I’ve had a couple requests to post a blog about all the crafting I’m doing for Christmas presents this year. This blog will come, but it’s going to have to wait. I can’t really post about the presents I’m giving to people next week! To get you in the Christmas spirit though, I thought I’d share a recipe I make for Christmas every year.
I’m not generally much of a baker. Honestly, I almost never, ever bake. It’s just so time consuming, it generates a huge amount of dishes, and you have to be so accurate with the measurements. It does seem odd that I don’t like to be analytical in the kitchen, because being analytical is one of the traits that got me through school and it helps me excel at my job. Maybe I just need the kitchen to be a place where I can just relax with wine and cook by feel?!?
Whatever the reason, baking just isn’t my forte. When I do bake, I tend to make bread. Which is odd because bread generally isn’t considered like “Intro to Baking” level activity. I always seem to have a huge collection of bananas in the freezer, and every now and again I’ll get a wild hair to whip up several loaves of banana bread. The other thing I bake “regularly” is my Grandma’s recipe for poppy seed bread. It isn’t a traditional poppy seed bread. Forget the visions of lemon poppy seed bread currently dancing through your brain. This bread involves making some poppy seed goo and then rolling it all up a la jelly roll.
There’s nothing particularly “Christmas-y” about this recipe, and I don’t remember that Grandma ever made it specifically for Christmas. However, once she got sick and stopped cooking, I started making the recipe, because someone needed to be making it. I was in college then, so I always ended up making it over Christmas break. Now I try and make batches every Christmas and give them out for part of Christmas gifts. No one else really makes it, so it’s my little attempt to keep a family recipe alive.
The problem with this recipe is that it’s not really much to go on. My Grandma, and her mother, were that old school breed of women who could cook for days without a recipe at all and everything just ended up perfect. They used specific bowls to measure thing, and the phrases, “mix till it feels right” and “just throw some in” are what come to mind when I remember cooking with my Grandma at the farm. I remember calling Grandma one of the first times I decided to bake the poppy seed bread because my goo wasn’t becoming goo. I had already added way more cornstarch than she had originally told me, and like I often do when things are going astray….I started to panic! We sat on the phone for a while and chatted while I stood and stirred my goo in hopes that something would start to happen. She just kept telling me to add more…….few minutes later, “Is it getting thick?” Nope……”well just add some more!” So, I guess if you try this, and things don’t seem to be working out, just remember to add more cornstarch!!
Recipe: Makes 2 Loaves
- 1 Package Yeast
- 1 cup Milk
- 1/2 cup Margarine
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1 Egg
- 4-41/2 cups Flour
- 1 cup Milk
- 1/2-3/4 cup Sugar
- 2 oz Poppy Seeds
- 2-4 heaping tbs Corn Starch mixed in small amount of water
Soften the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water. Warm the milk and margarine in the microwave until just melted, and add to the yeast mixture. Add in the salt, sugar, and egg and whisk well to combine. Whisk in the first 2 cups of flour. The last two cups need to be stirred in. Don’t worry if you can’t get the whole last cup of flour to mix in. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth. Place in a large bowl, cover, and place in a warm space. Let raise to double and then punch the dough back down and let it raise again.
While the dough is raising, prep the filling. Place the milk, sugar, and seeds in a saucepan on the stove. Heat until just before boiling while stirring to prevent scalding. Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of water, I just do this in a coffee mug. While stirring the seed mixture, pour in the cornstarch slurry. Continue stirring to avoid lumps and heat to boiling. The mixture will thicken as it cools some, but it’s better if the mixture is too thick. Runny goo will make your life a struggle later. Don’t be afraid to add more cornstarch! I made two batches of bread this weekend. Yesterday’s batch had goo that was slightly on the runny side, today’s was maybe too thick. Trust me, thick is definitely easier. It stays where you put it and doesn’t come oozing out the ends before you can crimp them up!
Once your dough is ready, divide in half. Roll out half on a floured surface to about 1 foot long and 6 inches wide. Place a small line of goo about 2 inches from the end of the dough. Flip the dough over to make a pocket around the goo. Press down all around the edge to seal in the goo, make sure the get the ends well sealed. Add another line of goo on the crimp line, and flip the original pocket over to make another pocket. You’ll keep doing this until you get to the end of the dough. The goo probably oozed out of the ends slightly , and you might be feeling a bit sticky at this point. It’s all fine, and I promise it will taste just fine. Carefully, place the loaf final seam side down in a loaf pan. I sometimes don’t get my dough sized right, if it’s too big for the pan just squish the ends in a little…..no one will know!
Under the advice of a boy I attempted to spread the filling across the dough and roll it like a jelly roll. Let’s just say that Grandma’s know how to do these things best. I have to admit I had always been curious about why it wouldn’t work. It ended up being much harder to seal, it totally burst open in the oven, and it is definitely the saddest of the 4 loaves I made yesterday. Live, learn, and trust Grandma on that one I guess!
Cover the pans and let rise slightly before baking at 350 for 45 mins. Once baked and cooled slightly, tip out of pans and place in bags to freeze or let cool on a cooling rack. If you didn’t get all the ends and seams sealed up, some of the goo might have burst out of the bread. Again, this is all fine and won’t effect much other than maybe the floor of your oven. Let cool before cutting so that the goo can reset. I like mine with butter, but its equally good plain.
The dough can also be used as Long John dough. I’ve never done this, but Grandma always used the same recipe. After the dough has raised, roll and divide into equal portions, shape, and deep fry. In traditional Peterson style, your Long Johns should be topped with vanilla frosting and chopped peanuts.
Happy baking! If I don’t write again before Christmas, here’s hoping that you and your families have a very Merry Christmas!