Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holiday Goodies to Give Away

I've started to do a little bit of baking & candy-making for the holidays. Now that the semester has ended, I'll be able to really throw myself into it this week. Last week, though, I made a couple of treats for other people. Every year since I was a very small girl, I have given my granddad peanut brittle for Christmas. Until this year, I had never made it myself, though. I had heard it was touchy and was nervous to try it. As it turned out, it gave me no problems whatsoever and it was delicious! I think making my first attempt in the cold, drier months was a factor.

Peanut Brittle
2 c. sugar
A pinch of baking soda
1 c. peanuts

Get a saucepan nice & hot. Add the sugar & cook, stirring constantly, until it turns into syrup. When sugar has all become syrup and no lumps remain, add the baking soda and nuts. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet and allow to cool. When it is completely cool, break into pieces. I am certain that this would be delightful with other nuts, as well.

The other treat I made last week was for my Thursday class. Since I am part Swedish, I like to celebrate the feast day of St. Lucia, the patron saint of Sweden, which is December 13. So, Wednesday night found me infusing water with saffron, kneading dough and having a grand old time baking for my classmates. I made these traditional buns...and couldn't resist munching on a steaming hot one just from the oven before I fell into bed at 1:30. Since I am not a baker & my professor is an avid bread baker, I was a little nervous about making these for her. She ate 2, though, and said they were really good. Whew!

It is traditional for the oldest daughter of Swedish families to wear a white gown with a red sash and a wreath of candles on her head as she takes these, or another coffee cake sort of treat, to family members in the morning. My grandmom said that when she was in college in the late 1930s, her hall advisor went around with a candle on St. Lucia's Day, waking students for a special breakfast.

Lucia Buns
1/2 tsp. saffron
3 tbsp. hot water
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1/4 c. + 1/4 tsp. sugar
1 c. scalded milk
1/3 c. butter
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
4 c. flour, sifted
1 1/2 c. candied or dried fruit or nuts (I used raisins, sultanas and dried cranberries this time)
2 tbsp. melted butter

Soak saffron in 3 tbsp. hot water 1 1/2 hours. Dissolve yeast & 1/4 tsp. sugar in lukewarm water. Mix milk with rest of sugar, butter and salt. Let cool completely. Add egg, milk and saffron to yeast. Beat smooth. Mix fruit/nuts with 2 tsp. flour. Mix rest of flour with yeast mixture. Fold in fruit/nuts. Knead smooth, about 12 minutes, on a floured surface. Put into greased bowl, turn once and allow to rise, in a warm place, until doubled in size, about an hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Knead twice. Divide into 24 small buns & place on greased baking sheets. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1/2 hour. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake 10 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Bake 5 minutes.

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