Friday, December 16, 2011

Candle Lit Crown Head Bread (Thank you St. Lucy!)

I can't believe I missed St. Lucia Day! It was December 13, but in my view it's never too late to celebrate a cool saint, and to bake something delicious.

First, a tribute to Lucy from the King.

Next, a bit about the saint. She was born into a wealthy family in about 283 and consecrated her virginity to God. She was killed during the Diocletion persecution, after refusing to wed her pagan betrothed. Prior to her death, Lucia either plucked her own eyes out as a gift to her fiance in hope of being allowed to live and worship her God in peace, or had them torn out with a fork by guards.

Because of this, she is the patron saint of the blind, and is frequently depicted carrying her eyes in a platter or vessel. Check it out:


She is honored in many places, including Sweden and Sicily.

There are a variety of recipes associated with St. Lucy, including cookies formed by special eye shaped presses, and a wheat-berry pudding (la cuccìa) that has been eaten traditionally ever since she provided assistance during a famine by sending a ship full of wheat into a starving port town.

You can Google those if you'd like to do a complete St. Lucia's Day feast, or if you'd like to try something a bit better suited to American tastes, here's a recipe for :

[Makes 1 crown.]

1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon saffron powder
4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
powdered sugar frosting, optional (recipe follows)
red and green candied cherry halves, optional
6 candles, optional

Place 1/4 cup warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, saffron, and 1 1/2 cups flour; blend well. Stir in 2 eggs and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6--8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; reserve 1/3 of dough for top of crown. Divide remaining dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each to 25-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. To shape top of crown, divide reserved dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each to 16-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on separate greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. Cover braids; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Lightly beat remaining egg; brush on braids. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or until done (small braid) and 25 minutes or until done (large braid), covering large braid with foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove braids from baking sheets; let cool on wire racks. To decorate, make 6 holes for candles in small braid. Place small braid on top of large braid. If desired, drizzle with powdered sugar frosting and garnish with candied cherry halves. Insert candles in prepared holes.

 Powdered Sugar Frosting: In small bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted; 4 to 5 teaspoons milk; and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir until smooth.

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