk and eat it in one bite. Whoever manages not to spill or break any of the yolk is the winner.  The score is now 27-22, in Ella’s favor. Which proves I’m not exaggerating about how many eggs they eat. Repetition. Routine. Consistency. We don’t think much about these things, and certainly, they’re not as easy to write about, but they’re as a much a part of how we eat as new food, traditional food, celebratory food.

It’s true, he’s not winning the breakfast series, but his picture came out better.

Pancake Book Giveaway!

by Caroline

You know we are big fans of pancakes around here. We make them with pumpkin and lemon and leftover quinoa and corn; we eat them when we’re out and when we’re at home; we follow recipes from picture books and children’s books but for the most part, aside from the occasional airplane or Eiffel Tower when Tony is wielding the pancake flipper, pancakes here are plain, round, circles.

The cookbook I’m offering you today wants to change all that. Jim Belosic’s OMG Pancakes! shows you how to use a couple squeeze bottles, some food coloring, and one uncomplicated pancake recipe to add some fun to the pancakes on your plate. Cats and dogs, sure, but also giraffes, frogs, rocket ships, bulldozers, guitars and more. The publisher sent us an advanced copy, so the pictures aren’t in color, but the techniques and the recipes are clear and easy to follow. Leave a comment with your email by the end of the week and I’ll draw one winner.