Category Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas

Hosting Christmas Traditions has been fun this month, like sneaking a peek in the family room window of those who submitted stories for us to enjoy.  It is such a treat to share holiday stories and recipes that create special memories. Gift-giving, baking, drawing near to family warms our hearts and homes as we celebrate the good news of this wondrous season. Immanuel, God with us, is the greatest of all miracles.

May the peace of God reign in your heart and the joy of the Lord be your greatest gift this Christmas.  Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-14

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

(NIV – emphasis added)

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Cherry Christmas Stollen

For as long as I can remember, my mom made what she called Stollen every year at Christmas. Traditionalists would not recognize our family’s rendition since Stollen is similar to fruitcake. Ours would be described best as a pastry with tender sweet roll dough cradling fresh or canned fruit, nuts, spices and sweet glaze topping.

Cherry Christmas Stollen

1/2   Recipe Sweet Roll Dough (see below)
1       can  Wilderness More Fruit Cherry Pie Filling
1/2   cup  sliced almonds, toasted
1       teaspoon  cinnamon
2       tablespoons  butter

GLAZE:
1       cup  powdered sugar
1       tablespoon  milk
1/4   teaspoon  almond extract – or – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put pie filling in a colander with fairly large holes.  Shake colander from side to side to remove as much filling as you can so that mainly the fruit remains.  Lightly chop cherries to make a very chunky paste.

Roll 1/2 Sweet Roll Dough into rectangle, 15×9 inches, on a lightly floured surface.  Spread cherries over dough, sprinkle with cinnamon and dot with butter, leaving 1 inch clear of edge of dough.  Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side.  Pinch edge of dough to seal well.  Gently stretch roll to make even.

Shape into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down (if not using parchment paper, butter baking sheet).  Pinch ends together to seal ring.  With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals.  Gently separate the sections just a little.  Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 375° (if using sliced almonds, this is a good time to toast them while waiting for pastry to rise).  Optional egg wash: Just before baking, whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of cream together (milk or water can also be used). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the stollen with the egg wash to give the finished pastry a shiny, golden appearance.

Bake stollen until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes of baking; if ring browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil while it finishes baking.

Remove from baking sheet onto wire rack to cool.  Once cooled, glaze and sprinkle with sliced toasted almonds, if desired.

GLAZE:  Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 almond extract until glaze is smooth.  Place in a Ziploc® bag and press down toward a bottom corner.  Snip the corner when you are ready to glaze and simply squeeze desired amount of glaze onto ring.

Store in loosely wrapped aluminum foil or in a storage container with the lid slightly askew so the dough doesn’t become too moist.

Sweet Roll Dough

1         package  active dry yeast
1/2     cup  warm water
1/2     cup  lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
1/3     cup  sugar
1/2     cup  butter, softened but not melted
1         teaspoon  salt
1         whole  egg
3 3/4  cups  all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl.  Stir in milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour.  Mix until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up.  Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough.  Shape, let rise and bake as directed.

Do-ahead Tip:  After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days.

Note: For  wheat dough, substitute half of the flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour.

Blueberry Christmas Stollen

For as long as I can remember, my mom made what she called Stollen every year at Christmas. Traditionalists would not recognize our family’s rendition since Stollen is similar to fruitcake. Ours would be described best as a pastry with its tender sweet roll dough cradling fresh or canned fruit, nuts, and spices and sweet glaze topping.

Shaped like a Swedish Tea Ring, it makes a beautiful presentation.  Smaller rings can be made for holiday gifts or afternoon tea with friends.

Blueberry Christmas Stollen

FILLING:
1/2  recipe  Sweet Roll Dough (see below)
1      can  Wilderness More Fruit Blueberry Pie Filling
2      tablespoons butter
1/2  cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
parchment paper (optional)

GLAZE:
1      cup powdered sugar
1      tablespoon milk
1/4  teaspoon almond extract – or – 1/2 vanilla extract

Put pie filling in a colander with fairly large holes.  Shake colander from side to side to remove as much filling as you can so that mainly the fruit remains.  Lightly chop berries to make a very chunky paste.

Roll 1/2 Sweet Roll Dough into rectangle, 15×9 inches, on a lightly floured surface.  Spread blueberries over dough leaving 1 inch clear of edge of dough; dot with butter.  Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side.  Pinch edge of dough to seal well. Gently stretch roll to make even.

Shape into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down (if not using parchment paper, butter baking sheet).  Pinch ends together to seal ring.  With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals.  Gently separate the sections just a little.  Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 375° (if using sliced almonds, this is a good time to toast them while waiting for pastry to rise).  Optional egg wash: Just before baking, whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of cream together (milk or water can also be used). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the stollen with the egg wash to give the finished pastry a shiny, golden appearance.

Bake stollen until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes of baking; if ring browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil while it finishes baking.

Remove from baking sheet onto wire rack to cool.  Once cooled, glaze and sprinkle with sliced toasted almonds, if desired.

GLAZE:  Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 almond extract until glaze is smooth.  Place in a Ziploc® bag and press down toward a bottom corner.  Snip the corner when you are ready to glaze and simply squeeze desired amount of glaze onto ring.

Store in loosely wrapped aluminum foil or in a storage container with the lid slightly askew so the dough doesn’t become too moist.

Sweet Roll Dough

1         package  active dry yeast
1/2     cup  warm water
1/2     cup  lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
1/3     cup  sugar
1/2     cup  butter, softened but not melted
1         teaspoon  salt
1         whole  egg
3 3/4  cups  all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl.  Stir in milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour.  Mix until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up.  Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough.  Shape, let rise and bake as directed.

Do-ahead Tip:  After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days.

Note: For  wheat dough, substitute half of the flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour.

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Stollen

For as long as I can remember, my mom made what she called Stollen every year at Christmas. Traditionalists would not recognize our family’s rendition of Stollen, which is similar to fruitcake. Ours would be described best as a tender sweet roll pastry cradling fresh or canned fruit, with nuts and a sweet glaze topping.

I can still remember the aroma of the yeast bread as a child and the large roasting pan we used to mix the dough in by hand. Cherry, blueberry, almond, apple, peach, and apricot flavors would make it hard to choose just one, so we would fill our plates with slivers of them all.  Of course, each of us had a different favorite and Mom faithfully indulged us. She learned to make this delightful pastry from her sister, Louise, who was a tremendous cook.

My sister Debbie and her daughter Angie

My sister, Debbie, and I have carried on the tradition with our own families, teaching our children to make it as well.  It is part of our family’s Christmas breakfast every year and we often give it as a gift to friends.

Although we use the same dough recipe and similar fillings, Debbie shapes her dough in the unique way our mother did—similar to a boat holding the fruit center with a lattice top. 

Making this Stollen recipe as gifts, she has made dozens of them at a time (usually by request), so this method made it easier to create more varieties with custom sizes.

Years ago, mine deviated in shape to resemble a Swedish Tea Ring or what some call a Christmas wreath. I liked the presentation and I can divide the dough to make smaller rings for gifts, about the size of a dinner plate.  Our family and friends settled on just a few favorite flavors—Blueberry, Cherry, and Blueberry-Cream Cheese (recipe below)—so this method has worked well for us. I have also experimented with different flour mixes to incorporate whole wheat here and there, or layered butter into the dough like a croissant to give it a richer texture from time to time.

Mom, who started it all!

It is heartwarming to know my mom, extended family, and close friends are enjoying this delicious Christmas breakfast just as we are.  Although separated by distance, we relish each bite of this family tradition, as though for just a moment, we are together again.

Mom with grandkids making Stollen

Blueberry Cream Cheese Stollen

Blueberry-Cream Cheese Christmas Stollen

1/2    Recipe Sweet Roll Dough (see below)
1        can  Wilderness More Fruit Blueberry Pie Filling
1/2    cup  sliced almonds, toasted

GLAZE:
1       cup  powdered sugar
1       tablespoon  milk
1/4   teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

CHEESE FILLING:
1       package cream cheese (8 Oz), softened at room temperature
1/4   cup  sugar
3       tablespoons  all-purpose flour
1       egg yolk
1/2   teaspoon  grated lemon peel
1       tablespoon  lemon juice

BLUEBERRY FILLING:  Put pie filling in a colander with fairly large holes.  Shake colander from side to side to remove as much filling so that mainly the fruit remains.  Lightly chop berries to make a very chunky paste.

CHEESE FILLING: Beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour, egg yolk, lemon peel, and lemon juice.

Roll 1/2 Sweet Roll Dough into rectangle, 15×9 inches, on a lightly floured surface.  Spread cream cheese filling over dough with spatula.  Spread blueberry paste over cream cheese leaving 1 inch clear at edge of dough.  Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side.  Pinch edge of dough to seal well.  Gently stretch roll to make even.

Shape into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down (if not using parchment paper, butter baking sheet).  Pinch ends together to seal ring.  With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals.  Gently separate the sections just a little.  Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 375° (if using sliced almonds, this is a good time to toast them while waiting for pastry to rise). Optional egg wash: Just before baking, whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of cream together (milk or water can also be used). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the stollen with the egg wash to give the finished pastry a shiny, golden appearance.

Bake stollen until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes of baking; if ring browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil while it finishes baking.

Remove from baking sheet onto wire rack to cool.  Once cooled, glaze and sprinkle with sliced toasted almonds while glaze is still wet, if desired.

GLAZE:  Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 almond extract until glaze is smooth.  Place in a Ziploc® bag and press down toward a bottom corner.  Snip the corner when you are ready to glaze and simply squeeze desired amount of glaze onto ring.

Store loosely wrapped in aluminum foil or in a storage container with the lid askew so the pastry remains moist, but not soggy.

Sweet Roll Dough

1          package active dry yeast
1/2      cup  warm water
1/2      cup  lukewarm milk, scalded then cooled
1/3      cup  sugar
1/2      cup  butter, softened but not melted
1           teaspoon  salt
1           whole  egg
3 3/4   cups  all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl.  Stir in milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour.  Mix until smooth*. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up.  Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough.  Shape, let rise and bake as directed.

Do-ahead Tip:  After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days.  Refrigerating the dough will help develop the flavor of the dough, but is not necessary.

Note: Up to 1/2 of the all-purpose flour can be substituted with whole wheat flour for a wheat pastry.

Christmas Traditions: Colorful Christmas Cookies

Submitted by: Mark Riggs, Kansas City, MO

When I think about Christmas traditions in my family (both the family I grew up with and my family of friends I’ve accumulated over the years), I think of lots of traditions that—for different reasons—aren’t long-standing ones.  The up side to this is I have twelve ideas for my blog, where I share twelve different Christmas traditions, one each day starting on the 25th.  However, this one I’m submitting here, because it’s a current tradition, and it involves food.

Four years ago, one of my students asked me if I would buy something from his Boy Scout fundraiser (or maybe it was some other organization—the origins have been lost over the years), so I bought four tubs of colored sugar cookie dough, in “Play-Doh” colors. When I bought them, I figured it would be fun to make cookies with my friend Tricia’s two girls, but didn’t think much beyond that.

(The first year’s dough, mid-use.)

The cookie dough arrived several weeks later (just long enough for me to forget all about it), and I think I put it in the freezer. On December 20, Ben and Tricia needed me to watch the girls while they did some shopping. I brought over the cookie dough, and we used them to make very colorful cookies for Santa. I taught the girls how to mix colors to get purple, orange, and brown (a Christmas tree cookie needs a trunk, you know) and we had a good time making colored sugar cookies (without sugar sprinkles). Madeline was in Kindergarten, and Olivia was in pre-school.

(Sisters Madeline and Olivia, mixing colors and making cookies!)

The next year, no such fundraiser was brought to my attention, but I figured I could buy sugar cookie mix and food coloring and we’d be in business! And we were! However, I didn’t document the event with pictures. Or maybe we didn’t make the cookies that year. The girls are convinced we’ve done this every year and have convinced me of the same, but part of my aging process is never being sure of the facts … either way, the event changed to me bringing sugar cookie mix and food coloring.

In 2008, I was actually living in the Hart home, after my fun little house fire left me “between homes”. On Christmas Eve, we made cookies for Santa using the tried-and-true method from the year before. Since I made a lot more green and red dough this year, we decided we should try to use mostly those two colors on Santa’s official plate.

Last year, it was actually the 23rd, but in the minds of the girls, it has always been on Christmas Eve. One of my favorite pictures of Maddie comes from this event.

(I’m not sure, but I think Maddie is having a great time!)

(Some of last year’s cookies, some of which went to Santa.)

In fact, they are insisting I come over to do the same thing on Christmas Eve this year. Just to mix it up, I think I’m going to make them from scratch! I have a recipe and I figure I’ll prep them on the 23rd, refrigerate them, and we’ll use rollers and cutouts to make better shapes (we learned the first year cookies don’t keep their shape when you use the dough like Play-Doh). I’m really looking forward to this change. To top it all off, I’m even going to sprinkle sugar on them. Santa is in for a real treat this year!

An invitation from Savoring Today:

Our traditions serve as ballast, connecting generations in continuity. Savoring Today is celebrating family traditions that revolve around Christmas and would love to hear yours. Stories of favorite memories, recipes, quirky habits, scriptures, sacred moments—whatever makes Christmas uniquely memorable. Post as a comment, or submit your story to savoringtoday@comcast.net.
Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye proclaims in the classic musical.

A Dunker’s Companion: Biscotti

By Donna Helzer, Guest Author and Friend

If you ask around there are dunkers and non-dunkers in life.  Non-dunkers just do not understand dunkers and there is no convincing them.  I am a dunker.  Of course, I dunk cookies into milk, but my coffee with cream is host to various things…toast, muffins, cookies, scones, and of course biscotti.  I admit I don’t think to buy biscotti, but if I receive it as a gift, the coffee is quickly brewing!

So, after a full day of chocolate dipping nuts, pretzels, and cookies for our traditional Christmas baking, I came home thinking about dunking some of those yummy goodies into my coffee.  Then, biscotti came to mind.  Hmm, I had no biscotti…but could I make it?  I got on-line in search of recipes.  It didn’t seem too difficult, even for the non-baker in me.  Each recipe had aniseed in it, a licorice flavor that I do not like.  Could I make biscotti without aniseed?  Why not try!

The recipe I found was on Cooks.com, which is my first stop for researching a tried and true recipe. I decided to try it, but without the aniseed.  The next morning I creamed, added, molded, baked, and cut.  I used walnuts in half of the batch and pecans in the other half of the batch.  Living in Colorado Springs, our arid climate changes the moisture content of the flour, so I added less flour than this recipe called for and an extra egg.  It was an easy recipe to follow and wasn’t time consuming.  My hubby (an occasional dunker) loved it!

There are many ways to customize this recipe—mini chocolate chips, dipping one side in chocolate, add orange zest, almond instead of vanilla—to develop a unique biscotti flavor.  Share with a friend over coffee, or give as a gift with specialty coffee or hot coco packets in a fun mug for someone’s birthday.  Whether you share or not, dunk or not, this is an easy biscotti recipe to make and enjoy!

BISCOTTI

½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped pecans
6 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
7 to 8 cups flour (till dough formed)

Cream the salt, eggs, butter, and sugar together. Add anise seed to taste, baking powder, and vanilla. Gradually add the flour until dough is formed. Divide dough into 2 equal parts and knead walnuts into ½ and pecans into the other ½.  Divide each ball into 2 balls, shape into small flat loaves, and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cut loaves while warm (NOT HOT) about 1 inch wide and lay on side in cookie sheet. Put back in the oven for about 5 minutes – until lightly toasted. Flip and toast other side for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Christmas Traditions: A Birthday Cake

Submitted by: Mary Uhlemeyer

A birthday cake

Image via Wikipedia

Our cherished Christmas tradition is to bake a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus Christmas morning. Sometimes we decorate the cake, sometimes it’s plain, but we always put candles on it and our son, Steven, enjoys blowing them out. We then enjoy the cake for dessert after lunch.