On the heels of professing my deepest desire to return to all thing French, I will share a haphazard story of how our family came to celebrate an Italian saint, honored in Sweden, with a Jewish rugelach. Rugelach, which means “little twists” in Yiddish, are rolled cookies that resemble croissants. They are delicious and I pick them up from time to time in the Kosher section of our local HEB grocery. While certainly tasty, I doubt there is a single instance in the entire world of a family celebrating St. Lucia Day with rugelach. Until now. The irony of this morning’s celebration of St. Lucia Day was too good not to share with my dear friend, Honk. We laughed so hard, I thought I’d share the love, er lore.
This Advent season, the eldest girl Little and I had hopes of surprising our family with a traditional morning feast honoring St. Lucia. I’ve shared the story of St. Lucia at The Kitchen Mission today so you can learn more about this honored Italian saint. Traditionally on St. Lucia Day, December 13th, the eldest daughter in the family wakes up very early, bakes Lucia Buns and makes hot chocolate and coffee. Dressed in a white gown, wearing a crown of candles, she wakes each member of her family serving them the delicious treats in bed.
My eldest girl Little (I really wish I could use their real names!) and I had planned to bake Lucia Buns and begin the tradition this morning. Only things didn’t go as planned. Husband is sick, I’m a bit looped up myself, and we are rushing to get out the door to Dallas with Littlest for a doctor appointment. Our well-intended plans went awry. In lieu of breakfast in bed, I served vanilla rugelach at the kitchen counter, and told the Littles the story of St. Lucia. Realizing the sheer craziness of serving a Jewish pastry on St. Lucia Day, I left Honk a voice message:
“Honk. Call me back. I have to tell you the story of how we came to celebrate an Italian saint, honored in Sweden, with a rugelach. You’ll love how I incorporated this Jewish treat into our Advent celebration!”
Minutes later she returned the phone call opening with, “But, Honk. Arugula isn’t Jewish.”
I’d like to claim it was my warp-speed Texas accent, rather than the fact that I blundered by putting an “a” in front of rugelach. But we died laughing over the play on words, not to mention the irony that The Schells were indeed celebrating St. Lucia Day with vanilla rugelach.
My friends, this is a tale describing how NOT to celebrate a traditional St. Lucia Day. If you are interested in knowing what a more proper St. Lucia Day celebration might look like, please read our favorite books:
Lucia, Saint of Light, by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Kirsten’s Surprise, An American Girl Story, by Janet Shaw
Celebrating the Christian Year, by Martha Zimmerman
So The Herdman Family, er Schells, will try again next year and, baring future plague and pestilence, we’ll celebrate a proper St. Lucia Day in 2012. On that day, this is the recipe for Lucia Buns the girls and I will prepare.
St. Lucia Buns
(from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 gram saffron threads, crushed
- 2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 7-1/2 to 8 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 cup melted butter
Stir salt and saffron into 1/4 cup of the warm milk and allow saffron to steep. Dissolve yeast in water. Beat together egg and sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the milk, yeast, and egg mixtures. Slowly beat in 4 cups of the flour and the cardamom, keeping the batter smooth and elastic. Stir in the butter, then add remaining flour, mixing to form a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning it over to grease the top, cover, and let rise until doubled (about 1-1/2 hours). Punch down, cover, and let rise again until doubled. To shape buns, roll dough into 8-inch strands the size of a pencil, and form into crosses with curled ends. Imbed a raisin firmly in the center of each curlicue. Place buns on lightly greased baking sheet and let rise 20 minutes until puffy but not doubled. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.
Happy St. Lucia Day!