I hope this finds you well in spite of recent sobering events we are all trying to make sense of — if that is even possible. I’m working to find inspiration in the most unlikely places and grasp tightly, acknowledging feelings of guilt for those I love who are safe. It makes no sense.
No sense at all.
But our Christmas tree is finally up and decorated, thanks to various family who were over to celebrate my mother’s 75th birthday last weekend and chipped in to hang ornaments. I can’t think of anything more pleasant than to have others help me decorate the tree. Each ornament seems to have a story or two and sharing them makes it fun. Family makes it fun.
The tree is in a new spot this year – always an interesting proposition when you consider the furniture has to be shoved around a bit to make space even for a smaller tree. But it looks nice. I like it. I like it quite a bit.
On Monday, after the busy weekend of family and fun, I finished putting the rest of the holiday decorations around the house, taking my time and listening to Christmas CDs we’ve collected over the years. After being sick for two weeks, it was nice to get something done beyond the Internet shopping I’ve relied upon this year. Thank goodness for those guys in the brown trucks! And with the exception of one or two items that are supposed to be here in within the next day or two, everything I ordered has arrived safely in very short time. It’s amazing.
Our youngest is due home from school this evening — always something my husband and I look forward to, counting the days. It’s lovely to have one more person at home for a bit of time as well as to have some fun with. We’ve made plans to see The Hobbit together even though he usually races to see new releases the minute they’re out. He told us that because we’d seen all the Lord of the Rings movies together — why break the cycle? And Les Miserables is also on our agenda. He’s managed to miss the stage productions we’ve been to, so we promised we’d take him to the movie on our wedding anniversary which happens to fall the day after Christmas. This year, we’re celebrating our 25th.
My husband has recently turned 50 as well, so you can see that things have been a bit busy around here lately. My kitchen, not so much. But I did have a craving for a yeasted bread recently — a sweet bread. Something filled with fruit and nuts, and with a hint of spice and citrus.
Have you ever tried kuchen before? It’s traditionally a yeasted coffee cake — actually, kuchen is “cake” in German. I mentioned I had bread on the brain, so mine was constructed to be more like that — bread. Think cinnamon roll light, and you’d have it correct. But I have to say the recipe I used (linked below) presented a twisted roll inserted into a cake pan, so I wasn’t all that far off — at least until I began to look at other kuchen recipes which are truly more like coffee cake with a batter poured over fruit. With a bit of research, I discovered mine is more like Kalacs — a filled Hungarian sweetbread — or Kulich — a type of Russian sweetbread.
I get nerdy over this sort of thing realizing that it’s all in the language. Many years ago a word was used to describe a sweet treat and because language changes as those who use it mold it to their own meanings, this yeasted treat filled with nuts and fruit became a bit different from one region to another. What makes this a challenge for me is what to call it since I now know it’s not really a kuchen. It’s a yeasted sweet bread twist filled with cranberries, apricots, and almonds sprinkled over almond paste with a touch of cardamom and tangerine zest — which is a mouthful. One simple name would be so much easier!
If you’re someone not comfortable working with yeast, then this is a great place to begin. The dough in this recipe is extremely forgiving and you can add whatever bits of tasty morsels you’d like before rolling it up. It’s best served just out of the oven when the spice is fragrant and you’ve just about gone mad wanting a warm slice of it.
I used this “Christmas Kuchen” recipe to make my Cranberry Apricot Almond Sweet Bread Twist with the following changes:
To the filling
- added 1/3 cup of dried cranberries
- 6 dried apricot halves sliced thin
- used chopped raw almonds instead of blanched almonds
- grated zest from 1 tangerine
To the icing
- added 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 T tangerine juice instead of milk
I rolled mine into one big length, cut it into two equal sized lengths, then twisted the two pieces together like a rope, pinching the ends together to help them stick. Then, using a sharp blade, I slashed the dough to expose some of the filling. The following photo shows it.
- If you’re making this ahead, then allow it to cool before wrapping it very well — it will dry out quickly if you don’t.
- It’s a bit on the delicate side to put in a toaster to warm it up, but slicing and putting it in a toaster oven or under a broiler would work nicely.
- It’s a perfect recipe for any time, actually. Especially if you want a bit of sweetness and spice.