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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Pretzels & Pate Choux

(Please insert the obligatory desultory comments regarding Neglect of Blog, Promise to Blog More Faithfully, Excuses of Very Crazy Life Lately, Etcetera.)

Since it’s Resurrection Day, and I am Christian, here are two elevating recipes to give a whack. Both look fancier than they are hard, which is really nice for earning bonus Slacker Mom points. And, no pictures, because: Slacker Mom.

(I will freely admit that on several occasions, we either creatively cropped photos, or turned off the date/time stamp, and faked “Easter Sunday” photos for the grandparents.)

Soft Pretzels

Right, so, it sounds really fancy to say, “Oh, we’re making a batch of soft pretzels to enjoy!” but really, what makes soft pretzels pretzels (or Prunt-zulls, if you’re a Little at my cottage) rather than boring bread is simple: a 30-second water bath in baking-soda-fortified H2O.

I also highly recommend using parchment paper when baking the soft pretzels. It keeps things from sticking horribly, and absorbs some of the moisture, so you get a crisper crust.

For 8-10 decent sized soft pretzels, or pretzel sandwich rolls (which are stupendously bliss-making):

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 4 to 4.5 cups all purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted) OR 2-3 tablespoons oil

Mix all of this together and knead or slap around in a stand mixer until a smooth dough is formed. I like to leave my dough a bit on the “wet” side, and pop it into a bread bowl or plastic tub to raise, so I don’t have to knead much at all. Let it double, and if you forget, let if fall and rise again! This will take about an hour. Do other stuff in the meantime, such as getting your pretzel bath ready, and preheating the oven to 450 degrees, and lining a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Prep your water bath: 10 cups or so of water, with 1/2 to 2/3 cup baking soda in it. Bring this to a nice boil. It foams and fizzes a bit. Do not be alarmed.

Punch down your dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it up into 8-10 portions. I’m a slacker, to I pinch of “hold it in my palm” sized balls of dough, and however many we come up with, I’m happy.

Time to get kindergarten on the dough: roll each portion out into a snake. Make a U shape, and then twirl the ends together twice, before flipping the ends toward the bottom of the U and pressing them onto the U to seal a “pretzel” shape. Here’s a video, from Canadians, so you know they’re kind and trustworthy. Some people get really fancy and just do a flippity-twisty thing. I am not one of those people.

To make sure you have loads of surfaces for the lovely water bath to pretzelize the crust, make sure your pretzel has space between all the sections. You can use your hands to just stretch them open as needed.

If you want a pretzel sandwich bun/roll, don’t stretch the sections option; when the pretzel rises, gaps will fill in, and you’ll have a whole bun shape that slices through nicely.

Now that the pretzels are formed, you’re ready to start bathing and baking.

Use a shallow, flat-bottomed holey ladle thing (I think it’s technically a large slotted spoon?) to lower one or two pretzels into the baking soda water bath for 30 to 40 seconds. Retrieve and let them drain a moment before placing them on the parchment-lined baking sheets.

Drop another two, and while they bathe, sprinkle the still-quite-wet already-bathed ones with garlic, or salt, or both, or anything else you want stuck on the pretzel. Some recipes call for an egg wash, but I don’t particularly care for that, and the just-bathed dough surface holds onto “toppers” pretty well.

Pop the bathed pretzels into a 450* oven for about 12-15 minutes, until they have a nice deep color. Slip the whole parchment paper onto a cooling rack (or the counter, if your cooling rack was perhaps stolen by your Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal Husband last year to serve as a topper for the baby chicks’ brooder box).

I made a quick sauce with a few ounces of sharp cheddar, ditto Monteray Jack and cream cheese, plus a bit of dry mustard and a splash of milk, melted slowly together. But mostly, the kids just buttered them, and they’d be good with spicy brown mustard, too.

Cream Puffs

I love cream puffs. Here’s some information on How Cream Puffs Work. Here’s the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup eggs (this frees you from the tyranny of wondering what size eggs. Just crack ’em in until you have about 1 cup total, and whisk them together.)

Parchment paper is helpful for this recipe, too! Line some baking sheets before you get going, and pre-heat the oven to 425*.

Bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a rolling boil. Dump in 1 cup flour, and beat the tar out of it. It will gelatinize, which is cool to watch happen, and may leave a bit of film on the pan as you’re stirring. That’s fine, don’t worry about it. Keep beating/stirring hard for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, and then set it aside to cool off just a bit.

If you have a stand mixer, cool beans! Put the flour dough into the mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Get it running on low-ish, and drizzle in the beaten eggs a bit at a time. You’ll notice that the dough will get slimy for a minute, then smooth out nicely. Keep going until the egg is all incorporated.

If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can do it by Ye Olde Sturdy Biceps Method: add some of the egg and beat the tar out of the dough by hand. It will be lumpy and slimy for a bit, then smooth out. Keep repeating until all the egg is incorporated. I will admit to cheating: I put all the egg in at once, and just deal with about 4 minutes of slimy to get to the smooth part. It will take loads of bicep endurance. You are amazing. You can do it.

Cream puffs are great for the slacker baker, because you’re going to succeed by ignoring them. They need an initial fairly-high temperature to create the burst of steam from the moisture in the eggs (this is what puffs ’em), with a second stage of lower heat to set and dry them out, so they don’t fall flat as soon as you take them out.

Use a regular spoon to grab a nice rounded portion of dough-goop. Scrape it off onto the parchment paper. Repeat, spacing them about 2″ apart, and going for a rounded mound.

Pop them into a 400* oven for 15 minutes. WITHOUT opening the door, turn the heat down to 350* for about 35-40 minutes.

Go do other stuff. Like look up recipes of good junk to put inside the puffs. When that second timer-buzzer goes off, turn off the oven, crack the door, and let them cool for maybe 10 minutes, then remove them to a cooling rack, and use a skewer to jab a hole in the side. It should come out clean, and jabbing the hole in also gives a steam vent as another insurance against collapse.

Even if they do fall flat, they’re still a good platform for Delivering Other Tasty Stuff To Your Face-Hole.

You can make the cream puffs dairy-free by subbing non-dairy margarine (of the sort recommended for baking); you can make them gluten-free by subbing almond flour for wheat flour, 1:1—but definitely use a stand mixer, because it takes longer for the egg to incorporate, and let the mixture cool entirely before portioning it on the sheet. This helps it set up better and puff more in the oven. Almond-flour puffs are more hygroscopic than wheat puffs, so they’ll soften in the ambient humidity, but they taste fantastic, and are still good platforms, as mentioned above.

You can fill cream puffs with just about anything, sweet or savory. The vegan “egg salad” recipes that use mashed chickpeas are great, as are regular egg salad (please use sustainably, humanely raised eggs from happy hens!), tuna salad (ditto, but with fishes), etc.

For sweet, plain whipped cream with berries folded in is always a good choice. You can also use my sister’s secret weapon: pudding mix.

Addictive Pastry Cream

In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, combine:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 3 ounce package of any flavor instant pudding mix you like

Beat the tar out of it until it’s really, really thick. Haphazardly scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until you need it. Use a rubber scraper to gather up all the haphazardly neglected dregs of addictive pastry cream and lick them off the scraper while the kids aren’t looking.

And these two lovely examples of leavened, “Risen” treats, combined with the multiple puns I made regarding Easter Sunday/Risen treats, were part of our day today.

 

 

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The word “lent” stems from the Middle English for “lengthen”, referring to the lengthening of days as dark winter lifts and the re-birth of spring approaches. To the Christian world, the Lenten season is a time of reflection, repentance, and re-commitment as we progress from darkness (being un-reconciled to God) to light (being reconciled and at one with God.)

The season of Lent encompasses the forty non-Sunday days between Ash Wednesday and Crucifixion (Good) Friday. The symbolism of forty days parallels Christ’s forty days of fasting and preparation before beginning His earthly ministry.

Traditionally, Lent is a season to re-dedicate ourselves, using three aspects of practical faith:

  • Prayer: renewing and expanding our relationship with God;
  • Alms-giving: showing compassion and charity to others by giving of our time and resources with an attitude of humility and Christ-like love;
  • Fasting: personal sacrifice and repentance to prepare ourselves for re-dedication to our baptismal covenants. The sacrifice of fasting does not just involve abstaining from food, though that may be a component of your chosen fast. It might include abstaining from a particular activity that has been distracting you from the pursuit of Godly things, or making a concerted effort to replace a sinful behavior with a Godly one.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of they tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:1-3, 9-10

We have been counseled by living Prophets that we should retain all truth, and add to it the light of the Restoration. With that in mind, celebrating the dedicatory season of Lent has the capacity to deepen our appreciation of Heavenly Father’s plan for us, and our commitment to Him.

The Lenten Lights could be done as one reading per week leading up to Easter, or as one reading per day of the week leading up to Easter, depending on the needs of your own household. To complete them in the week before Easter, plan to begin the Saturday before Palm Sunday (eight days before Easter Sunday.) That gives you a few days yet to gather a few very simple supplies, and download the  complete instructions and readings here.

This series of short daily devotionals walks the household through our need for a Savior and an Atonement, and the miracles of God’s love for us. Each reading has three aspects:

  • Foundation: truths established in pre-mortal and early earth times;
  • Foreshadowing: symbols manifest through the experiences of God’s peoples that foreshadow Christ;
  • Fulfillment: Christ’s perfect fulfillment of God’s plan.

The free pdf download of my Lenten Lights readings are covered by copyright; you’re welcome to print or copy extras for household, extended family, or church use.

If you’re looking for last year’s simplified Passover meal and Haggadah, you’ll find it here.

I hope you’ll have a contemplative and joyous Easter season!

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Ban the Bunny: Easter 2011

I’ve mentioned before that we don’t “do” the Easter Bunny at our house. I prefer to separate celebrating the return of Spring (which thing we can often hold off on until well into May, thanks to living in the Rockies) and the Holy season of Passover and the Resurrection. Here are a few quite nifty things I have my eye on to enhance our celebration this year, keeping in mind that our household includes a 43-year span of ages, abilities, and interests:

We will most likely do a Passover supper this year, using our simplified Haggadah, incorporating Christian fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Our congregation is hosting an Easter Eve musical presentation; several of us will be singing, and everyone else will be in the audience. I’m excited to get to incorporate more music into the season, and to have extra worship opportunities! God gives us holy days to provide special touch-points, calling us back to remember the wonderful things we have been given through Him. I do think we should look for more days to consider and worship in very simple ways, rather than fewer!

In several spots around the Internet, I’ve found bloggers talking about 40 Day, 40 Bags... taking the Lenten season as an opportunity to streamline our blessings, removing one bag of excess “stuff” from the household for each of the 40 (non-Sabbath) days leading up to Easter. Organizing and freeing ourselves of blessings that have become burdens is one great way to meditate on the blessings we do have, and how rich our lives are, through Christ. It’s also a chance to share some blessings with the surrounding community, by donating unused but useful household and personal goods.

Another friend is taking the challenge to minimize her household’s grocery expenses for 40 days, eating very simply and devoting the saved funds to service organizations that provide food in everyday and emergency situations around the world. It’s a reminder that we are already richly fed through Christ, and that He wants us to share not only gospel truth, but physical succor with others. With so many challenging situations around the globe, this sort of love offering, no matter the size, can make a big difference in the lives of God’s children. If you don’t already have a particular charity to donate to, may I suggest LDS Humanitarian Services? They operate world-wide, do not discriminate as to who receives help, and 100% of the donation goes to aid, not staff.

I love the concept of Lenten Lights (click it for a free download of the readings and concept); I may adapt the readings for specific doctrinal points, as well. I like the idea of starting the night before Palm Sunday, so the Saturday between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is bereft of a reading… we may light just one candle, and have some silent time, to be reminded of hope.

She Wears Flowers has a very nifty Christ-focused story block. A story block has images drawn, painted, or podged onto each side, and can be used as a memory aid or story-telling aid by even very young children. I like that this idea could be adapted to enjoying any scripture story or tradition, such as the Passover seder progression, the Nativity, the Great Flood, or even family history stories. I also like the reminder to use images fairly… it’s nice to be considerate of others’ intellectual rights, after all.

My dear friend shared their family’s Holy Week celebration last year, and kindly gave me permission to share it here (you can also find it mentioned in the blogosphere if you search for Resurrection Eggs). She chose seven fillable eggs (plain plastic would work, but decorated papier mache would last through the years, and could be really gorgeous… or, child-crafted gorgeous, which is a different gorgeous, but fun!), numbered them, grabbed a pretty basket (manly, but decorative), then filled each egg with some token or symbol that corresponded to the events of that particular day of the Holy Week. Each morning, her boys opened one egg, and the contents spurred a bit of breakfast-table discussion. They were excited to share their discoveries with Daddy at dinner that night. She also prepared seven images of Christ to hang by the door through the week, as well. Two quite simple ideas, but very effective ways to put the focus on the holy, rather than the Bunny.

Christianity Today has a great rundown of Holy Week, and some suggestions for daily activities. These could be spread out in the weeks before Easter to increase the celebratory season.

My goal: rebel against the Holiday Industrial Complex, and take back the holidays to be real, simple, meaningful holy days. Traditions with true meaning have a long-lasting impact on families.

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In Which We Celebrate

I had promised to share some details on how we’re celebrating Easter in the NotMolly household this year. Kids can understand Easter as something more than chocolate and eggs! With that goal in mind, and with great respect and admiration for the Jewish traditions of Passover, we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection with a modified ceremonial meal.

The full text is too long to make a post; you’d be scrolling for years. Instead, I’ve made it a PDF. You’re welcome to download and print up as many copies as you need for your celebration. Please be considerate, and if you want to share it, give your friends or family a link to get it here, just in case I end up revising things later.

All Things Testify

Have a blessed Holy Week!

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A Non-Bunny Easter

I’ll just say it plain:

We don’t do the Easter Bunny at our house.

I don’t think the EB is a symbol of paganism or anything dire like that, but he’s also not my idea of a good religious symbol, and for me, Easter is about Christ, not chocolate eggs.

So, I go past those colorful displays of plastic and tinfoil. I don’t buy baskets or fake grass. I don’t make decorated cookies, or zillions of hardboiled eggs to dye. There’s no frenzy, no guilt, no extra shopping… we get to ease into spring with all the optimism, and none of the stress. I like that.

Between now and April 4, we’ll need to pick and choose which family celebrations we’d like to do this year.

We might have a Welcome Spring day with the kids, and that might involve hunting for treats in the yard, but it won’t be during the Holy Week.

We’ll want to re-read some scripture, and do a bit of study about the Holy Land, and culture at the time of Christ. We’ll have some good family chats about repentance and redemption around the dinner tables.

We’ll plan a few celebratory meals for Holy Week.

We’ll pull out maps, and grab some books about modern Jerusalem from the library (which reminds me, I need to make a book drop, or my fines are going to make a Caesar blush!)

We might choose to enjoy our heritage as part of the Body of Christ, and celebrate a Passover Supper. It’s my opinion that Christians are blessed to inherit all that is wonderful in Judaic tradition, as well as the New Testament goodness. The richness and solid foundation of the Jewish holy days are beautiful to me, and Passover is one of the most lovely.

As a Christian reading the Old Testament, and the story of the Passover, I can see every point of symbolism and prophecy fulfilled in Christ, and that’s exciting. I like to share with my children the perfection and completeness of God’s plan for us.

I was also fortunate as a child to have parents who were eager to let me see the beauty in many faith traditions, who cheerfully accepted when a friend’s family invited me to a Passover Seder in their home. It was… so many things: solemn, joyful, peaceful, full of life… full of interesting food and good company and a celebration of God’s blessings to us all.

We’ve done our mini version of a Passover Seder twice in the past, with a simplified Haggadah. Learning the phonetics of the various prayers is not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s very worthwhile.

Last year, we spent Easter moving out of the hotel and into a new home, and sort of skipped a lot of the symbolic celebrations, and they were greatly missed. We won’t make that mistake this year. The turnings of the liturgical year lend such a solid ground to the passing of seasons, and my sense of placement in the world and in the eternities. Missing an Easter leaves me feeling unsteady, as though I’ve skipped a few chapters, and haven’t quite got a grip on the plot. Celebrations are much more than presents or decorations or candy… they are the checkpoints that keep us solidly attached to our mortality, while looking forward to something more.

Adapting a truly ancient tradition must be done with respect and care, of course; I’ll be happy to share what I find and use as we get closer. (I’m very blessed to have some dear friends who don’t mind sharing their Jewish faith with Christian me, and that’s a pretty cool thing.)

But, for now, it’s enough to know that we’re not stuck with the Bunny. We have more reasons to celebrate than the Holiday Industrial Complex could ever imagine, and we’re boycotting their version of our Holy Days.

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