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Baking bread in honor of special, lil’ Lucia

December 19, 2010
By ANITA HANABURGH, For The Leader-Herald

The phone call came at about 8 in the morning recently. My daughter's best friend and labor coach called, "You have a new granddaughter! She's perfect and all are doing well!"

Hallelujah! A true Christmas angel born in Brooklyn and born right at home with a midwife.

"All are doing well." I need to hear no more.

She is named Lucia, a third daughter born to my only daughter, a daughter born to one of four daughters. She is named after St. Lucia, the Christmas Saint. I don't know much about St. Lucia, but I can I can picture her with her crown of lighted candles and a flowing white dress.

Saint Lucia is the saint of light, a patron saint of the blind. She is celebrated by the Lutheran church in Scandinavia during the Christmas season, Dec. 13 to be exact. The children celebrate her feast day by wearing white gowns and crown of circled holly with tall lit candles on the top. She also is celebrated by the Catholic Church. St. Lucy has a large church in Venice named for her. She is the patron saint of Syracuse, Sicily. Many wonderful connections can be made with Lucia's family: Lucia's dad is Italian, my mom was Catholic, my dad was Scandinavian and Lutheran and my daughter went to Syracuse.

"All are doing well." Hallelujah!

As I patiently wait to be called to see the new Christmas baby, I am going to keep myself busy by making her a gift of St. Lucia Christmas braided bread. On the feast day, the bread is shaped into rolls or buns or made into a braided circle (crown?) and decorated with candles. The cake/bread is served during advent; note its similarity to the advent wreath. The candles are lighted and burned, and then the cake is eaten.

I am going to share the recipe with you as I give it a try. I will use orange juice, margarine and omit the eggs because my daughter is a strict Vegan. Egg can be omitted in yeast bread, but the bread will not be as rich, that's why I use oil with the water. Please remember eggs cannot be easily replaced a baking soda or powered raised product.

St. Lucia's Crown

2 pkg. active yeast

1/2 c. lukewarm water

2/3 c. lukewarm milk (scalded, then cooled) or soy milk

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. soft butter or margarine or shortening or oil

2 eggs or cup water with 2 T. vegetable oil.

2 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. turmeric (substitute for saffron)

4-5 c. flour

1 Tbsp. orange juice

1 tbsp. sugar, granulated or confectioners.

Glaze and garnish

2 cups confectioners' sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice

Dried cranberries

Candles (optional)


1.) Dissolve yeast in warm water

2.) Stir in milk, sugar, butter (margarine, shortening oil), eggs (water and oil), cardamom, salt, turmeric and 3 cups of the flour.

3.) Beat until smooth using a dough hook or by hand.

4.) Stir in enough of the rest of the flour to make dough easy to handle.

5.) Knead for 5 minutes by machine or 7 minutes by hand until smooth and elastic.

6.) Transfer the dough to greased bowl, turning it once to coat it. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

7.) Punch down the dough and divide it into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a 30-inch rope snake and braid the ropes together. Pinch to make a circle. Transfer the braid to a greased baking sheet, pinch together the ends to form a circle, and let it rise until it has again doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

8.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the bread for 25 minutes or until golden brown. About half way through baking, brush the loaf with a tablespoon orange juice and 1 Tbsp. conf sugar.

9.) Let it cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

10.) For the glaze, stir together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice in a medium bowl until smooth.

11.) Drizzle the glaze mix generously over the bread, then garnish with the cranberries.

12.) Finally, add candles if you'd like. Serves 12.

Merry Christmas to you and all that you love.




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