He is risen!
The celebration of Easter is truly the high point of the year. Christmas may be “bigger” in terms of traditions and feelings not actually related to the original holiday (it also makes me more homesick), and you couldn’t have Easter if you didn’t have Christmas first, but still, Easter … well, it’s the ultimate expression of the Creator’s love,the pivotal moment in a plan of thousands of years, the truth behind so many human myths and fairy tales, the answer and fulfillment of every search and longing.
And, if it has several orders less music, what it does have rocks the house!
To find out the back-story of Easter, please read one of the four books of “Good News” by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Or ask me or someone at your local ch’rch!
And, in more-easily-post-able-from-China news, here’s the run-down on the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this particular year’s celebration of Easter for me.
Any occasion can be an excuse for me to bake something. Even non-occasions, like something I don’t feel like doing (yes, I have been known to procrastinate by baking) or time that miraculously doesn’t have anything to procrastinate, may be celebrated by mixing things up in the kitchen. But Christmas and Easter are the two with traditional recipes to pull out. For instance, this was my fourth year – every year since I came to China – making Swedish Coffee Bread, a recipe I kinda hope is really from Sweden since that’s where some of my dad’s side of the family is from, but which I would continue to make even if it turned out to be an American concoction. The recipe has been in the family for decades, in any case! I made two batches this year so I could have more of it to myself, since it usually disappears at fellowship Easter morning. Recipe at the end of this post.
Mmm, the smell of the cardamom and cinnamon and yeast scream out “Easter!” to me. (Baking with yeast for Easter (the real even of which Passover is merely a shadow) is probably as fitting as having ham for Easter dinner, come to think of it. I’ve never been able to decide whether eating pork for Easter – the holiday that makes us part of Abraham’s descendants – celebrates freedom from the Law or is just kind of oddly ironic.)
Together with the sight and smell of these lovely lilies, the air is overwhelmed with “Easter” scents!
And the tang of vinegar in the air ushered in egg-dying time. I just did a couple this year; this is my blown-out-egg collection from my years here (the one the says “Luxy” was dyed by and belongs to young Lucy). My students all got to dyes eggs – hard-boiled for the young ones, while the older students blew out their own egg shells before holding them under the dyes.
I also baked hot cross buns for the third year in a row, from the Cooking For Engineers website (but he got the recipe from elsewhere, I believe). Somehow I didn’t get any photos this year, and can’t find any from previous years, but if any surface I shall endeavor to post them here. I think I may try a new recipe next year. They’re incredibly light and puffy (a good contrast to the dense coffee bread) and nicely sweet and fruity and spice-y, but they dry out like nobody’s business as soon as they’re cool, which makes for not-so-great eating on Easter morning if you made them much ahead of time. Making the glaze out of powdered sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice sure gives it a great topping, though!
And, while I was waiting for other things to rise and because I had some cider concentrate in the fridge waiting to be useful, I made some Apple Cider Doughnuts, from a recipe I clipped from the paper somewhere, sometime. They were kinda good, but because I wasn’t about to use six cups of my precious canola-olive oil to deep fry them in, I baked them instead, which was kinda weird. Almost like too-sweet apple-cinnamon bagels. (I tried boiling a couple too, after thinking of the bagel comparison. Uh-uh. Chewy and ugly.)
The sounds of Easter were arranged by me this time. I volunteered to put together the music for fellowship, and after a long Saturday afternoon of browsing You Tube (my not-so-secret source for songs I don’t have on CD), digging through my papers for the copies of favorite hymns from my mom’s hymnal, making sure the modern lyrics I pulled off the internet matched the recordings, and arranging it all to print/copy, here’s what the playlist looked like:
Lamb of G. (Hillsong)
Lamb of G. (Twila Paris)
Up From the Grave He Arose (hymn)
Chr’st Arose (hymn)
L0rd, I Lift Your Name on High
I ran off ten copies of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from my full “M’ssiah” score, “just in case” – I wanted to sing it but wasn’t sure everyone else would agree. When we got to the end of the songs above, the mood seemed right, so I passed them around, and off we went, with the MP3 turned up loud and voices ringing out best we could. It was glorious even though some of us kept getting lost. (Honestly, after all these years of singing it at the end of the Christmas sing-alongs, I still get lost at a couple of the parts where all four voices go in different directions on different beats). What a perfect sound to end with on Easter!
One last Easter sight:
Hallelujah, He is risen indeed!
Recipe for Swedish Coffee Bread
I got it from my mother; I think she got it from my dad’s mother. Beyond that, I don’t know the source.
Scald 2 cups milk (don’t boil it). Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt. Cool (around 10-15 minutes).
Dissolve 1 pkg yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.
Add yeast to cooled milk in mixing bowl.
Add 4 cups flour. Mix and let rise around 2-4 hours.
Add 1/2 cup melted butter, 8 fine-rolled cardamom seeds (1 1/4 tsp powdered), and flour enough to be able to knead (2 1/2 cups or so). Dough should be softer than regular bread.
Let rise (around 2 hours). Punch down.
Roll out into 9 rolls and 1 loaf twisted bread.
Rolls: Take a chunk and roll it into a medium-length rope. Wind it up into a roll and place it into a square baking dish. Brush with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake around 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
Loaf: Roll out into a rectangle. Spread with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll it up lengthwise. Place it on a baking sheet, seam side down. Cut the top with slits about 1″ apart. Pull the sections in opposite directions. Bake around 20 minutes, also 375 degrees.