Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Baking and Books: Christmas Bread

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!

6 comments:

  1. Gosh, that bread sounds adventurous!
    Villette - I enjoyed it, but don't remember anything about it. My favourite Bronte novel is Agnes Grey, so I recommend pushing that to the top of the pile for Christmas 2013 - but, if you haven't read Wuthering Heights, it's probably not the cosiest book in the world!

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    1. I have to admit that yeast intimidates me, so while I do a lot of baking, I don't do any real breads!

      Thanks for the Bronte recommendation! I've been meaning to try Anne, and it's nice to know which of her novels to start with. One blogger (sadly, I don't remember who at the moment) said that Anne was the only one of the Bronte sisters that she enjoyed, and I'm really eager to find out what makes her writing stand out.

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  2. I've been meaning to re-read Jane Eyre. Even though I first read it in the summer, I think you're right about it being an excellent winter read.

    And now, even though I already have a big stack of books to take with me on our trip to Colorado, I want to add a Bronte to my list!!!

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    1. I'd be interested to hear how you felt about it as a summer read. Did it seem less gloomy? Or was the dark atmosphere even darker in contrast to sunny summer?

      If you're driving, it's easy to take as many books as you want! I always struggle when flying, because you have to strike that fine balance between too many heavy books and too little reading material.

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    2. I think it actually felt less gloomy because when I think back on it (it's been a few years), I always picture sunny skies and warm breezes.

      Yes, that's why I like driving! (Even though I think my husband thinks the bags of books are ridiculous, but I don't know what I'll be in the mood for!)

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    3. I hope you have a safe and wonderful trip!

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