For Christmas 2010, my aunt Renee got me a one of those Holiday Gifts from a Jar booklets with lots of recipes inside. It gives instructions on how to make a presentable gift jar with a recipe attached.
This year, as I decided what edible gifts to make, I decided to have a little fun and make one or two of the recipes from the booklet. Of course, I can’t send out anything I haven’t tried before; that would be a recipe for failure.
I’m against any kind of mix that requires a lot of work. Once, I bought a coffee cake mix that didn’t save me any effort at all. I still had to make two separate mixtures, one of which involved cutting/rubbing butter into the mix for a streusel, and layer them – the only thing you didn’t have to do was measure ingredients. If I want to use a mix, it’s because I don’t want to do as much work! (I’m clearly a baker, because I don’t mind measuring ingredients.)
As I looked at these recipes, I only wanted to give gift jars that would be easy for the recipient to make. I shouldn’t give a gift that makes the recipient work. Thus, the best gifts would be ones where you simply mix in a few perishable ingredients, pour into a pan or scoop onto a sheet, and bake. Lithuanian Christmas Bread Mix fit this description.
I would like to tell you more about the recipe, about why this bread’s history or why it uses poppy seeds or honey or raisins, but honestly, I know anything else to add right now. Just the recipe.
Lithuanian Christmas Bread Mix
2 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cups poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups golden raisins (although I used the plain variety)
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise active dry yeast (and now I realize that my yeast wasn’t rapid-rise, and I don’t think the yeast that I gifted was, either)
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour and salt. Separately, combine remaining 1 cup flour with poppy seeds. Pour 3/4 cup flour mixture into 1-quart jar; pack well. Add 3/4 cup poppy seed mixture, followed by remaining flour, remaining poppy seeds, and raisins. Pack well after each addition. Place yeast packet in small plastic bag and add to top of jar. Seal jar.
To make the bread, use these instructions:
Lithuanian Christmas Bread
1 jar Lithuanian Christmas Bread Mix
1 ¼ cups milk
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons honey
Additional honey to glaze
1. Grease 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Remove bag from jar. Pour remaining contents of jar into large bowl. Add yeast and mix well.
2. Heat milk, butter, and honey in small saucepan over low heat until temperature reaches 130F (just under a simmer; I do this until it steams). Add to dry ingredients and stir until dough forms. Transfer to prepared loaf pan. Let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (I would probably let this rise until it reaches the top of the loaf pan.)
3. Bake 45 minutes at 350F or until loaf springs back when touched in the center. Brush with extra honey during last 5 minutes of baking to glaze. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to cool completely.
This bread was pretty good. Since it’s enriched with milk and honey, it had the texture of a sandwich bread. I think I could taste the poppy seeds (vaguely nutty, I think), and the raisins were a nice change since I don’t eat them very often. The honey glaze on top of the bread made the top crust tasty. As with most bread, I enjoyed it most toasted, for breakfast. The bread was a little dense (probably from the regular-rise active yeast) and so I would probably let it rise a little more if I make it again – to the top of the pan, rather than just under. I wouldn’t usually make this bread, but it was a nice change of pace.