Swedish Tea Ring

This pastry is what most of us would call a coffeecake. In Swedish, that’s kaffebröd, but Swedes call this pastry fikabröd. Fika means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat. Many Swedes consider it essential to make time for fika every day. This ritual has become institutionalized; even Volvo plants stop for fika. As companions to such warm conviviality, tea rings find their way onto many tables on Christmas mornings. This recipe is quite basic. Adding candied fruits, maraschino cherries, and nuts along with the glaze is a nice touch.

In a large bowl, dissolve 2 packets of yeast in a cup of warm milk mixed with a quarter cup each sugar and melted butter. Add 2 eggs, lightly beaten, a teaspoon salt, and a cup of AP flour. Beat until smooth. Gradually add additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour or so. Mix a half cup each chopped walnuts and raisins—with a half cup packed brown sugar and a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon, and enough melted butter to moisten. Punch the dough down, roll into an 18×12 inch rectangle, and sprinkle with the nut/raisin mixture to within about a half an inch of the edges. Starting with the long side, roll up, and pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on an oiled cookie sheet or pizza pan, and pinch ends together to form a ring. With scissors, cut from outside edge two-thirds of the way toward center of ring at 1 in. intervals. Separate strips slightly, and twist lightly. Cover and let rise until doubled, at least an hour. Bake at 350 until golden brown, about 30 mins. Cool on a wire rack, and drizzle with a glaze made from powdered sugar and enough milk to make a thick syrup.

Mustard Fruit Glaze for Ham

If your ham comes with one of those foil packets of glaze, grab it with a pair of tongs and drop it in the nearest hazardous waste receptacle. Not even Divine would use that gunk (she’d probably use edible glitter). Instead, make your own in a matter of minutes with just a few ingredients you can pick up at the store. This recipe is not only simple, you can modify it to your taste, use as much as you need and refrigerate the rest. It’s good on pork and game roasts, too, but I think it’s a bit heavy for fowl.

For a 15-20 lb. ham, use 1 jar (12 oz.) of apricot, pineapple, peach or cherry preserves, a half cup brown sugar, a mixture of two tablespoons Coleman’s dry mustard and a quarter cup honey, dark corn syrup or molasses and a half stick butter. Mix the mustard and honey/syrup/molasses before adding to other ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk continually until thoroughly mixed. Let ham sit covered at room temperature at least two hours before removing from packaging. Heat oven to 325˚F with the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Brush half of the glaze on ham, cover with foil and bake at 325 for 10-11 minutes per pound. Increase oven to 425˚, brush ham with remaining glaze and roast uncovered until a brown crust has formed. Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest uncovered for no more than an hour before basting with pan drippings and plating.

Window Cookies

The job of a food photographer is make what’s in front of their lens look like you’d want to eat it, just as the job of a porn photographer is to make their subject look like you’d want to buy it a couple of martinis and rent a room in a cheap hotel.

Confections take well to the camera because confectionery itself is an art involving brilliant colors, textures and shapes, not to mention architecture, especially when it comes to cakes, which can be monumental. Candies are easy, too, but cookies can be tricky, with the exception of window cookies, which are a combination of architecture and cookie. Window cookies are sugar cookies with a transparent candy center. You’re going to find other types called the same thing, of course. In the Midwest, they have what are called cathedral cookies, which are made by with colored mini-marshmallows rolled chocolate cookie dough, sliced and baked. Then you have what are called thumbprint cookies, dimple cookies or jelly cookies, which are made by making a depression in the middle of raw cookies, filling it with fruit preserves and baking.

The most essential ingredient for proper window cookies is a translucent hard candy like Jolly Ranchers or Life Savers. Coarsely crush the candy, and use a basic cookie dough. I use cocoa for color, chopped nuts for texture, and if I’m really froggy, sliced almonds for “tiles/bricks”. (Yeah, it’s goofy, I know.) Bring ingredients to room temperature before mixing. Roll out dough to a half inch thickness, and take care not to overfill the centers with candy. You can also bake hollow cookies and fill them with chocolate or peppermint. Both versions are best a bit large, over three inches. Cook in a low oven, 300, for the while it takes to dry the dough and melt the candy. Cool thoroughly on a secondary surface.