first i have to say that we are in the darkest time of the year here in denmark and that means that on the best of days, there's only good light between about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. by 2:30, there's already a sunset quality to the light. most days are dark, overcast and very grey and it rains a lot and we don't see the sunshine for weeks on end. i'm explaining this for several reasons. one, it means my pictures all have the very golden cast of the artificial light combined with the yellow walls of my kitchen. and two, it means we take cover in the house, baking. especially here in the lead up to the holidays. this weekend, we baked two family holiday favorites and we will bake them again before the season is over.
the first is a holiday tea ring in a pretty wreath-shape that my mom always makes. the recipe makes two, one to keep and one to give away. it has festive candied cherries on top and is a delicious, slightly-sweet bread. it makes a good breakfast if you have any left the next morning, just slather on a bit of butter and drink with a steaming mug of tea (or coffee).
holiday tea ring
1/2 C butter
1 C milk
melt the butter and add the milk, heating it til it's rather lukewarm (you don't want it too hot or it will kill your yeast)
4.5-5 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 package fresh yeast (or two packages dry yeast)
handful of raisins
halved candied cherries
pecans (if desired)
put the yeast and the sugar down in your mixing bowl and when the milk/butter mixture is warm, add it to the yeast. allow it to dissolve and begin to work, add the eggs. begin adding the flour, one cup at a time. mix it well. if you use your kitchen aid, let the dough hook do the work, if not, you will need to knead the dough for about 5 minutes, then place it in a large, lightly-greased, floured bowl to rise until it's double in size.
when it's doubled in size, divide it in half and roll it out into two rectangles that are approximately 18" x 7" (according to my mom's instructions), spread it with butter down the middle, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (to taste) - we put quite a lot, then add a handful of raisins, pecans and cherries down the middle. since there is a little girl at our house that loves the cherries, but not raisins or nuts, we put only cherries in ours. it's really up to you. you could also put in other dried fruits - melon, apple, papaya, cranberries - whatever you like.
join the two ends so that it forms a wreath shape and transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper. use a scissors to clip 2/3 of the way in (that's not what i did in the picture - i did it wrong and only remembered how to do it correctly afterwards) every inch and a half or so. then take every other one of those, pull it up and twist it to make the wreath look more wreath-like. allow it to rise half an hour or so in a warm place, brush with an egg/water wash (if desired) then bake at 175℃/350℉ for 20-25 minutes (my oven seems faster than others, so you may need more time than this).
make up an easy powdered sugar frosting and drizzle it over, decorating with cherries.
1 C powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk
dash of vanilla
i advise diving in while it's still warm. be sure to make a fresh pot of christmas tea to go with it.
the other favorite we made this weekend were my grandmother's russian teacakes. they're so easy, not too sweet (which makes them perfect in my book)
1 C. butter
½ C. powdered sugar
¼ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 ¼ C. flour
¾ C. finely ground pecans (or walnuts if, like me, you can't find pecans anywhere this year)
bake 200℃/400℉ 8-10 minutes. they do not need to be brown, but are quite pale. make 3 doz. balls. grandma always mashed them criss-crossed with a fork. when cooled, roll the cookies in sifted powdered sugar. try not to eat them all the first day.