I know you’ve been up all night wondering how the weekend baking went, so let’s get right to it and relieve your anxiety so you can get back to wrapping up the cat.
It’s hard to believe that as a.) a girl, and b.) a Swede, I have never torn open a packet of yeast. I’ve cooked and baked, but just in front of yeast is where I’ve drawn the line in my kitchen endeavors. It’s sat there my entire life in its deceptively innocent yellow packaging just across the DMZ behind the unfurled barbed wire. My reasoning has been this: if I can’t manage to keep myself, my kitchen and my loved ones free from sticky residue when I buy my dough from a store and only have to roll it out, what hope is there for any of us if I attempt to create said dough from scratch?
I’m just trying to make you aware of the risks. Emma + dough = umm….let’s say, “street luge.”
Yesterday, December 13, was the date I set to break my yeast embargo because it was Santa Lucia, an inexplicably Swedish celebration of an Italian saint whose eyes were gouged out with hot pokers before she was burned at the stake for converting to Christianity around 300 AD. Isn’t that a lovely and heartwarming story?
In Swedish households, the oldest girl gets up at some ungodly hour of the morning, bakes nice things, makes hot drinks, loads it all on a tray, puts a wreath of candles on her head and goes around the house in a white robe waking her family with songs and delivering tasty treats. She’s on the hook until she’s thirteen, at which point the next daughter in line takes over.
My Lucia career was pretty smooth until I was twelve and misjudged the under-construction curve of our stairs, dropping the tray of cocoa and toast down the stairwell as I barely prevented my hair and the house from catching on fire when my flaming head wreath slipped sideways. If the real target of Lucia is to get everyone in the house up and at ’em, mission accomplished.
Every year I try to get on the stick and make Lucia happen and every year toast is about as far as I get. This year, I was determined to beat that poor standard. I got up early (for a Sunday) and made the dough. So far, so good. No major mishaps except when I’d pre-read the recipe on Saturday I’d missed the part where I had to let the dough rise for two hours before turning it into spiral rolls, so we had to re-plan the first half of our day and “Lucia breakfast” became “Lucia midafternoon snack time.”
Start time: 7:30AM. By 10:00 the dough was supposed to have doubled in size but hadn’t. Maybe a third bigger. By 10:30, my patience had expired, so I rolled out the unpuffy dough and started distributing butter and sugar.
Put all the rolls in the pan. Took all the rolls out of the pan when I realized the nut and sugar coating was supposed to be making a diabetic bed for them in the bottom of the pan. Make the bed, reinsert the rolls.
At this point, the rolls are supposed to rise again for, according to the recipe, 35-45 minutes. Until they’re double their original size. Again with the double. After 2 hours and 15 minutes, which is a massive, massive miscalculation in the recipe if you ask me, the rolls were nearly big enough to be candidates for the oven. 25 minutes later – correction, six hours and 25 minutes later – voila, sticky buns!
They’re good too. The dough part is fluffy, thanks to the extra two hours of rising I’m sure, and the coating is appropriately coma-inducing, if a little on the burned side, but who’s counting? Nothing caught fire and no one’s missing a limb.
See? It’s all about how you set your expectations.
To close the day, we hopped over to the Swedish-American Hall (who knew we had one? Thanks for sorting that one out, R!) for pepparkakor and glögg and to watch a proper Santa Lucia procession and concert, complete with a blonde Lucia from Stockholm with flaming wreath, (poker not included). A young boy in a white wizard’s hat with silver stars on it joined the girls, which we thought was weird, but I guess an extra wizard here and there can’t hurt your chances for a successful outcome, right?
The whole event made me miss my Swedish grandmother awfully, but soon we’ll have a small daughter ourselves to carry on the family tradition and Vivy would have loved that, so here’s to Swedish girls and old ladies and traditions handed down far from the homeland.
It was our most successful Lucia Day ever and a lovely day overall. Hooray, Christmas!