We make pickled Herring every year for the holiday, which is part of our traditional Christmas food. Actually, my husband makes pickled herring every year. I eat a few bites, just for the tradition. But a lot of people love the Christmas herring and it is a natural part of the Christmas breakfast table – or lunch. We eat the herring with bread as an open sandwich, and the bread needs to be of a certain consistency, thinly sliced.
I’ve found the perfect recipe in Wenche Frølich’s terrific bread book. This bread is made with coffee as bread liquid, and contains dark sirup and rye. And it is listed as a “bread for the herring.” Imagine that – Herring and coffee. Who would think of that as a perfect match.
The bread is dark, slightly sweet, slightly dense but not heavy – and truly delicious. It keeps well, and handles freezing very well. One of my loafs went into the freezer as soon as it cooled down. Even my 3 year old son likes this bread, with peanut butter preferably.
It takes a couple of days to make this bread – but it is worth the effort. The timing doesn’t need to be exact. And you can easily leave the starter in the fridge for up to 3 days before completing the bread.
Coffee Bread (2 loafs)
1/4 cup (60 g) flax seeds
1 3/4 cup (4 dl) rye flour
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 1/4 cup (3 dl ) warm coffee
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the coffee to make a thick porridge.
- Cover the bowl with plastic and leave in room temperature until cold (or the next day). Put it in the fridge once cool if you need to wait a few days before baking.
The starter from step 1
1 1/4 cup (3 dl) water
2 cups (5 dl) rye flour
1 1/2 tsp (30 g) yeast
3/4 cup (1 1/2 dl) dark sirup
1 -1 1/2 tbsp (25 g ) salt
3 – 4 cups (7-8 dl) regular wheat flour
- Mix the starter with water, rye flour and yeast and work it in a kitchen machine for about 10 minutes (or twice as long by hand). Then let the dough rest for 1 hour.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and work the dough for another 10 minutes in the machine. Let it rest again for at least 1 hour.
- Split the sticky dough and place into two greased bread tins (regular size) and leave to rise for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours in the tins.
- For baking, place a sheet of baking paper on top of the bread and cover with a baking tray, to force the bread to keep the shape. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 1 – 1 1/2 hour.
- Cool on a rack, but wrap the bread in a kitchen towel while cooling down. Leave another day before cutting. (Freeze when cool)
I must admit I let the dough rest much more than 1 hour between each step, as I had other things to do in between. The dough started rising, but that’s fine, it just needed to be worked down a bit for the next step. I ended up kneading by hand a bit before placing the bread in the tins as well, because I had left the dough to rest for a few hours.
The rising time in the tin is from the original recipe – mine took a lot longer. The recipe is based on Norwegian fresh yeast which tends to be more efficient than the Active Dry Yeast I use here in Florida. Usually I go by “approximately double in size” when I consider the rising time done.
I get haunted every year by the guilt of Christmas – but I still love this holiday more than any other holiday of the year. I love the traditions, the way the family gets together to enjoy traditional food, how everyone makes the extra effort to bring joy and appreciation to the party. I love the smells of Christmas, the music, the darkness, the efforts and preparations. And I’m still childish enough to enjoy the presents.
But the guilt triggers a lot of contemplating every year. I feel disgusted about consumer orgies in the stores, even though I participate. A lot of people can’t even afford the food for the holiday. I feel guilty for being privileged and happy during this holiday, knowing that a lot of people don’t have anybody to celebrate with. I know that those who already struggle suffer even more during this holiday.
While Thanksgiving is about gratefulness, one could say Christmas is about generosity. There are plenty of charity programs to contribute to or sign up for – and I try to add my contribution every year, which helps toning down my feeling of guilt but it is not going to change anything or excuse the consumer bonanza.
Yet I usually end up concluding to myself: My most important task is to reach out to my family, my children and the people I care about – to do my best to take care of them, make them feel loved and pass on good values.
The guilty feeling serves as an important reminder of all the great things to be thankful for and happy about, and a reminder of how important it is to sometimes go beyond yourself to help somebody else, even people you don’t know. If you can make a difference for somebody, place a positive impact in the life for one other person, it is worth more than all the presents under the Christmas tree.
There are values in tradition. There are values in repeating procedures and preparing the same food every year. It is part of establishing memories, maintaining culture and building identity. Woo – that sounds pretentious … yet every little piece adds to the big picture.
Here’s to sharing something valuable with somebody you don’t know. Make it a tradition … And enjoy the Christmas preparations.
I'm Currently living in Florida, USA, but I'm Norwegian born and bred. At the moment I enjoy baking bread and blogging about it. I enjoy blogging in general, because I like writing. But I'm trained as an illustrator, originally ... in England. One day I'll write a book. About bread. And illustrate it myself. Maybe. Life will see.