Sunday, December 29, 2013

Family Christmas is Tomorrow

Tomorrow is our family's Christmas Day, in that we will celebrate with family traditions and exchange presents and eat lots of yummy food. That means tonight (December 29) I am making our traditional Swedish sweet coffee bread (like Lussekatter or Lucia Buns minus the saffron). We eat those with cheese and coffee and milk first thing as we gather in the living room by the tree, and begin to sort presents. 

I love cardamom, a spice used in India and the Middle East, but also around the world. In Scandinavia the spice is used in baking primarily, especially seasonal--Christmas--baking. Cardamom is hard to describe. Here is the Penzeys description:

An extremely flavorful and ancient spice native to India, cardamom's use has spread throughout the world, with nearly every culture having its own distinctive use for the flavorful seeds. In India where both green and black cardamom are used, it is an important ingredient in meat and vegetable dishes. In parts of the Middle East the seeds are mixed with green coffee beans before brewing. In Northern Europe (especially Scandinavia) white cardamom is used to season baked goods such as Christmas stollen, cakes, cookies, muffins and buns. Green cardamom is preferred in India and the Middle East. Cardamom is a pod consisting of an outer shell with little flavor, and tiny inner seeds with intense flavor. Fancy white and green pods have no splits or cracks in the shell, so the flavor keeps well. Stored in a glass jar, cardamom pods will stay fresh indefinitely. Shelled or decorticated cardamom seeds are inexpensive and flavorful, but sometimes need to be crushed or ground before use. Ground cardamom has an intensely strong flavor and is easy to use (especially in baking, where the fine powder is desirable). Black cardamom, long a staple in African cooking, was originally used in India as a cheap substitute for green cardamom pods. Black cardamom has a unique smoky flavor and has developed its own following over the years.

I recommend the Penzeys spices. They are high quality and easily ordered on-line or by phone. Since I bake this basically once a year, the small 1.2 oz. jar has lasted me several years. And it retains it's intensity that long.

You can make a braid which takes less time and my family likes because it is moister than the rolls often. Here is a recipe to try (we don't use the saffron---we like cardamom better AND saffron is very expensive). And here is another that is a Swedish Coffee Bread. I have not made this before but my mother did, and she called it a Swedish Tea Ring, making it festive like a Christmas wreath.


Happy 5th Day of Christmas!! Yes, remember, the first day of Christmas is December 26!







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