It’s Christmas Eve morning and, as usual, I’m so excited I can’t sleep. I usually get up before 5:00 every year, and when my Honey Girl and my Sweet Boy were little ones they were up with me, too, waiting for my Dear Husband. We would gallop around the house before we started shaping the Stollen and preparing breakfast. But they are teenagers now, sound asleep, and it’s little Annie and I up before dawn. We sit in the darkness together with just the lights on the tree and listen to the quiet and watch the snow falling. The world is white and peaceful and I am perfectly happy.
Since I have a little extra time this morning, here’s a post I didn’t get to this week. If you’re having a quiet Christmas Eve morning, this is a perfect and easy recipe to add to your baking. If you have rapid rise yeast and bread flour, I’m sure you have everything else you need to make it.
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t about this point before Christmas, it’s nice to take a break from the have-to-do and should-do lists to just bake something for the pure joy of baking. So this weekend, we invited my Sweet Boy’s sweet sweet girlfriend Taylor to make Santa bread with us. In 2002 we saw a Martha Stewart Show during which some particularly crafty person, unlike myself, made Santa-shaped breads, and I quickly sketched the design. That sheet of paper, scribbled with a purple marker, has been in the back of our Christmas three-ring binder for eight years. It was time for a revival.
Taylor made a sweet googly-eyed Santa with an adorable polka-dot hat. And my Honey Girl made a rather mischievous looking Santa who looks like he might be plotting with the gingerbread men.
Bread is not my forte, but this fast white bread recipe is so simple that even I can make delicious, and adorable, bread with it. I got up early, mixed up the dough, and got it through its first rise—about 45 minutes total. Then the girls shaped the loaves, they rose a second time, and we baked them—another hour and a half total. This is the kind of project that’s perfect for a lazy day or a day when you are working on other projects at home. You can attend to the dough here and there for a few minutes, but most of the time required is just spent waiting. The bread is quite tasty, too. We made Santa bread sandwiches—after, with some guilt, we took the plunge and cut into Santa’s beard.
6 c. bread flour, divided
2 T. sugar
2 packages (4½ t.) quick rising active dry yeast (also labeled as rapid rise yeast)
2½ t. salt
2 c. very warm (115 to 125 degrees) water
4 T. melted butter
4 currants or raisins
red food coloring
- In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together 4 c. flour, and the sugar, yeast, and salt.
- Add the water and butter.
- Mix by hand or on low speed for one minute.
- Gradually add additional flour ¼ c. at a time until the dough is moist but not sticky.
- Knead for about ten minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil.
- Cover the bowl loosely with cellophane and let rise in a warm place (75 to 80 degrees) until doubled in volume, 30 to 45 minutes.
- Divide the dough in half to make two Santa breads. With one half of the dough, pull off about 1/3 of the dough and set it aside. You will use this dough to make Santa’s eyes, mustache, etc.
- Shape the main piece of dough into a circle. Pull and stretch the top of the circle out to form Santa’s hat.
- Take a little piece of dough from the reserved dough, roll it into a little ball, and press it into the top of Santa’s hat to form a pompom.
- Take three small balls of dough from the reserved dough and roll them into Santa’s eyes and nose. Press them onto his face firmly, and press two currants or raisins into his eyes.
- Take a small piece of dough from the reserved dough to make Santa’s mustache. Shape it into a flat oval and cut slits towards the center on both sides. Pinch the piece in the middle and press it firmly onto Santa’s face under his nose.
- Take a small piece of dough from the reserved dough to make Santa’s hatband. Roll it into a snake the width of your hat and pat it flat. Lay it across Santa’s hat and press the ends in.
- Take the remaining reserved dough to make Santa’s beard. Pat it into a half oval the width of Santa’s face. Slice it into strips from the bottom up leaving a ½ “ strip uncut at the top. Place the beard on Santa’s face and press it in at the edges.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl and add a dribble of water to thin it just a bit.
- Brush all of Santa’s face except his hat and nose with the egg wash.
- Mix a generous amount of red food coloring into the remaining egg and brush Santa’s hat and nose with it. Give his cheeks a touch, too, to make them rosy.
- Allow Santa to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- While Santa is rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until he sounds hollow when tapped.
Very Merry Christmas!