The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ghosts of Christmas Past (seasonal memories, anyone?)

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browndog's picture
browndog

Ghosts of Christmas Past (seasonal memories, anyone?)

At last it looks properly like December outside my door (a foot of snow overnight.)

A little bit ago Annie related a sweet little story about her siblings and her mother's Christmas puddings. It made me wonder if anyone else would like to share memories of Christmas past. If Christmas is not your tradition, anything that is seasonal or meaningful to you would be a pleasure to hear.

My own 'picturesque' holiday memories are spare, and none of them involve bread. If bread made an appearance at our dinner table it invariably meant a garlic-buttered pseudo-baguette, and that only if we were having spaghetti.

Christmas eve, when I was very young, was time for putting up the tree, after my father made his trinity of holiday pies: apple, mince, and pumpkin (the only one I liked.)

When I was very young, Christmas stockings invariably held a tangerine and a silver dollar at the toe.

In Cincinnati we were lucky to get enough snow to cover the grass. White Christmas just didn't happen.

If there were cookies, they came from the neighbor. Her simple, colored-sugar-topped cut-out sugar cookies are still what I think of when I think 'Christmas cookies.'

Please tell us your stories!

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Browndog, we never ever had bread with "dinner", only at tea time and breakfast as toast. We don't have Thanksgiving in England so turkey was cooked at Christmas, except for the year my mother cooked a goose - and ended up with jars and jars of goose fat. I'm sure she didn't waste it but it was overkill. Mom started her cakes way ahead of Christmas and we children were allowed/expected to help. Our job was to remove the large seeds from the raisins, a really sticky but necessary task. I can't remember what the raisins were called (even googled with no luck) but they had the most wonderful flavor. I know that because naturally we had to taste them while we worked. Then we popped the skins off the almonds. The baked cakes were stored in the cool pantry, but as Mom was a strict teetotaller they weren't soaked in brandy! No cookies but lots of mince pies, especially good warmed up on Christmas morning when we got home from church - and got to open gifts. Nothing lavish and always a tangerine in the toe of our stockings. All of this was just after the war and I don't know how Mom managed to get the ingredients. She must have saved the coupons somehow. One year all three of us got bicycles - my dad was a gunsmith and had traded work with the bike man. We had to go into the city to collect them and rode home standing up holding the precious bikes in the guard's van at the rear of the train. Then we walked across the frosty fields to reach home and the stars were like diamonds. There, now you have my most special memory and I have a lump in my throat. So many years ago, and how thrilled we were with those "all spare parts" bicycles. No fancy brand names in those days. I'm sure this is way too long and Floyd you have my permission to delete as necessary, A.

browndog's picture
browndog

Annie, I guess you saw me looking pointedly at you. I had a feeling you had lovely memories to share. Thanks so much.

Aren't raisins called 'plums' in England? I can't imagine having to seed the little things, yikes. 

 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Browndog, these weren't the little raisins we all know, they were much bigger and had large seeds, hence the fiddly task. I do wish I could come up with the name - next time I talk to my aunt over there I will ask if she remembers, or maybe some of the UK members can help me out? I don't think we ever called raisins plums but different areas of the country had different names for things, A.

browndog's picture
browndog

Annie, I'm thinking about making a steamed fig pudding this year. Any suggestions or pointers? I made plum puddings many years ago, it turned out flawless a couple times and questionable a couple times more.

I realize I might be better off asking advice from your mother, since you were probably off riding your bike. 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Browndog, I'm afraid my mama isn't available for consultations - I did mention that I am old old old, didn't I? I told Dave W I checked out a very dated English cookbook and the recipes all contained beef suet - not sure whether it is available here or whether it is anything you would use. Then on my shelf I found a book that I'm ashamed to say I haven't even read yet. I probably got if from Daedalus and put it aside to read later. It is called Christmas Memories with Recipes and is a collection of writing by 25 master chefs and food writers. Carol Flinders gives a recipe for Plum Pudding which sounds really good, and she uses figs or prunes. It uses butter, ww breadcrumbs and ww flour which sounds much healthier. I will happily post the recipe if you would like it. It only (!) has to be steamed for 2 1/2 hours, not the 10 Dave mentions.

I did find the name of the raisins I used to seed - muscats. Good, now I can stop mithering about them. You're right, I wasn't much involved in the actual steaming of the puddings, but we did all take a turn at stirring which was supposed to bring good luck. Queen Elizabeth distributes 1.400 puddings every year to her staff, but I doubt she makes them herself! Let me know if you would like the recipe, A.

browndog's picture
browndog

I would love to see it if you don't mind the typing, Annie.

Do you think the Queen might send me one of hers? 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Not at all, here goes: Plum Pudding

2T room temp. butter

2T veg. oil

1/2c honey

3 eggs

1c chopped dried figs or pitted prunes, packed

1 apple, peeled and sliced

1c apple juice

grated rind of 1 lemon

1t vanilla or brandy

1c raisins

1c fine chopped walnuts

2c soft ww breadcrumbs

1c ww flour

1t baking powder

1/2t salt

1/4t baking soda

1t cinnamon

1/2t nutmeg

1/4t cloves.

Makes one plum pudding.

Cream butter, oil and honey together. Separate eggs, beat yolks until creamy, add to honey mixture. Blend figs and apple together with juice (in blender or fp) until jamlike, combine with lemon rind, vanilla, raisins, walnuts and breadcrumbs and add to egg mixture. Sift flour with baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Combine dry and wet ingredients, gently fold in egg whites. Turn into greased 2 qt pudding mold or casserole with lid, cover tightly. Place on rack in large pot, add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of mold. Cover pot and boil briskly for a few minutes then reduce heat and simmer for 2 1/2 hours - top will spring back when touched. Check in case water needs topping up.

Doubt you're on the Queen's list so probably not. Hope this is as good as it sounds. My tribe are going away so I won't be making it, A.

browndog's picture
browndog

Thanks, Annie!

Interesting that the figs are meant to be mushed. Also it is happily a little lighter on fat than some recipes I have seen. Well, I need to dig out my pudding mold from the catacombs.

I wonder if the Queen's puddings suffer from anything like the irreverent reputation that fruitcakes have here...I kind of doubt it. 

redivyfarm's picture
redivyfarm

Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you remembered the muscats. My grandma Elma who lived to the age of 99 was always able to find them but I remember that they weren't commonly available. Her Christmas cake was a dark, moist applesauce cake with muscats, cherries and walnuts; all in big pieces. It had a thick white frosting and I've never tasted another cake like it. My goodness, I miss her!

browndog's picture
browndog

hi, redivyfarm--we miss you too. Hope you busy and well.

Dave W's picture
Dave W

Iv'e just cooked ours, last Saturday morning, didnt read the recipe properley though! didnt realise it needed 10 hours to cook it ! I had to get up at 3.30 am to turn it off and take it off the ring. I said to Rachel (my wife) who's getting up, she said it was my bright idea !!!!!!!!!! off you go!

Cheers

Dave W

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Which recipe did you use, Dave? Browndog asked me for a recipe and I went to my ancient copy of Good Housekeeping's Cookery Compendium. The recipes all called for suet and I'm not sure if that is available in the States. They also took hours of boiling - plus more on Christmas Day. Do you make hard sauce or custard to go with the pud? I know it will taste wonderful, A.

browndog's picture
browndog

Annie, we do have suet here, though as often as not it's used to feed birds.

I used suet in my plum puddings.

10 hours-! Dave, how did it taste?

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Bread isn't a part of my family's Christmas traditions, but cookies always are. My grandmother's Berlinerkransers are the most heavily laden with memories for me.

My wife's family often has Makowiec in the lead up to Wigilia.

browndog's picture
browndog

These Berlinerkransers seem like a cross between puff pastry and shortbread, and they remind me of JFK, for those of us old enough, you may know why...

My son saw them and has put in a request.

I am not at all familiar with Wigilia.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Afraid I'm not old enough to remember the JFK speech, but I'm familiar with it.

Info on Wigilia here.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I loved reading about the Wigilia traditions.  I have a Polish-American friend who always makes pierogi on Christmas Eve. 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

which was just like yesterday..NOT!!! a savory appetizer we always have at Thanksgiving & Christmas

Yvonne's Bread Dip

Make a bread bowl out of a loaf of pumpernickel or rye, cubing the insides for dipping. Fill it with this dip :

  • 1 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup mayonaisse
  • 2 T onion flakes
  • 2T parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp Beaumonde seasoning
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • pinch of garlic salt

This is from 30 years ago..perhaps today I might use fresh onion, parsley and garlic and use low fat mayo & sour cream (I know, I know) but 'll tell you..this is pretty yummy stuff just as is, with bread cubes and veggies.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

fill my memory box.  Mom and I would turn them out by the dozens using a cookie press she got as a wedding present.  It crackes me up that there is still a coupon that combined with 25 cents -- is a mail order for another large set of dies to press the cookie dough through.  I have now aquired the press, long pushed to the back of Mom's cupboard.  There is a pine tree form that looks just like the pine on the Lebanese flag.  I never could look at it without seeing a cookie.  We would sprinkle the cookies with self colored  sugar crystals and colored sprinkles -- still sold today.  On wreaths, extrude frosting to make little bows.  I even think we dyed some of the dough green once.  One time we marbled the dough like Stripe toothpaste, mixing layers of pink and white dough before putting it into the extruder.  Can't remember using the press after college.  Now to work on that recipe.... :)

Mini O

browndog's picture
browndog

Mini Oven, spritz cookies always intrigued me, they seemed like magic, because I knew nothing about cookie presses. I have yet to use one, or a pastry bag either.

The striped cookies are the best!

Paddyscake, thanks for sharing the recipe--and what is Beaumonde seasoning? 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

is a blend of cloves, cinnamon, salt, bay leaf, allspice, black & white pepper, nutmeg, mace, celery seed. You can make your own blend or Spice Islands also makes it, but it's sometimes hard to find. Give it a google..