Traditions can include anything from making an annual home movie to baking a special recipe. During the holidays, anything enjoyable that brings family and friends together is a tradition worth repeating. This year I created a “home movie” that I called The Gift. I asked many of my friends to say something special about the holidays, like a gift they’d like to get or a greeting or wish they like to share, in only five words. The finished video will be a cherished memory for years to come. It may also become a tradition of mine.
I also received a note from one of my facebook friends, Ida Waterous, who wanted to share her recipe for Houska, a traditional Czech bread, that she’s been making with her family for many years. This was my first time making Houska and it may just become a tradition in my house, too.
courtesy of Ida Waterous
1/2 cu Warm Water (110-115 degrees), not too hot
2 pkg Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 cu Lukewarm Milk
1/2 cu Sugar
2 tsp Salt
2 lg Eggs
1/2 cu Shortening
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cu All Purpose Flour, sifted
2 tsp Grated Lemon Rind
1/4 tsp Mace
1 cu Golden Raisins
1 cu Chopped Blanched Almonds
1 cu Candied Cherries
1 additional Egg Yolk for glazing
1/2 cu Pecan Halves
1 cu Powdered Sugar
1-2 tbl Milk
Dissolve yeast in water and set aside for 5 minutes. Then, add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening, lemon, mace, raisins, almonds half of the candied cherries and half of the flour to the yeast. Mix with a spoon until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to handle easily. Turn onto a lightly flour board and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Roll into a lightly greased bowl and then bring the greased side up. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. If your kitchen is cool, place dough on a rack over a bowl of hot water and cover completely with a towel. After dough has risen, punch down and let rise again until almost double, about 30 minutes.
Divide dough into 2 portions to make 2 loaves. Divide each portion into 4 equal parts. Shape 3 of the parts into 14” strands. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Braid loosely, without stretching, and tuck the ends together.
Divide the fourth part of the dough into 3 pieces and shape each into a 12” long strand. Braid these 3 strands and place this small braid on top of the large braid. Repeat with the other half of the dough to make a second loaf.
Cover and let rise until double, about 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix remaining egg with 1-2 tablespoons of water. Brush the braids with the egg glaze. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Wayne’s Note: if bread appears to be browning too quickly loosely tent it with aluminum foil.
Meanwhile, mix powdered sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoon of milk. Add just enough additional milk to create the smooth consistency of thick syrup.
Chop the remaining cherries in half. Decorate braids with pecan halves and cherries pecans and then drizzle with icing while still warm.
Thanks again to Ida Waterous for sharing this recipe! It’s truly delicious. If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or join me and share your recipes and ideas on facebook.