We added the celebration of Saturnalia to our winter kitchen in 2005, and pretty much never looked back.
It’s an old, ancient, Roman celebration to Saturn, the deity of agriculture. ‘Saturnalia’ was a festival of light leading to the winter solstice. From roughly December 17-24, the Roman Empire became a giant festival of sorts. During the shortest days and longest nights of the year, they would party and honor Saturn in hopes he would bring the light back, the sun! Dancing, large fires, candles, torches, special foods, for a whole week!
It was later known as ‘Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus’, the birthday of the unconquerable sun, on December 25.
Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, some of its customs may have influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.
I have been baking bread since forever and my best advice is, follow the directions until you have an intuitive feeling about your bread, and then over time, please use this recipe as a guideline and make it your own. Bread is something that should be a bit different for everyone, a bit more of this and a little less of that. I thank Edward Espe Brown for this lesson and pass it on to you.
2 packages dry yeast or 4 1/2 tsp yeast if out of a jar
1 1/2 C warm water
2 1/2 C Flour
1/3 cup honey
combine these ingredients in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon. You should have a sponge like batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30-45 minutes.
Than add these additional ingredients
1 tsp salt
1 pinch baking soda
1/2 cup soft butter
2-3 C white flour (add slowly and only as needed)
1 cup golden raisins
1 – 2 tablespoon anise seed
2 -3 tablespoons pine nuts
Turn dough onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Place in a lightly buttered bowl; turn once so all sides of dough are lightly buttered. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm place until double. (note – because Montana is cold in the winter, our house is never truly ‘warm’. I will set my dough in a ceramic bowl, covered with plastic wrap, over a pot with warm water. This helps with rising).
Punch down dough; divide in half. Shape each half into round, slightly flat. We use ‘bread baskets’ for our specialty breads during the second rise, before we turn them out onto our ceramic baking tile.
You can also put each round on a baking sheet, or ceramic tile. Cut a cross in the middle. Let rise until double again.
Heat oven to 325.
Bake 35-45 minutes.
Amazing with our pot roast, and a french rose wine for Christmas dinner.
Sliced, toasted, and buttered for breakfast… with hot black coffee! This has to be my favorite Christmas day treat ever!
Happy Holidays to you and yours! Nancy