Wednesday, December 30
My Swedish grandmother was a great cook. One thing she always served was vetebröd, which our family calls bulle. Vetebröd is a traditional sweet Swedish yeast bread that has a very unique ingredient – cardamom. Every time I smell this cardamom bread I think of my grandma. This is definitely one of my strongest “memory foods.”
While this isn’t a traditional Christmas food, I only ever get around to making it at Christmastime. Cate LOVES it and calls it the “yummy bread.”
So, on to the recipe! I actually took some step-by-step photos for you. Vetebröd can be baked in many different shapes. The recipe I have calls for simple buns, but braiding the bread is how my mom and I like to bake it. Because I love you all soooo much, I decided to share our family’s special way of braiding the loaf. It’s a great little trick.
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cakes compressed yeast OR 2 packets active dry yeast OR 4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 cups sifted flour
- 1 cup melted butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 20 cardamom pods (or 3 tsp ground cardamom, which is what I use)
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup finely blanched almonds
1. Scald milk and cool to luke warm. Crumble yeast in bowl: add 1/2 cup luke warm milk and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add remaining milk and 1/4 c sugar. Beat in 3 C flour and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulk, 3/4 – 1 hour.
2. Add reamining sugar, cooled melted butter and salt. Break open cardamom pods – remove tiny seeds and crush thoroughly. Add cardamom and 4 1/2 C flour to yeast mixture. Place remaining 1/2 C flour on board or pastry cloth for kneading.
3. Turn out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. (I actually put all 5 cups of flour in step 2 and then let my Kitchen-Aid do the kneading with the dough hook attachment.) Place in greased bowl. Cover with cloth and let rise until double in bulk, 3/4 – 1 hour.
4. Cut into even size pieces and roll into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with 1/4 c sugar (rock sugar is really yummy) and almonds. Let rise until double in bulk, 30-40 mins. Bake in moderately hot oven (400 degrees F) 12-15 minutes. (If you do the braid that I describe below, cook at 350 degrees for nearly 30 minutes, when the top is as dark as you want it, cover with foil until bread is done cooking.)
How to make the braided loaf: (you can also do pretty buns – see links at the bottom of the post for more info)
Once the dough is ready to cut into pieces in step 4, you can instead roll out the dough to make a braid. This recipe will make four 12″ braided loaves. Divide the dough into fours and form into a round, even ball. Smoosh the ball down into a rectangular-type shape (as best you can). Roll out to a large rectangle 12″ long and as wide as you can get it, rolling the dough pretty thin (maybe 1/4″ or so). The thinner the dough at this stage the better it will cook.
Score two lines to divide the rectangle into thirds (the lines should be 12″, the length of the loaf…does that make sense?). These score lines are guides and should not be very deep. Cut lines perpendicular to your score starting at the score line cutting out to the edge (see picture). Make cuts appx. 1 inch apart. The cuts should be made down both sides, should line up and be even in number. (Am I making sense? Thank goodness for pictures!).
Begin your braid at one end. Fold the pieces across to the opposite score line and angled down to the next level of cut pieces. I sort of smoosh the piece down so it stays in place. Once you’ve braided all the pieces, tuck the last two pieces under each other (pictured) so you have a nice finished end. (Please note – I should have rolled my dough thinner than pictured here…although the bread still came out.)
When I used to make this, I would just divide the dough in two and make two braids (what you see in the pictures) – but that made for a thicker braid and the outside would cook before the inside. I have since started dividing it into four braids, which is easier to roll out thin and cooks more evenly. Follow instructions in Step 4 above for prepping to bake (including rising again). You can cook two braids per cookie sheet – the sheets are 12″ wide, so the braid fits cross-wise. If you do have thicker braids that seem to be cooking too quickly on the outside, about halfway through the total bake time of ~30 minutes, cover the loaf with foil. This keeps the outside from getting to dark and it cooks beautifully.
While baking the bread topped with sugar and almonds is good…vanilla glaze is my favorite way to eat it. I mean, seriously, doesn’t that look AWESOME?
- 1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 1 tsp light corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Milk or half-and-half or light cream
Mix sugar, syrup and vanilla together. Stir in enough milk/half-and-half/light cream to make drizzling consistency (a little goes a long way!).
I double this recipe to cover all four of my 12″ loaves that yield from the recipe above.
I’m not sharing this recipe because it’s an easy one. I’m sharing it because I love it and is special to me. It takes some time, but it is not difficult and so delicious. Eating this soft, yummy bread straight out of the oven is the best. But to replicate the effect the following day, I just zap my bulle in the microwave for 10-15 seconds…mmmmmmmmmm….
Click here to see how I make this bread into buns, which is another delicious way to enjoy them!
This link and this link will will take you to recipes for Swedish cinnamon buns (a little different than this recipe, but I’m sure still tasty). Both of these recipes illustrate how to make the dough into pretty buns. This is a great way to cook vetebröd, my grandma usually made these types of buns.
Sunday, December 27
Why does this peppermint bark from Trader Joe’s have to be so good? Darn you, Santa, for tempting me with such delicious stocking stuffers.
I am SO not ready to return to real life. After a few days of being a complete vegetable I’ve forgotten how to be productive. In fact, planning this menu is HARD work.
- BBQ Chicken Salad (a restaurant called Croutons in San Diego has a really good BBQ chicken salad, I’m just going to download their menu and copy it)
- Homemade pizza
- New Year’s Eve! Party at friends’ home
- Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup
- Eat out
- Shepherd’s Pie
I know many of you are probably also in vegetable mode like me…but if you have a menu for the week, please share! (Thank goodness I had your menus to browse from last week as I was completely out of ideas today!)
Thursday, December 24
I can’t tell you how happy I am it’s Christmas Eve! I have been doing some cooking the last few days, but as a Christmas gift to myself I’m taking it easy this week and will post more regularly starting again Sunday. Rest assured, wonderful food will reappear on the blog next week! Until then, our stockings are hung by the piano with care and our little family is waiting anxiously to celebrate this most wonderful of holidays.
Happy Christmas and Seasons Greetings to each and every one of you!
Tuesday, December 22
A delectable delight here in the Bay Area is Fred’s Steak. This is what Fred’s Steak looks like after it’s cooked. It melts like butter in your mouth and the flavor is unreal.
Here’s what it looks like uncooked. Pretty nuts, eh? It’s kind of shocking when you walk into the butcher shop to see a big pile of BLACK meat.
I think this might be my favorite red meat to eat. Although, filet mignon at a fancy steakhouse like Donovan’s might take that top spot. Regardless, I love Fred’s Steak. Too bad it’s $14 per pound! While it is in fact worth every last penny, my wallet can only handle Fred’s Steak for a special treat.
When I bought our cut at Shaub’s (the originator of Fred’s steak; you can also get it at Draeger’s), the butcher told me that while cooking it on the grill gives it a nice crispy exterior, most of the butchers like simply cooking it in the oven. So that’s what I did. It was so easy and came out perfectly. For those of you who live locally, this would be a great meal for Christmas. Maybe Santa can cover the cost.
It’s official, this post has made me hungry.
For those of you who don’t live anywhere near Schaub’s or Draeger’s, there is a recipe for the marinade on the Fred’s Steak Wikipedia page that may be worth trying! I would marinate a piece of sirloin for 3-5 days in a ziploc bag and then cook in an oven at 375 for around 45 minutes. I might just have to try it myself.
Sunday, December 20
Boring menu post this week. No picture. No cute stories. Just a bunch of sick people in the Maynard house. But that’s not going to stop me from getting a menu up on Sunday! Here goes…and here’s hoping we’re all pictures of health by Christmas Eve.
- Annual chili party at a friend’s home…if we’re not sick, that is! If we’re sick, I think I’ll just make chili anyways!
- Bistro chicken (I ended up not making it yet, but love it and can’t wait to have it this week! chicken breasts browned in a skillet, remove & cook 1/2 c chopped onions 5 min, add 1 14oz can diced tomatoes, italian seasoning, 1 can of Campbell’s french onion soup, cook that together to reduce liquid 5 min, pour sauce over chicken in a casserole dish, add swiss cheese on top & bake for 20 min! I love this recipe – thanks to Jen Schulte! I like to serve with garlic mashed potatoes)
- Chinese Take-out (a Maynard Christmas Eve tradition)
- Swedish meatballs
- Leftovers (hopefully)
- Green Noodles (didn’t make this last week, either. basically I went to the grocery store with a very incomplete grocery list…I hope to plan better this week!)
Can’t wait to see your menus for this week! Love seeing what people do over holidays…and what you eat the rest of the holiday week…perhaps lots of takeout?
Friday, December 18
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember my annual stresses over birthday cakes. Last year I begged you all for birthday cake tips, and then I chickened out and made a layer cake that was cute and tasty, but not very adventurous. Our little Anna likes Spiderman a lot. It’s pretty cute. I decided that I would make her a Spiderman cake this year. Thankfully his head is a simple oval, so this was a good cake for me to get my feet wet with.
Do you mind if I brag a bit? I love her cake! I’m so happy with how it came out. YEA!!!!!
I will say this. I didn’t cheat at all in the process.
- I used cake strips, of course.
- I froze the cakes before assembling and frosting.
- I made the frosting from scratch, so I could make a ton for not much money and have plenty to work with.
- I used wax paper to keep the cake platter clean.
- I applied a crumb coat of frosting first before doing a top layer of frosting.
- I used tons of food coloring to get the color of icing I wanted.
- I practiced decorating with frosting before attacking the cake itself. (This was big for me, I hate “wasting” time practicing!)
All of this meant it took longer to make, but it was well worth the effort. Thank you for indulging me and letting me show off the cake! Maybe next year I’ll try a more interesting shape. Or maybe I should just stick with things at are oval-shaped.
Wednesday, December 16
Tuesday, December 15
This year I decided our neighbor & teacher holiday gift would be homemade vanilla hot chocolate. I figured it would be easier than making and decorating oodles of cookies. I was wrong. Well, only because I QUADRUPLED the recipe. And ended up having to grind about 10 pounds of chocolate. With a Cuisiniart mini-prep. Yeah, it was a feat.
BUT…the vanilla hot chocolate is delicious! And a fun, unique gift to give friends for the holidays! You’ll find the recipe at the bottom of this post.
A few quick notes. I have a Cuisinart mini-prep, which is what I used to grind the chocolate. It works fine…but if you DO have a bigger food processor, use it!
This is the recipe I used the vanilla beans for. I saved the sugar-coated bean pods after I was done making the vanilla sugar…I figure I can use them in other recipes, even though the seeds are gone.
If you plan on making TONS and TONS and TONS like I did…you’re going to need BIG bowls. I ended up having to use three giant bowls and mixing all the ingredients between the three bowls, trying to evenly distribute the ingredients by mixing and remixing the contents of each bowl.
No matter what amount you make, be prepared to have chocolate coating your kitchen. Also, I wore a towel over my face because I was literally inhaling cocoa powder when mixing it all together. That all said, if you don’t double (or triple…or quadruple!) the recipe, you’re not going to run into any of these issues.
Here was the final product. Aren’t they cute? I used some free gift tag templates from HP with matching ribbon.
Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix
From Epicurious, makes about 10 cups
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split crosswise (see tips, below)
- 1 1/2 pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (see tips, below)
Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground.
Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.
Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.
To serve, Jane’s instructions: I heat 2 cups of milk over the stove and whisk in about 1/3 cup of the mix. You can also heat the milk in the microwave and it works…but the stove is a little better. If you like it richer, add more mix!
Jane Note: I used 16 oz mason jars and was able to put ~1 3/4 cups of mix in each jar. When I quadrupled the recipe, I filled 19 jars, plus a little left over.
•Save the other half of the vanilla bean for another use, such as a second batch of vanilla sugar, which keeps indefinitely and can be used in baking, coffee, or simply to sprinkle on fruit or waffles.
•Dutch process cocoa has been treated with an alkaline solution, which gives it a darker color and less bitter flavor and makes it dissolve more easily.
Ellen Patton, who said “I would love to win that since RED is my favorite color. ”
For the rest of you…there is still time for holiday shopping at RedEnvelope. And don’t forget, if you click on any of the RedEnvelope links in this post, you’ll get 15% off your order! Happy shopping!
Sunday, December 13
At first glance, this gingerbread head may seem a tiny bit on the morbid side. But it’s actually cute. Cate received a gingerbread man cookie from a friend at school. She couldn’t wait to get home to eat it. After a few minutes of munching, she brought the head to me and told me she didn’t want to eat it. When I asked why, she simply replied, “I like him.” Apparently she didn’t like him enough to save his body, but I still thought it was pretty sweet.
Now begins the craziest two weeks of my year…both of my daughters’ birthdays are this week (only one day apart!), which just so happens to coincide with the already busiest time of year. Needless to say, we have a lot going on. I need to try to keep it VERY simple and realistic. Wish me luck.
- Paninis (I think this has been on my menu for a month!)
- Bistro chicken (chicken breasts browned in a skillet, remove & cook 1/2 c chopped onions 5 min, add 1 14oz can diced tomatoes, italian seasoning, 1 can of Campbell’s french onion soup, cook that together to reduce liquid 5 min, pour sauce over chicken in a casserole dish, add swiss cheese on top & bake for 20 min! I love this recipe – thanks to Jen Schulte! I like to serve with garlic mashed potatoes)
- Easy Apricot Chicken
- Eat out
- No idea…eat out or leftovers
- Green Noodles
Can’t wait to see what you are having for dinner this week. Remember, I don’t care how fancy or UN-fancy your menus is, I like to see all of them!
And Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends! :) Cate has been educating us about Hanukkah a lot lately, including singing “O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah, Come Light the Menorah” while Christmas tree shopping and making a star of David Christmas tree ornament at a church Christmas party. We’ve loved every minute of it!