So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. ~T. S. Eliot~
It’s winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. It wasn’t until I moved to the Pacific Northwest that this began to have meaning. Here, and as I get older, it becomes more significant, not only in the physical world but in the spiritual world. For most of my life, I’ve resisted darkness, desperately seeking light, in all its forms. Physical and non-physical. This year in particular, has been a lesson in sitting with the darkness that inevitably comes to all of us, in time. Like night and day, winter and summer, it is half of the whole, the half I’ve tended to reject. For so many years, I’ve simply not allowed it. Distracting and busying myself. But it keeps surfacing, perhaps waiting for me to have enough courage to face it. Some days I’m acutely aware of it, as I carefully tiptoe along the steep edge of it, fearing the misstep that will plunge me down into the sinking blackness. I’ve fallen off that cliff before (haven’t we all?), flailing, struggling, fighting against it, and in doing so, have suffered greatly. But there is a different way I’m told, from the wise ones who have gone before us – the path of acceptance – where pain will still meet us along our journey, but suffering need not become our constant companion. My prayer to the universe today . . . . give me courage to sit with the darkness, simply allow it and see what comes.
Here’s a recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour – Cranberry Almond Star Bread. What I love about this is not only how beautiful and festive it looks, but how do-able this is. How lovely would this be Christmas morning? The basic yeast dough recipe is simple and what you add to it is totally up to you. Here I’ve added dried cranberries, almonds and cardamom. It’s actually a fun recipe to make and I would imagine that if you have kids who enjoy being in the kitchen with you- this would be a good one to make together. It’s surprisingly easy! Allow 2 hours for rising, 30 minutes hands on time and 15 minutes for baking.
To make the Cranberry Almond Star Bread – make the dough, let it rise, then divide into four balls.
In this recipe I used Jovial’s organic Einkorn all-purpose flour, but really any all-purpose flour will work here. Feel free to substitute part whole wheat as well. For the record, this is not a sponsored post, I just really liked this flour and wanted to share it.
Einkorn (rhymes with “fine corn”), if unfamiliar, is a very ancient wheat – the only wheat to have never been hybridized (unlike modern soft and durum wheat), and to have only 2 sets of chromosomes. Einkorn means “one grain” in German. That’s because Einkorn only has one grain attached to the stem, while other wheats have groups of four grains.
The biggest benefits of Einkorn are flavor and digestibility. Einkorn actually tastes like what wheat should taste like. Modern farming methods used to raise yields have stripped flavor and vital nutrients from today’s wheat. With Einkorn, you can actually taste wheat the way nature intended it.
Einkorn has 30% more protein and 30% less starch (carbohydrates) than regular wheat, plus many B Vitamins. The gluten in Einkorn lacks the high molecular weight proteins that many people can’t digest. If you are sensitive to modern wheat, Einkorn can provide a delicious alternative. Keep in mind, Einkorn does contain gluten, but it seems to be easier to digest.
Roll each ball into a 10 inch circle. Sprinkle with spiced sugar, cranberries, almonds or whatever filling you like. Almond paste would be good here too. Once all four disks are seasoned and stacked, place a 2 ½- 3 inch round cookie cutter or bowl in the center to use as a guide.
Cut 16 strips, leaving the center in tact. Cut in quarters first, then eights, then sixteenths.
Take two strips (next to each other), one in each hand, and twist them 2 times away from each other, then pinch together the edges.
Gently pinch together the strips to form points in a star. It really need not be perfect.
Cover and let this rise again while oven preheats.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
When it comes out, it will dazzle.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar or brush with butter.
Serve as a morning bread or with afternoon tea, decorating with fresh cranberries if you like.
May your day be full and beautiful.
Sending you love and courage to embrace all.
- ¾ cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons lukewarm water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast,
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup nonfat dry milk
- ¼ cup potato flour or ½ cup instant mashed potato flakes
- FILLING OPTIONS:
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamon (or nutmeg)
- ¾ cup dried cranberries (optional)
- ¾ cup sliced almond ( optional)
- Other fillings: almond paste, jams, other chopped nuts...walnuts, hazelnuts, or dried fruit.
- Garnish: powdered sugar
- To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it's nearly doubled in bulk.
- Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
- On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10" circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, brush a thin coat of beaten egg on the surface, then evenly sprinkle with ⅓ of the spiced-sugar, dried cranberries, and almonds, leaving ¼" of bare dough around the perimeter.
- Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle. Repeat the layering process — egg, spiced sugar, cranberries, almonds, then again, dough circle, filling — leaving the top circle bare.
- Place a 2½" to 3" round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.
- Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.
- Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.
- Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes.
- While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it's nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.
- Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
- Dust with powdered sugar or brush with melted butter.