Today's Baking and Books is brought to you by the letter B: bread and Brontë! Norwegian Christmas bread, or Julekake, is an institution in my husband's family. My mother-in-law makes it every year. The first time I went up to visit his parents in Michigan was for Christmas (and let me tell you, Upper Michigan is COLD in the winter!). Among many other new and often strange Scandinavian dishes, I was introduced to Christmas bread, which is best when toasted and served with butter. It is a yeast bread with cardamom and candied fruit - and it's completely delicious! My husband doesn't use a recipe (I don't even think he measures anything out anymore, he knows this bread so well) but he assures me that it's similar to this one, if you'd like to try your hand at Julekake. He uses butter, not margarine, and adds an egg yolk. It's extraordinarily versatile: the perfect breakfast, or dessert, or afternoon snack with tea or cocoa.
Last winter, I read Jane Eyre for the first time, and it completely changed my life. It got me started reading classics; I began seeing parallels between great literature and the musicological and historical research I pursue; it was eventually the spark to start this book blog. As I pondered what big reading project to tackle this winter break, I spotted my copy of Villette in my to-read stack. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find Charlotte Brontë's writing to be so cozy in winter. There's something about cuddling up under a blanket that makes it easier to encounter the difficult situations her heroines find themselves in, and the often oppressive and gloomy atmosphere of her books feels cold to me. In addition, the protagonist of Villette is Lucy Snowe - how could I read this book at any other time than in winter? I'm about nine chapters in, and enjoying Villette immensely, though it feels very different than my beloved Jane Eyre. I'm determined now to read a new Brontë novel each winter break, and as there are five more books (Charlotte's Shirley and The Professor, Emily's Wuthering Heights, and Anne's Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), this plan ought to last me through the completion of my dissertation.
Later today, I'm off to spend a wonderful couple of hours browsing in the used book store one town over. I even convinced my husband to come along (they have a decent theology section), and because I'm bound to take a lot longer than him, he'll get to hang out in one of the nearby coffee shops we've been meaning to try. With luck, I'll come home with an Eamon Duffy book on the English Reformation, or perhaps a Virago or Penguin Classic. Or, I may come home empty-handed and still smiling. The fun of used-booking is the search, after all!