Celebrate with home-baked Christmas bread
Perhaps everyone would like to bake as well as Ingrid Lysgaard Motsis around the holidays. But not everyone's father was a Danish baker who often requested his daughter's help in making enough bread and rolls to supply the little town of Holstebro, Denmark.
This upbringing left Ingrid as a skilled baker, and also with the desire to pursue a career in cooking. After earning a degree in education in Denmark, Ingrid emigrated to the United States in 1965, and enrolled in the professional chef's course under Madaleine Kamman at Modern Gourmet.
After completion of the year-long course, Ingrid assisted in classes in Classic French Cuisine and Viennese Pastries at Modern Gourmet, but now she devotes all her time to teaching classes at The Kitchen, a specialty cookware store in Cambridge that has attracted some excellent teachers in organizing a cooking school.
Ingrid's classes revolve around the cuisine of her homeland, and many emphasize foods to make for the approaching holidays. In early December she will prepare an authentic Danish Yule Feast -- Roast Goose, Poached Apples With Prunes, Red Cabbage, Caramel Potatoes, and Rice Pudding With a Fruit Sauce.
In other class each student comes equipped with an apron, a paring knife, and a chef's knife and will participate in the making of two French cakes for the holidays, Gateau St. Honore and Buche de Noel.
The participation classes are particularly good for someone who hasn't done much baking, because the trick in working with yeast is to know when the dough has been kneaded enough or risen enough, and the best way to learn is by getting the feel for it, and having an experienced baker like Ingrid looking over your shoulder.
When I talked to Ingrid at The Kitchen, her sparkling eyes as bright as the copper pots hanging in the window, the scents of anise, vanilla, almond, and lemon mingled in the air. She had been testing recipes for a class in Christmas Breads and brought the results with her, as well as the recipes, which we offer here to inspire some festive holiday baking.
On the morning of Dec. 13, Saint Lucia's Day in Sweden, little girls in long white dresses, wearing wreaths on their heads of lingonberry greens topped with lighted candles, carry saffron yeast buns to their parents in bed. The buns are made in ancient curlicued shapes and are pretty as well as delicious to eat. Saffron Buns 3/4 cup warm milk 3 tablespoons sugar 1 envelope yeast 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon saffron 1 teaspoon warm water 6 tablespoons soft butter 1 large egg 48 raisins
Combine warm milk, sugar, and yeast, stirring to dissolve yeast. Mix 3 cups of flour, salt, and saffron dissolved in warm water. Add yeast mixture, butter, and egg to flour. Knead into a smooth, elastic dough, 7 to 8 minutes. Add more flour if needed.
Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise till almost double in bulk. Deflate dough and divide into 12 equal pieces. Knead each into a ball and roll into a 6-inch-long roll. Cut each roll from both ends lengthwise toward the middle. Roll ends out toward the middle and place a raisin in each of the four rolls.
Place buns on a buttered cookie sheet and let rise till 1 1/2 times their original size. Brush with a glaze (1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons milk) and bake in preheated 375 degree F. oven untill well browned, about 20 minutes.
Kugelhopf, or gugelhupf, is a yeast coffee cake studded with raisins and is an Alsatian specialty. It is of Austrian origin, and is baked in a special Kugelhopf mold, which is round and has a swirling pattern on the bottom and sides. Ingrid's Kugelhopf Sponge: 1 envelope yeast 1/2 cup warm milk 3 cups all-purpose flour
Dissolve yeast in milk, and add 1/2 cup of flour. Mix well. Sift the remaining flour on top of yeast mixture. Cover and let stand in a warm place till yeast bubbles through the flour, about 45 minutes. Batter: 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup warm water 4 large eggs 8 tablespoons soft butter Grated peel of 1 lemon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup golden raisins 20 to 25 whole blanched almonds
Stir sponge and with a wooden spoon or in an electric mixer fitted with paddle, beat in sugar, eggs, warm water, butter, lemon peel, and salt gradually. Beat till a soft batter forms, then add raisins, stirring them in with a spoon.
Cover bowl and let batter rise till double in bulk. Stir it down. Generously butter a 2-quart Kugelhopf mold. Arrange almonds on bottom of mold, and without disturbing them spoon batter over them.
Cover mold and let rise till almost double in bulk. Bake Kugelhopf in preheated 350-degree F. oven for about 1 hour, till a skewer inserted in cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let mold sit on a cooling rack before unmolding. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving.
Linzer Torte is an Austrian pastry made from a rich short crust filled with raspberry jam. Ingrid adds a bit of cocoa to the pastry dough, which gives it color and a little flavor, too. The bright red jam peeking through the dark lattice strips of pastry looks very pretty. Linzer Torte 1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely ground 1/2 cup almonds, finely ground 1 stick butter, softened 1 cup flour, sifted 1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon lemon rind, finely grated 1 eggs yolk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 1 cup thick raspberry jam
Mix all ingredients together except jam, without overworking them. If too soft to handle, chill dough. Press a little more than 1/2 of the dough into a lightly buttered 8-inch springform pan, bringing it 1 inch up the side of pan. Chill remaining dough.
Spread jam in the shell. Roll out remaining dough 1/4-inch tick. Cut into strips 1/2-inch wide and make a lattice design with them. Bake in preheated 350 -degree F. oven for about 50 minutes till lightly browned.
When still warm but not hot, sprinkle torte with confectioners' sugar. When cool, wrap in foil and store in refrigerator to mellow for a few days before serving.