Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Dinner Traditions and a Baking Disaster

What was your Christmas menu like? Do you continue to eat things that are traditions from your earlier years..maybe even going back to your childhood? Or does your Christmas menu change each year, adding new items as tastes change and new people enter the family with their own traditional foods to add? Or maybe you eat out?

Since we were going to one of our son's for Christmas I did just a small amount of cooking . I was asked to bring bread/rolls and so I baked a double batch of Butter Semmels like those pictured here. It's unusual for me not to bake rohlicky but Tom has fallen in love with the semmels for now.

I asked Tom what else he'd like me to make and of course he wanted his Italian peppers and onions. I've been making this for a little over 20 years now, though I had the recipe for years before that. It's very rich, looks very festive at holidays, especially Christmas and goes well with just about any kind of meat. As it turned out Ashley and Bart brought meatballs that were particularly good with this dish as was the ham Mark and Stephanie fixed.

Then I had to make some scalloped corn, just because I love it and since Tom is not wild about it I rarely fix it unless I have some place I can take it to share with others. I usually just dump stuff in..don't follow a recipe and this time it ended up not as firm as I'd like it, but hey..scalloped corn tastes good no matter what you do to it. I sometimes make a version that has egg noodles added in too.

My friend, Cynthia, shared a new cheese spread recipe with me. She said she'd taken it to work and everyone proclaimed it "killer good". That was a good enough endorsement for me to give it a try. And you know what...they were right! It made a lot , so I took half and left half at home. What I took was nearly eaten before the meal started. It was very, very easy and very, very good. No doubt very, very fattening too, but hey, it's Christmas, right?

Now to the disaster. I started remembering how my mother always made a Czech Christmas bread called houska. Actually I think it is more correctly vanocka but she called it houska. Even though I've been baking all sorts of breads for 45 years or more, I'd never made a houska. I'm not even sure I ever liked it all that much, especially since she usually put assorted candied fruits in hers and I don't really like that. But I got the urge to try my hand at it using just raisins and slivered almonds like most recipes I've seen.

So Wednesday I stirred up the dough and about 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of butter later I had a huge amount of dough which I refrigerated overnight. Thursday morning I shaped the braided loaf and baked it.

After an hour it sounded done and according to my recipe it should have been done. I took it out, let it cool a bit and iced it. It wasn't the best looking bread I've ever made..but for a first time effort it didn't look too bad and we trucked it over to Aurora.

So guess what we found when we started slicing it? Pretty much raw dough in the middle of it! Yuck! Approximately the outside 2 inches was baked okay...after that, forget it! How disappointing and embarrassing.

IF I ever get the urge to try it again (and I probably will, simply because I'm anal enough that I have to prove to myself I can get it right), I think I'll make half the recipe and a much smaller and less dense loaf. And I think I'll add some rum to the dough and a bit of mace or cinnamon!!

Now what I'm really getting nostalgic for is some good old-fashioned cinnamon bread!

So what are your Christmas food traditions? I'll talk more about ours in a later post.

For now..may all your bread be done!

1 comment:

deputyswife said...

This year I decided to make lasagna for Christmas day. The number one reason, I could make it a day in advance. We spend most of our day helping the boys put together toys, so I don't have too much time in the kitchen. If I try to do both, I end up being stressed out. It actually went very well this year. The only thing, I miss making my bone-in ham with all the trimmings.

So, last night I ran to the store, got a small ham and that's what we are having tonight. Right now, I am making yeast rolls with my new mixer. It sure is nice. I think I will also be trying your recipe for Butter Semmels tomorrow. Any chance you would share your rohlicky recipe? I don't have a drop of czech blood in me, but I sure would like to try them. Mostly because they are my absolute favorite roll. I always buy them at our farmers market in the summer.

Well, back to cooking. I am also making scalloped corn. Growing up, my mom made that every holiday. It is my favorite!