Friday, December 28, 2012

Festive Friday: Yulekaga - Our Christmas Morning Tradition

Festive Friday: You can always find room to squeeze in a few more treats around the holidays.

Christmas mornings in our family have always involved Yulekaga, a Scandinavian Christmas bread.  My mom remembers her mom making this bread on Christmas Eve and giving it as gifts to the neighbors.  The tradition has continued in that our Christmas mornings still involve this family bread.  I grew up calling it you-la-clog-la, which still gives my mom and I a good laugh I wish I had been old enough to make it with my grandma just once, but I never had the chance.  Fortunately my mom was able to watch my grandma one year and took notes.

My grandma never really followed a recipe and didn't necessarily do things the same each year.  Similarly, we tend to pull out the faded note card but seldom write down our exact adjustments.  I wasn't about to change that this year, but the recipe below is fairly close to our tradition.  I typed out the notes from the recipe card my mom used while watching my grandma and then reformatted it to a style closer to the recipes I usually post here.  As one of my friends says, this is a follow your heart kind of recipe.  I wasn't thinking of pictures on Christmas morning, but here are a few slices we had left the next day.

Yulekaga (Scandinavian Christmas Bread)
recipe from my Grandma as observed by my mom
makes 4 coffee cakes

Heat 2 cups milk to scalding, cool in bowl. Put 2 packages yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (she puts 1 in water and 1 in milk). Add 1 cup sugar to milk. Melt butter to make 1/2 cup and add ~2-3 tsp ground cardamom. Add to milk. Add yeast mixture and 3 eggs. Add enough flour to make dough like most bread (approx 3 cups per 1 cup liquid.) Knead. Let rise. Roll in rectangle. Butter surface. Cover with brown sugar. Cover with fruit and raisins. Put on cookie sheet in crescent  shape. Make slits across top. Let rise. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 or 375 if bread needs to rise. Frost when cool. .

modified version we used this year 

1 cup milk
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1-2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt (this must have been forgotten on the handwritten copy. Salt is an essential ingredient in yeast breads.)
 4-5 cups all-purpose flour

melted butter (about 2 Tbsp per loaf)
brown sugar
ground cinnamon
candied fruit

powdered sugar
butter, softened
milk or water
vanilla, optional

* Heat milk to scalding, let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water, add milk and sugar. Stir in butter, cardamom, eggs and salt.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is stiff enough to knead. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
* Cut dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle. Spread with melted butter. Cover with brown sugar and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Top with candied fruit and raisins. Roll into a log, sealing edges well. Transfer log to a greased baking sheet and form into crescent shape. Cut slits across top, cover and let rise until almost doubled. Meanwhile, open Christmas presents. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Stir together frosting ingredients until desired consistency is reached. Spread over bread.

Food for Thought: "Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it's difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family." -Mother Theresa 

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