Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas will be here before we know it and the New Year is on the horizon. This year especially I think is a good time to reflect on what we have that so many others don’t — a great community to live in, a home, a job, food, family and friends. Being grateful should be practiced year round not just in November. Remember to always hem your blessings with gratitude so they don’t unravel.
I love getting ready for Christmas and I have made it no small task. Well, smaller at this house than our old one because of size restraints. I change out everything, coffee cups, kitchen canisters, kitchen and bathroom towels, table clothes, napkins, plants, everything on top of my cabinets and in them. Away go the vases and collectables out come the snowmen and trees. It’s a chore but one I enjoy. I know my husband, not so much, but he indulges me because lots of stuff goes outside too. We always save any pumpkins that don’t freeze and spray them silver and gold and use those too.
I’m not in the stores much shopping for gifts because I give a lot of homemade ones; jams, cookies, spaghetti sauce, raspberry vinegar and applesauce. I’m always baking lots of cookies and breads. It seems at this time of year we have memories of food; my aunt Helen’s homemade meat raviolis, our neighbor Mrs. Verlinden’s container of Christmas cookies, Mrs Long’s fudge, Alice’s Swedish Bread, my friend Laura Vance’s bear claws, Mary Marrone’s Italian Nut Sticks and my Mom’s Hungarian Coffee Cake. For me these are the special smells and tastes of this time of year that bring back memories of Christmas past and present.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Henry Longfellow. “The heart has its own memory like the mind, and in it are enshrined the precious keepsakes into which is wrought the givers lasting thoughts.”
In the spirit of giving and gifts I’m going to share this recipe of my Mom’s Hungarian Coffee Cake that was originally from a 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. It has been altered through the years, no yeast cakes, no soft shortening and my Mom always used half potato water for half of the milk for richer rolls or maybe she was just being thrifty. These do take a bit of time but most of that is the rising of the dough. I guarantee if you make these they will become a must for your holidays just as they are for mine.
Hungarian Coffee Cake
Sweet Dough: 2 cups lukewarm milk (half potato water) my Mom would use the last of the potato water from making mashed potatoes when you’re draining them or you can boil a small potato until really soft and use that with the water you boiled it in to make 1 cup you can also just use the 2 cups of milk.
2 pkg active dry yeast — don’t use rapid rise for this dough dissolved into 1/4 cup warm water (105-115) with 1 tsp sugar and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
cube of butter melted, unsalted, if you’re using salted butter decrease salt to 1 tsp.
7 to 7 1/ 2 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl or using your stand mixer; put your milk and potato water, sugar, salt and eggs, mix together adding your yeast mixture and stir in your flour, 2 cups at a time. When the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl turn it out onto a slightly floured board to knead. Knead: fold dough over toward you, then press down and away from you with heel of hand. Give dough a quarter turn, repeat until it’s smooth, elastic and doesn’t stick to board adding more flour as needed.
Place the dough in a well buttered bowl, turning once to bring bring buttered side up.
Cover with a cloth and let rise in warm draft free spot until double in size (1-2 hours)
Press two fingers into the dough and it will leave indentations when dough is doubled.
When dough is doubled take it out of bowl and knead it down and put it back in the bowl again to until almost double in bulk about 45 minutes. This recipe will make 2 pans of the coffee cake or 1 coffee cake and one pan of rolls. You can also cut it in half and just make one. If you’re making 2 you’ll need 2 bowls of the cinnamon sugar mixture.
These are nut encrusted rolls baked as a cake in a bundt pan. After second rising, cut dough into pieces the size of walnuts and form into balls. After all the balls are formed roll each ball into 1/2 cup of melted butter, then roll in a mixture of:
3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Place 1 layer of balls so they barely touch in a well greased bundt pan. Sprinkle with a few golden raisins. Add another layer of balls and sprinkle with more raisins. Let rise 45 minutes and bake 35 to 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Let cool just a few minutes and invert them on your serving platter. They should all stick together and look like the picture but if they don’t and one falls on the floor, the five second rule doesn’t apply here. Pick it up immediately and eat it.
Linda Marrone is the 3rd & Curry St. Farmers Market Manager