Thursday, December 31, 2009


When I was growing up, Christmas
was about eating. But it wasn't about cooking.

In fact, my earliest memories of Christmas morning breakfast is of the fabulous cakes my mom would make weeks in advance and park in the freezer, marked "Do Not Open Until December 25."

Her first Christmas standard was a Danish Pastry Wreath, which came to be known as "Huber's Christmas Wreath." As mom notes in the family cookbook, it "fell out of favor ... since it is very time and labor intensive." So when mom started working full time, she began making this "Bubble Wreath." I added the pecans this year, since not even mom's tried and true recipe can escape my need to make it up as I go along.

Bubble Wreath
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups flour, divided
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm milk
1 tsp. salt
8 T butter, divided
2 T light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
Cinnamon sugar
3/4 cup almonds, divided (optional)
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 2 cups flour and yeast. Add 1 cup sugar to warm milk and salt and stir until dissolved. Add to flour mixture and begin mixing, scraping the bowl often. Add egg and slowly add remaining flour until it comes together in a ball (I used a total of 3 1/2 cups, but the amount will vary depending on your flour). Knead until dough is smooth. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and let dough ball rise until doubled in volume (about two hours)

Heat oven to 350 F. Put 4 T butter in a tube or bundt cake pan and place in oven until melted. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, corn syrup and pecans, if using.

Melt remaining butter. Cut do
ugh into walnut to golfball size pieces and roll into balls. Roll balls in butter, cinnamon sugar and then place in prepared pan. Let rise until dough fills the pan, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake wreath until cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes. Immediately turn out onto a plate and cool.

May be wrapped tightly and frozen.

If you are feeling ambitious, here's the recipe for the original "Huber Christmas Wreath." I've made it, and it is a labor of love. But well worth it, especially since it makes two
wreaths, and you can have the second one for New Year's.

It appears to me that the first part of the recipe is making your own puff pastry, and maybe one of these days I would consider substituting frozen.

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
2 packages active dry yeast
4 cups flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup very warm water
1 egg

In a bowl, beat butter and 1/4 cup flour until smooth. Spread on wax paper into a 12x8 rectangle. Chill on a cookie sheet.

Heat milk, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Cool.

Put water into a large bowl, sprin
kle with yeast and stir to dissolve. Add milk mixture, egg and 3 cups flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Mix in remaining flour by hand until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Cover dough and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 16x12 rectangle. Place chilled butter mixture on half of the dough, remove wax paper, fold dough in half to cover and pinch to seal edges.

With fold at right, roll out from center to a 16x8 rectangle. From short side, fold in thirds. Seal edges and chill 1 hour. Repeat rolling and folding. If butter breaks through, brush with flour. Seal edges again and chill 30 minutes. Repeat, wrap in foil this time and chill 3 hours or overnight.

Cut dough in half. Cut each half into thirds.

2 cup almond paste
1 1/2 cup crushed zwieback (about 8 biscuits)
1 cup melted butter
2 egg
1 tsp almond extract
Mix together to make filling. Divide filling evenly and fill center of each dough strip with about 1/3 cup filling. Close edges and
seal. Take three strips and braid together. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, form a wreath, 6" in diameter in the center (repeat with remaining three strips). Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly on rack.

2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 T milk
Mix together to form a glaze. Drizzle over breads.

Decorate with red and/or green sugar or candied red and green cherries (if desired).

I must admit, this year we took the"no cooking on Christmas" mantra to new heights. For lunch I put out cheese, meat and crackers. And for dinner, while friends of mine slaved over hams and turkeys and fixings all afternoon, we watched movies, took naps and feasted on frozen pizza....

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