A Memorial Day Special!

We thank all the men and women who have served our country in the military, for keeping us free, protecting our Constitution and flag. Have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day.

In one of my favorite scenes from The Surgeon, a Civil War novel, Dr. Abbey Kaplan confronts a disapproving male doctor. Not only won’t Dr. Connolly work with her, he doesn’t allow her into the male wards, even though male doctors are allowed into female wards.  When Dr. Kaplan complains about this unequal treatment, he responds, “How dare you talk to be like that! You have no business being here in the first place. The very idea of a female doctor is abhorrent.”

He then slaps her across the face.

Abbey, 6’ tall and well trained by her father and brothers in self-defense, slams her right fist into the doctor’s face, then a left uppercut to his belly and a right to his jaw. She throws him out of the surgical tent.  Dr. Connolly never reports the incident as he couldn’t admit to slapping a woman nor that he was beaten up by one. He requests a transfer to another unit and Abbey is on the road to respect from her colleagues. What a great scene!

Sweet Yeast Breads are probably my favorite dessert. They are a labor of love, as you must set aside a number of hours to rise and bake. I have made bread for many years now and just pick a day I’ll be home to allow for the rising. The aroma in a kitchen from any bread baking makes the time worth the effort!

This rich buttery dough, called Nusstriezel, is of German origin and was inspired by The Surgeon, this month’s Foodie Lit selection. Great for a Father’s Day treat, a sweet challah or a dessert at any picnic or Memorial Day BBQ. While the recipe can be easily halved, as the process takes the same time whether you make 2 or 4, I’d recommend making the larger amount and freeze for future use.

Sweet Yeast Bread:  Nusstriezel

Yield: 4

Dough

4 teaspoons yeast

1 cup milk, warm

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cardamom

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

5 1/2 cups flour

1 pound butter, unsalted,  room temperature

Filling

1 cup peach or apricot jam

1 cup raisins, soaked in rum, Grand Marnier or liqueur of choice

1 cup chopped nuts of choice, such as almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios or pecans

Egg Wash

1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Toping

Sugar and cinnamon

  1. In a large bowl, soften yeast in warm milk. Proof by waiting a few minutes to see if bubbles form. That will show the yeast is active.

  2. Stir in vanilla, sugar, cardamon, salt and eggs. Add half the flour and beat by hand or with a mixer until dough is smooth. Add remaining flour and beat until a stiff dough is formed.

  3. Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean, lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.  Cover and place in draft free location. Let dough rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.

  4. Punch dough down and knead again. Divide dough into 4 pieces.

  5. On parchment paper or a clean surface sprinkled with flour, roll dough out to a rectangle. Slice one butter stick into 3 lengthwise slices.
    Place on 2/3 of the top of the dough. Fold other third of dough over butter. Fold other third over that. Reroll to a rectangle and fold again into thirds. Repeat with other pieces of dough. Wrap and chill pieces of dough separately in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Roll each piece of dough out and fold one more time.

  6. On parchment paper or a clean surface sprinkled with flour, roll out to a rectangle. Spread each piece of dough with apricot jam. Drain liquid from raisins. Sprinkle each piece of dough with raisins and nuts.

  7. You can braid the dough or make it into a spiral.

    1. Braid: Cut dough into 3 pieces. Fold over dough to cover filling and roll into a rope. Repeat for other two pieces. Braid dough, sealing by pinching ends and tucking them under dough. Use a bit of water on your fingers if the dough doesn’t stay. You may leave the dough in this braid or join ends to make a spiral braid.  Place on parchment line tray.

    2. Spiral: Roll dough with your hands into a long rope. Fold over to cover filling. Twist dough and then connect ends together, using a bit of water if needed. You can make these spirals as long or short as desired.

  8. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and let rise in draft free place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375 F about halfway through rising.

  9. Bake for 30 minutes or until tops are browned. Cool on wire rack.

Expandthetable suggestions

Dairy Free: Use a non-dairy milk such as almond or soy milk in place of cow’s milk. Use a non-dairy margarine in place of butter.

Alcohol Free: Omit alcohol and soak raisins in warm water. Drain before using.

Other shapes: Try a 4-strand braid, twist into a spiral or bake in a loaf pan line with parchment paper.

Nut free: Omit nuts.

Other sweeteners: Use Stevia for less sugar, following measurement conversion on package. Try honey or maple syrup in place of granulated sugar in the dough.

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