Santa Lucia: The West Coast Tour




santa_lucia_concert3.JPGI 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!

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Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany


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2 Comments on “Santa Lucia: The West Coast Tour”

  1. Mini E
    December 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    Lucia Day in Idaho:

    >9:30 AM: Boyfriend wakes me up and reminds me what day it is. I am possibly still drunk from office party the night before. It doesn’t often happen that I tie one on quite like that but… it happened on Lucia-Eve.

    >I stumble downstairs.

    >I, who proudly have opened MANY packets of yeast in my tenure, open a CAN of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls. I sense that they will be delicious.

    >I bake them, make coffee and lie on the floor while rolls are in the oven.

    >I forgo the candles, the red sash… but add in mimosas. GENIUS.

    >I return upstairs with tray of rolls, coffee, and booze.

    >Hydrogenated rolls prove to be indeed amazing. We relish in the champagne.

    >I lie in bed all day playing your brother’s new iphone app.

    This is apparently all the tradition you can muster when you’re 27. Nice work Cuz. Maybe when I’m grown like you I can do it up proper.

  2. Carla
    December 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm #

    So, she’s a she? How exciting!

    We had our annual Swedish food-fest scheduled for Dec. 13. Korv, sill, NO lutfisk, and many other ethnic delights.

    Ice storm…couldn’t get down the hill and others couldn’t get up. Soooo, I found some friendly freezer space with relatives on Monday morning, and we’re going for it again next Sunday. DH and I felt we had to eat the Bond-ost and pates as a service to humanity. OMG, they might have dried out!
    The festival continues. Congrats on the buns! I really enjoy baking yeast breads. Need some recipes? Call or e-mail Aunt Carla.


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