Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Julecake, with a side of potato salad.

A couple of weeks ago when we were snowed in I went on a cooking/baking rampage. See here. And here. Oh - and here too. One of the things I made (and have yet to blog about) was Julecake. Julecake is a Norwegian Christmas bread. D. and I have seen searching for the perfect Christmas morning breakfast and julecake seemed like a decent contender. A Google search revealed plenty o' julecake recipes. I decided I was 'feeling lucky' and went with the first recipe that was returned, which I found here.

I don't bake a lot of bread. Particularly yeast breads. Don't have the patience, don't have the time. But when you're snow bound, suddenly you have oodles of time. Here's what the recipe tells you to do:


To make the bread, start by using a large, flat mixing bowl. (I used a large, flattish bottomed wooden salad bowl) In this bowl, put:

5 c. white flour
1 T. cardamom
2 c. candied fruit and citrus
1 - 1 1/2 c. raisins.

Mix these dry ingredients until blended. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Set aside.

In a Pyrex measuring cup, combine the following:

2 c. milk, scalded (I figured out this pretty much means heated)
1 c. sugar, dissolved in the scalded milk
1 c. butter (I used unsalted), melted in the scalded milk

Let the mixture cool to lukewarm. Pour a little over:

1 T. active dry yeast

Stir to dissolve. It may begin to bubble a bit; that's OK. (I'm not sure my yeast actually dissolved all that well. I stirred and stirred, and when I got bored of stirring (as noted, no patience) I stopped.) When smooth, add the dissolved yeast mixture into the main milk/sugar/butter mixture. Then add the whole kit and caboodle into the flour mixture, and begin to combine all to make a soft dough. You'll probably add another cup or so of flour, but your goal is to knead this all together to create a soft, pliable dough that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. If your bowl is too small, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead further.

When well but not over-kneaded, place in the buttered bowl, turn it over once so the oiled side is up. Place a cotton dish towel over the top, and place the bowl in the pre-heated oven. It shouldn't be too hot; just warm enough for a good, protected rise. Let it do its work for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Punch down and knead again. This time, you can separate the dough however you like; 2 loaves, 2 rounds, or 4 smaller loaves and 1 small round. Do whatever blows your hair back. (Can I just say this is one of the best directions I've read in a recipe...'whatever blows your hair back'. Brilliant! For the record, I made two small loaves.) Cover with a dish towel again and let it rise once more for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. You may have to do a brief second pre-heat on the oven for rise #2 to keep it nicely warm.

Once risen, bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. I generally put a piece of foil over the tops after about 25 minutes as otherwise I feel it gets too dark. (I would agree - I 'foiled' mine and they came out pleasantly but not overly dark.

The author of this recipe further suggested that Julecake is best toasted with some butter. I would have to agree. This bread was lovely on its own, but toasted and buttered it was even better.

Now. About that potato salad. I haven't actually made potato salad for several months. It's just that I forgot to include a post about it back in the Summer, and because I plan to print/bind all of my 'my sunday dinner' posts at the end of the year so I can have a quasi-recipe/memory book on the shelf, I don't want to forget the potato salad. Because it was very, very good. It's a Julia Child recipe that you can find here through Epicurious.

This was seriously good potato salad, which is why I don't want to lose track of the recipe. If you want to eat it with some Julecake, by all means...

Julia's American Style Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy, boiling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock or potato-cooking water
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 3 or 4 slices crisply cooked bacon, chopped or crumbled
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped pickle, sweet or dill
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives or scallions, including a bit of their tender green
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 cup or so mayonnaise, homemade if possible (yeah - no)

  • Peel the potatoes and slice each one lengthwise in half, or in quarters if very large; then cut crosswise into half-round or quarter-round slices, about 1/2 inch thick.

    Put the slices in a saucepan with water just to cover and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt per quart of water. Heat to a simmer, and cook the potatoes for 5 to 6 minutes, or until just cooked through. It is essential that they be just cooked through. Bite into a slice or two to be very sure. Immediately remove from the heat and drain the potatoes into a colander, but save a cup of the cooking liquid for dressing the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Stir the cider vinegar with ⅓ cup of the potato water or chicken stock and drizzle this over the potato pieces, turning them gently to distribute it evenly. Let sit 10 minutes to absorb the liquid.

    Add the prepared onion, celery, bacon, pickle, hard-boiled eggs, and chives, and season carefully to taste. Top with ⅔ cup of mayonnaise and, with a large rubber spatula, gently fold everything together until well blended. Taste the salad and add more salt, pepper, or mayonnaise as needed.

    Cover the salad and set aside in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so before serving. If it is refrigerated longer, let it come back to room temperature before serving. Taste and adjust the seasoning again.

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