From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...If the aromas coming from fall kitchens give me shivers, I must admit that those drifting from Christmas kitchens make me positively weak-kneed. I think it is the addition of cardamom to the spice mix that does me in. I was raised in a row house that shared a common basement with five other families and during the lead-up to the holidays that basement was the place to be. The baking went on for days at a time, and as the more pedestrian aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg mingled with those of ginger and cloves, the unforgettable fragrance of the spice mix and cardamom actually permeated linens hung to dry. It gave new meaning to the phrase sweet dreams. Our Swedish and German neighbors took Christmas baking to heart and each of them made a version of the cardamom coffee ring I'm featuring today. They differed mainly in the quantity of eggs and butter that was used, but the finished cakes they shared with neighbors were remarkably similar in form and taste. Like many children, I was fascinated with the braiding and twisting that was used to shape the cakes and I loved to see them rise. I suspect my love of bread, the baking and eating of it, had it origins in those kitchens and that basement which captured and held the aromas of Christmas. I, unfortunately, have no vintage recipes to share with today, but this version, which comes from Taste of Home magazine, comes awfully close to the ones I remember. I do hope you'll give it a try. Here is how cardamom wreaths are made.
Swedish Cardamom Wreaths...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Taste of Home magazine
4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2-1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons salt
7 to 7-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk
Toasted sliced almonds
Coarse or granulated sugar or confectioners' sugar glaze
1) In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 3 eggs, evaporated milk, yeast mixture, sour cream, orange peel, cardamom, salt and 6 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
2) Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down; turn onto a floured surface. Divide into six portions. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape each portion into a 24-in. rope. Place three ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid. Form into a ring; pinch ends tightly together. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
4) Beat milk and remaining egg; brush over wreaths. Sprinkle with almonds and sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 loaves
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