Did you know Bethlehem means “house of bread” in Hebrew?
It’s true. Stop by The Kitchen Mission for my musings on this astonishing news.
Advent, the season of waiting and preparing, is fading making way for the joyous crescendo of Christmas. Despite the usual hustle and bustle of pageants and parties for each of the four Littles, we’ve enjoyed a relatively quiet season this year. Partially because of the things I took off my unruly list. We didn’t send cards, or host an extravagant party, or even finish decorating the tree. It’s been wonderful! And the pockets of unplanned or pre-purposed time have brought opportunities we might have otherwise missed.
Like making Bethlehem Bread.
As soon as I recovered from the fact that I must have slept through the Church 101 class where everyone learns Bethlehem means “house of bread,” I immediately assumed people all over the world were making delicious loaves of freshly baked Bethlehem Bread. Luckily, for pride’s sake, my assumptions were wrong. Google Bethlehem Bread and you’ll find, as did I, that there’s not a sea of recipes. In fact, the only reliable source I could find in my five minutes of research is a recipe from the First Baptist Church in Burnet, Texas.
Now if you ain’t from these here parts of the Village, you are probably wondering where on earth is Burnet, Texas. Burnet is a hop, skip and a jump from the ATX and draws folks to the area known for the beautiful Highland Lakes. Mia and Popa have a lake house on Inks Lake and for thirty-some-odd years, our family has called this little slice of heaven home away from home. Burnet, by the way, is pronounced, “Burnet, durn-it. Learn-it!”
Can you imagine that the one and only recipe I found for Bethlehem Bread is from Burnet? Talk about a coinkydink. So the Littles and I decided to celebrate the good news that Bethlehem means to us by baking bread courtesy of the First Baptist Church in Burnet. I’ve made some revisions to the recipe, opting for more savory than sweet rolls with a sprinkling of sea salt in lieu of sugar. We laughed as we tried to form “figure eights” out of the dough. Don’t be discouraged if yours come un-tucked as the dough rises. The results will still be pretty and, more importantly, delicious.
(inspired by the First Baptist Church of Burnet, TX)
7 – 7 1⁄2 cups all purpose flour
2 1⁄4 cups whole milk
2 tsp salt
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup shortening (I use Spectrum)
2 packages yeast
Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat or lightly grease and set aside.
Warm milk to room temperature. Mix sugar, salt and yeast with milk. Whisk until all lumps are gone and liquid is smooth.
Pour flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the milk mixture into well and begin mixing with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to incorporate. Gradually add shortening until it is thoroughly mixed. Knead dough with your hands until it is smooth and firm.
Remove dough from bowl and place on a prepared baking sheet. Cover with kitchen towel and allow to rise approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour.
After about an hour, cut dough into lemon-sized portions. You should have about 18-20 small portions of dough. Coat each piece of dough with a small amount of shortening to keep the dough moist.
Flatten dough with the palms of your hands into a strip approximately 2” x 6”. Using a sharp knife, cut down the center leaving 1” on each end. Pick up the dough at each end, making a figure eight, bringing each end back into the center. Tuck ends into center slice and press gently to mold.
Cover baking sheets with kitchen towels and allow dough to rise for 3 hours. Brush each roll with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Merry Christmas, friends!