It's such a complicated thing.
Families come in all shapes and sizes.
And the dynamics are drastically different between each family unit.
I come from a fairly small family - there are only three of us.
But... both of our parents came from large families - which means we have a huge Aunt/ Uncle/ cousin network.
On the other hand, The Dude comes from a large family - he's one of nine children.
Yes. Nine. N.I.N.E.
The Dude is one of the "Middle Children" - #6 out of the nine.
And they have all sorts of family rules. I have learned those rules are not to be messed with. Especially when it comes to food.
Holiday bread is one of his family's long standing traditions. It only comes out around the holidays and they fight over each loaf like you wouldn't believe.
Somehow, I have turned into one of the resident holiday bread makers. However, I will only make it under the condition that I am not in any way shape or form responsible for the distribution of said bread. This girl is "Team Switzerland" - I will make two batches (6 loaves) and it is up to The Dude how it gets dispersed. Them's the rules...
Okay, am I the only person who wants to start belting out songs from Fiddler on the Roof every time they hear the word "Tradition"?
"Tradition. Tra-dish-un. Tradition..."
"If I were a rich man..."
Now, I know that I am totally messing with tradition here, but I think that Holiday bread is something that ought to be enjoyed year round.
I also think it begs to be played around with - however, I would never admit that thought in certain company.
This is a gorgeous dough - easy to work with and very forgiving. Tradition dictates the inclusion of raisins and a Maraschino cherry topping. I have other some other ideas... (Currants? Dried cherries? Pearl sugar on top?)
Do you have any family food traditions that aren't to be messed with?
An Evans Family Tradition
This recipe was adapted from The Dude's infamous family Holiday Bread recipe - I have made some corrections to the original recipe or clarified a few ingredients.
A note on flour: I believe the originator of this recipe used regular bleached flour from the store - if using bleached flour, the amount of liquid called for in this recipe probably works. I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour and find that I have to add somewhat more flour than the recipe calls for.
HOWEVER, it should be noted (and I don't care who says otherwise) that flour is greatly affected by the world around it and is affected by changes in humidity, etc. So... the amount of flour needed from batch to batch may vary with whatever the Universe has in store for you on a given day - if you live in the Deep South and it is the middle of summer, your flour needs will probably vary from someone who lives in the North and is living through a dry, Deep Freeze.
Yields Three (3) 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaves
6-7 cups unbleached, all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup raisins (its considered sacrilege, but I like to use golden - purists will only use dark raisins)1 ¼ cup milk, scalded then slightly cooled (warm to the touch)
1 &1/2 tsp lemon rind
1 &1/2 tsp lemon rind
1 cup melted shortening2 tbs yeast
½ cup warm water (105-115F)
4 eggs, lightly beaten1 tbs lemon extract
Maraschino cherries, for garnish (it's not my thing so much - but, apparently, its tradition and not to be messed with...)
In large bowl, mix 6 cups flour, sugar, salt, raisins & rind. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together eggs and extract. Scald milk and heat shortening separately. Form a sponge by dissolving yeast in the warm water in a cup or small bowl (let the yeast dissolve in the water for ten minutes or until foamy).
Slowly add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients in the order listed above. (Make sure liquid is not too hot – less than 120F). Knead until desired consistency – add flour as needed (should be semi-soft dough ball)
Once kneaded, place in a well oiled bowl, turning over to cover top with oil. Cover with saran wrap and towel and place in a warm place to raise (2hrs or so) until doubled in bulk.
Once bread has doubled in bulk, beat down and make braids to fit greased (&floured) 8” loaf pans (three). Let bread rise again in loaf pans until doubled in bulk (1 hr). Brush raised bread top with milk and melted butter (or beaten egg white). Garnish with cherries if desired.
Bake @ 350 for ~30 minutes or until done (the bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when tapped - internal temperature of the bread should be ~185-190F). Remove immediately from pan and let cool before cutting into.
This bread is especially good toasted with a dab of butter or some strawberry jam...