On Christmas morning, spicy Julekage is a big favorite in Denmark and Norway.
Two and a half loaves of fresh-baked Julekage.
Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
This recipe is huge (it'll make 10 loaves!), so you might prefer to halve it for easier handling.
1 cup of warm water
3 cups of warm milk
3 tablespoons of ground cardamom
2 large cans (13 ounces each) of evaporated milk, warmed
3 cups of currants
1/4 cup of honey
6 tablespoons of active dry yeast
6 cups of whole wheat bread flour
1 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of melted margarine or butter
2 cups of honey
6 beaten eggs
12 cups of whole wheat bread flour (more or less)
In a very large bowl of at least 2-gallon capacity, combine the water, milk, cardamom, evaporated milk, currants, and 1/4 cup of honey. Sprinkle yeast over the surface and allow it to activate for 10 minutes or until bubbly. Then beat in 6 cups of whole wheat flour, giving it 300 vigorous strokes. Set the bowl in a warm place to let the mixture rise for 15-30 minutes, then whip in the salt, margarine or butter, 2 cups of honey, and the beaten eggs. Stir in more flour by the cupful until the dough is too stiff to beat any more, then turn it out onto a floured board and knead for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
Lightly oil the surface of the bread-to-be and place it in a large, clean, oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp towel and set it aside to rise until it has doubled — usually about 90 minutes. Punch it down (that is, sock it energetically about 25 times) and let it rise again until doubled (about 45 minutes, this time).
To make loaves, first divide the dough into ten equal pieces. Lay all but one aside, covering them with a damp towel. Then divide the remaining loaf into three equal pieces, roll each piece into a thin strip, and braid the three together. Do the same with each of the remaining nine lumps of dough. Now, place the shaped loaves on greased cookie sheets or in bread pans. Brush the surface of the loaves with the gently beaten whites of 2 eggs. [EDITORS NOTE: Brushing with milk will also produce a lovely glazed crust]Allow the loaves to rise for about 20 minutes, or until they're about 2/3 doubled, then bake them for 35-50 minutes at 350°F. (Baking time will depend on the shape of the loaves: Braids are done in 35 minutes, but loaf shapes take longer.) Unless you have a perfect oven, you'll need to rotate the breads from the oven's top to bottom shelves alter 20 minutes or so in order to have them brown evenly. When finished, the breads will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Lay them on racks or prop them up against bread pans to cool. Wrap them only when they are absolutely cool.