It's not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells what kind of a life you have lived.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day Two of the Twelve Days of Christmas

What do you know about candy canes? There are many stories and "legends" out there about this simple little candy, but most of them evolved after the candy cane came into use. One story has it that a candy maker in Indiana made the cane to represent Jesus. The stripes represent the beating He took, the red for His blood, the three small red stripes for the Trinity, etc., etc. One story has it dating back to early Christians and being a secret symbol by which they recognized each other. The truth is that the candy cane didn't come into being until at least the latter part of the 17th century, by which time most of Europe was already Christian! And as for the Indiana candy maker, candy canes were around long before there WAS an Indiana, and they were originally all white. The stripes didn't get their color until the beginning of the 20th century.

The story I like the best is only part fact and part fiction, but I still like it. It says that a priest in Cologne Cathedral about 1670 invented the candy cane to help keep the little children in the live nativity quiet through the evening. Now, we know he didn't "invent" it, but he probably did have the canes made in the shape of the shepherd's crook to entertain the children. It was still all white, though.

The candy was originally straight, too. It was made as a decoration for the Christmas tree soon after Europeans adopted the custom of having Christmas trees in their homes. The bent shape made it easier to hang on the tree, too. Christmas cards from before 1900 show all white canes, and those printed in the early 20th century show stripes on them.

Whichever story you subscribe to, the candy cane is a great thing! It represents the embodiment of the season, because you see them everywhere, whether in a secular setting such as with a department store Santa, or in a religious context, representing Christ as the good shepherd who saved us all. (If you turn it upside down, it's a "J" for Jesus, too!) I love candy canes, so today's project is two candy cane recipes. One for the actual candy, and one for a scrumptious bread in the shape of a candy cane. Take your pick.

Mom's Recipe For Candy Canes
3 c Sugar

1 ts Peppermint flavoring
1/2 c Water
3/4 c Lt. corn syrup
3/4 ts Red food coloring
1/4 ts Cream of tartar
Combine the sugar, water, syrup, and cream of tartar in a large sauce pan and heat till the sugar is dissolved well. Divide equally into two saucepans, and bring to a boil, but DON'T stir until each is 280 degrees. Add 1/2 tsp. peppermint to each pan and add the coloring to one, leaving the other plain. Pour onto an enamel or marble table to cool. Oil the table first, so the candy won't stick. Now, like taffy, you have to stretch and pull the candy and form it it into ropes of red and white. Put one rope of each color together and twist them around each other to form your candy canes. Leave them on the oiled surface to harden. Voila! You have real candy canes. Give them to your family and friends (and don't forget the neighbors)
, with a little card attached sharing the story you like the best about it's origins or meanings.

Now for recipe number two. This is a candy cane coffee cake that is really yummy. I got the recipe from "A Taste of Home" magazine.

Candy Cane Coffee Cake
1 TBS active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS confectioner's sugar
1 jar (12 oz.) cherry jam

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture and flour. Beat until smooth, but do not knead. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top, and cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the filling, mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Now punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll out each half out into a rectangle16"x10" and place on a baking sheet. On each long side, cut 1 1/2" wide strips about 3" into the center. This will leave about 4" in the middle uncut. Spread the filling down the center of each rectangle, and starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling. (I hope you can see from the picture what this is supposed to look like.) Pinch ends to seal and curve one end, forming a candy cane. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully remove from baking sheets to wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Stir the jam and then spoon over the tops of the loaves, creating stripes. (Be sure to refrigerate your leftovers because of the eggs.) Do the same as above, with a little card telling the story you like best.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, kwwping watch over their focks by night." Luke 2:8

Remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are not about how much you can give, but about spending time with your family and loved ones, doing good and enjoying each other's company. Here is a quote from Mother Theresa, who showed the whole world how to treat one another. "Spread love everywhere you go...let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier." 'Night, Gramma G.

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