Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gingerbread Tool Box for St. Joseph the Worker

We’ve never made a gingerbread house in our home at Christmastime, despite the fact that doing so is very appealing to my children. Maybe that’s because we do so much else in the buildup toward Christmas that [I’m overwhelmed by the mess and the expense and the potential for disaster] it’s easy to overlook.

But in this quiet time after Easter, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Especially when – to my little boys’ delight – the theme is not feminine swirls of icing on a pretty little house, but TOOLS!

The use of a traditional Christmas recipe like gingerbread to commemorate this feast strikes me as especially appropriate, given St. Joseph’s significant role in the Christmas story. I also like having this tasty design as our centerpiece at this point in our history – given our uncertain economy right now, a reminder to pray especially for those in need of work (as well as for continued stability those who are fortunate to maintain their jobs) seems fitting. Who better a patron for these times than St. Joseph the Worker, after all?

I found a website describing the general process for designing a house, using posterboard as a template. If your template can be lightly taped together and stay standing, the author suggested, it’s a good bet your gingerbread structure will hold up, too.

Armed with that encouragement, I grabbed a piece of old posterboard from behind a cabinet – helpfully imprinted with ½” grid – and set to work on a simple divided box design.

It held!

“Boys,“ said I, “We’re gonna make us some gingerbread!” :)

There are many steps involved in making a gingerbread structure, and, given that I would be doing this with my children, I found it was easier to spread the activity out over several days:
  • one for designing and testing the template
  • one for mixing up the dough and baking (I was really surprised to discover how long the slabs needed to be baked!)
  • and one for assembly and decorating.

Even if I were doing this entirely by myself, I can imagine getting pretty tired of the whole thing long before it was done, were I to go for an all-day marathon session. We started this on Monday, and finished today (Wednesday). Your temperament (and attention span) may vary.

Step One: Design

I just drafted a decent-sized box and set of tools, and went with it. If I had to do it over again, I would’ve cut my poster board first into pieces that fit onto my 14x18” and 9x12” cookie sheets, and scaled my pieces more efficiently from there. There really isn’t any reason for the size I went with (12”l, 8”w, 4”h), except that I think I had a large cereal box in mind as I drew, and those numbers work well with a ruler and a grid. The finished piece is pretty much “life-sized.”

For the tools, I used a bit of clipart found in my Excel program for inspiration, and eyeballed them to scale for the box. The saw, at 5x15”, is the largest.

We laid the template pieces flat out on the table, bottom edges touching, and “basted” them with a couple small strips of tape. Next, I set the handle insert in the middle, and lightly taped it to the bottom. Finally, I lifted the sides up into their box shape, taped the upper corners and secured the handle piece to the sides. I set the tool templates into the box to see if I liked the overall scale before continuing, too.

Of course, you can make any structure, with any theme, so long as your basic shape holds when you tape your template together! Box-based shapes are, of course, the easiest to work with.

Step Two: Dough Slabs

This recipe (which follows) makes 9 cups of dough, which is enough for two and a half 12x16” slabs of unbaked dough, ¼” thick (just enough to make the tool box and tools proportioned as I have here). For planning purposes, you may be interested to know that it uses most of a 12 oz jar of molasses, at least a pound of brown sugar, nearly half of a 5 lb bag of flour, and 3/4 of a pint of heavy cream.

With this recipe, you par-bake the dough for 30 minutes at 275 degrees F, then remove it from the oven to trace out and separate the pieces with a sharp knife (a pizza cutter is handy for the long, straight box lines). The dough is then baked for an additional 75 minutes (total baking time: 1 hr, 45 minutes).

Here is the Recipe (by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone for

  • 1-1/2 c whipping cream
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2-1/2 c firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 2 T baking soda
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1-1/3 c molasses
  • 9 c all-purpose flour

Line 12x15” rimless baking sheets with parchment, and preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Whip cream and vanilla together until soft peaks form; set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, baking soda, ginger & cinnamon. Add to the whipped cream, along with molasses, until well-combined.

With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour, beating until completely mixed. (This turned out to be a little too much for my little beaters, and I stirred in the last cup or so of flour by hand.)

Of course, I had helpers.

I then rolled out the dough directly on the parchment-lined pan, after first giving the parchment a good sprinkling of flour. Place a little less than half of the dough on the parchment and flatten slightly; sprinkle with a little flour and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap to make it easier for the kids to succeed in rolling (I love doing this for myself, too). Because most of my pieces were rectangles, I added dough as necessary to fill the pan as we rolled, and squared up the slab edges with a pizza cutter before baking. I also used two ¼” dowels and an extra-long rolling pin to help maintain an even thickness.

Bake as described above – don’t forget to cut out the individual pieces using your template and a sharp knife after 30 minutes of baking! After cutting, the pieces should be loosened and separated, and extra dough removed (for grateful snacking by same crew) before returning to the oven for additional 75 minutes of baking.

Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling. The resulting shapes will be very solid and hard, and fairly easy for the novice to work with. (Thinner pieces would probably look nicer, but in the end, the thicker ones were, I think, pretty forgiving.) All three of my children found the cookies to be irresistible, and the house smelled like Christmas!

The original recipe has alternate temperatures and baking times for slabs of varying thicknesses, as well as many baking and decorating tips.


Good news on the construction front: Icing covereth a multitude of sins.

Despite my best efforts to keep my pieces square, the resulting baked pieces weren’t. In the end, it really didn’t matter, though: Thickly-applied Royal Icing makes a superb “construction cement” and dries rock-hard. I was even able to successfully repair our Carpenter's Square cookie, which my excited 3 yo dropped on the table. The only real construction challenge in my particular design was getting the center piece, which turned out to be slightly too long, to fit: I chiseled a 1/2” wide channel in one end piece, and shaved the edge of the handle piece as well, using a serrated steak knife and the bottom handle of a metal toddler spoon, until I was satisfied with the fit.

Any Royal Icing recipe will probably do, but I had success using Wilton’s Meringue Powder (available anywhere cake decorating supplies are sold). Whip together the following at high speed, until stiff peaks form:

  • 3T meringue powder
  • 6T water
  • 1 pound (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar.

I am a stickler for not letting my kids eat raw eggs. The risk probably isn't that great, but I don't like to worry about such things, and using the powder eliminates that concern.

I used brown food coloring gel to tint a small amount (less than a cup) of the icing. The resulting shade was more or less the color of peanut butter, but I thought it looked better than stark white, since we weren’t going for a winter scene here.

To assemble the tool box, I loaded about ½ cup at a time into a quart-size plastic bag, then snipped off one corner. I squeezed a thick bead of caulk --er, frosting along the edge about to be cemented, and after setting the piece, ran a finger along the bead to smooth out the joint. I attached the two long side pieces to the bottom piece first, and was impressed with how little support was needed to keep the pieces square – though I did set a thick book next to each side, just in case. I also gave these first two pieces about 15 minutes to set before adding next one short side, then the middle handle piece. The chiseling of the final side was the only adjusting needed, and the sturdy piece was then left to dry, unsupported, overnight.

The result is a very heavy, rustic-looking, not-ready-for-Food Network tool box. :)

After that, the only thing left to do is ….


There are no rules here, of course – you go to town with whatever appeals to you and your kids!

We experimented with trying to make a wood grain appearance on the outside of the box. I settled for a simple glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ c milk – skim, to keep it from being too white, and to ensure it will dry completely

We glazed the entire box and let it dry; then I tinted more glaze with a whole lot of brown gel (as dark as I could get it) and painted lightly over the white glaze with a couple different kinds of brushes (sterilized 1/2” easel brush and a silicone pastry brush, mostly).

I had planned to let the kids decorate to their hearts’ content using leftover Easter candies; however, you can’t do much with marshmallow peeps. :) Anyway, once the "wood grain" dried, it looked so nice I thought adding more would be overkill. So, instead, we just opened up 8 Hershey Kisses, and used brown-tinted frosting to "glue" them on the long faces of the box as if they were screws. Ta-daah!

The rest of the Royal Icing was tinted in cheerful shades of red, yellow, green and a very pale blue, with some left white; this was used to paint the tool set.

When everything was dry, we put it all together to honor good St. Joseph. At my 5 yo son's insistence, we put out a toy set for young Jesus to play with alongside his Foster Daddy --because every little boy knows how important that is! (As he put the toys together, he was heard to say, "Oh, Baby Jesus will love this!") :)

St. Joseph the Worker, Pray for Us!

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St. Joseph Raspberry Cream Cupcakes

If you’re only going to celebrate a few feast days a year, St. Joseph’s day is certainly one to keep on the calendar. With so many saints to laud, it’s hard to keep up, but twice a year St. Joe appears on liturgical calendar and his special day is one to celebrate! On May 1, we remember him on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He is one saint whose profession everyone remembers – St. Joseph the carpenter. According to Catholic Culture, May Day has always been dedicated to workers, and, appropriately this feast day falls on the first day of Mary’s month! “Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that this feast would accentuate the dignity of labor and would bring a spiritual dimension to labor unions. It is eminently fitting that St. Joseph, a working man who became the foster-father of Christ and patron of the universal Church, should be honored on this day.”

Last year on one of Joseph’s feast days, I created this dessert for the first time. If I remember correctly, it came from the Food Network – a Giada De Laurentiis recipe originally. But I modified it a bit and the recipe below is what I’ve settled with. It’s a modified cream puff of sorts – a traditional St. Joseph dish. It also requires a little bit of construction, which is most appropriate for this saint. Ultimately though, it’s simple (with the help of a boxed cake mix) and delicious, but looks very special served on your best china for this great saint’s celebration.

St. Joseph Raspberry Cream Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
3 large eggs whites
2 T. butter, melted
2 t. vanilla extract
2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting

Line 24 muffin cups with muffin papers.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

With an electric mixer, beat the cake mix, water, egg whites,
melted butter, and vanilla extract in a large bowl for 2 minutes.
Fill muffin cups about half full
(I find it easiest to do this with an ice cream scoop).

Bake the cupcakes until they are very pale golden on top,
about 15 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool the cupcakes completely.

Drain thawed raspberries.
Beat the cream and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
in a large bowl until firm peaks form.
Fold the raspberries into the whipped cream.

Remove the muffin papers from the cupcakes and cut each cupcake in half.
Spoon the raspberry whipped cream onto the cupcake bottoms.
Place the cupcake tops on the cupcakes.
Dust with more powdered sugar and serve with a squirt of whipped cream, if desired.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cry 'God for Harry, England and St. George!'

St. George's feast day is April 23rd. St. George is the patron saint of England (and tomorrow marks its National Day) but also of other regions and countries such as Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia; Portugal, Cyprus, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia. Wikipedia shares the vast popularity of this saint.

There are already some great ideas for St. George from last year, one post marking my one year anniversary writing for Catholic Cuisine (thank you, Jessica).

William Shakespeare's birthday is also celebrated on this day, April 23. His famous and often quoted 'Battle of Agincourt' speech includes the rally call by Henry V: Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge, Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George!'" (Henry V, Act Three, Scene 1).

I thought I'd share these fun links for more English observation of St George's Day:

BBC Good Food: St. George's Day Recipes

How To...Celebrate St George's Day. This is a wonderful .pdf file with information, recipes, and crafts.

Although in the back of my mind I knew St. George's feast day was tomorrow, I hadn't really put together some firm ideas for my son and I to celebrate. We have lots of other busy plans, but we definitely need to fit in one of his favorite soldier saints. I know once we start talking and reading about St. George, some Playmobil knights are going to action!

Enjoy remembering the Bard and St. George! Pin It

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday, one week after Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy image is one that is full of powerful symbolism of Our Lord's great mercy.

An explanation of the image of Divine Mercy (from Catholic Culture) :

Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina with rays of red and pale light streaming from the area around His heart. His right hand was raised in blessing, recalling the scene of Easter Sunday night (see Jn 20: 19-23).

He asked Blessed Faustina to have this vision painted signed with the words, Jesus, I trust in You!

I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: "Jesus, I trust in you. (Diary, 327).

Jesus explained that the rays represented the blood and water which flowed from His pierced side, and He taught Saint Faustina the prayer:

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You (Diary, 84).

The image could be used to recall His mercy for us in the feast day meal celebrations. I had a couple different ideas I wanted to share. One idea is to incorporate the colors, so symbolic in the image, into a Divine Sunday meal - red and white. Jessica shares her menu from last year - pasta with red sauce, white grape/cranberry juice, and rolls, with Strawberry Shortcake for dessert! A perfectly colorful feast.

My twist on the strawberry shortcake idea is to arrange it like divergent rays as seen on the image.

I also thought the image would make a great decorated cake for dessert. Because the rays are so promiment and meaningful in the image, there are some ideas for making them stand out. My original idea was to make a full sized sheet cake and layer a printed image of the Divine Mercy on it. It could be done with regular paper and removed for cutting and eating (like Anne did for her creative scapular cake) or if you have the availablity of a bakery that will produce an edible image from a picture (or time to order one) go that route. After the image is on the cake I would add rays of colored frosting radiating from the heart in the image - either piped on or spread flat. You could use red and white or red and pale blue since that is how it appears in many images. That pale water color could go either way.

After seeing Jessica's festive Pope Cakes Thursday, I thought of another cake modification which probably is much easier to pull off - and that is Divine Mercy cupcakes with printed images inserted in the back of the cupcake. Then pipe or spread frosting in desired ray colors from the paper image forward.

And remember, these treat ideas (shortcake, cupcakes) could also be used for an afternoon tea any day of the week following the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the hour of Divine Mercy.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pope Benedict's Coat of Arms Cupcakes

Early this afternoon, I was trying to think of an easy treat to make my children today in honor of our beloved Holy Father's birthday. At first I thought I'd make something along the lines of Margaret's "Popecakes," but then I thought how easy it would be just to print out his Coat of Arms and make cupcake picks!

Ideally I would have liked to bake either White or Red Velvet Cupcakes, but I was sticking to what I had in the cupboard, so Chocolate Fudge it was.

For the frosting I made a Cream Cheese frosting (1 pkg cream cheese, 1/4 cup softened butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla) and added some yellow food coloring to make it "gold."

I used this image (re-sized to 1 3/4") and printed 12 per page leaving room to fold the paper over the toothpick and glue together. I then trimmed the edges.

They were very simple to make, and despite not having white or red cake mix, I thought they turned out pretty cute!

Happy Birthday, Holy Father!!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

A Simple Lamb Cake for Easter

I have always wanted to bake a lamb shaped cake (like Jenn's!) for Easter. However, every year I forget to order a cake mold until it is too late. (I've never had any luck finding one locally either...)

Well, the other day, I ran across these directions online, for this fairly simple Lamb shaped cake, which doesn't require a mold! Isn't it cute?!? It reminds me of the Lamb Cupcakes we've made a few times.

Lamb Cake
Recipe and Picture from Family Fun

  • 1 baked dome cake (baked in a 1-liter bowl, such as Pyrex)
  • 1 baked 9" round cake
  • 3 baked cupcakes
  • 2 to 3 cups white icing
  • 1 cup chocolate icing
  • 3-1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2 Jujyfruit candies (eyes)
  • 1 nonpareil (nose)
  • Red shoestring licorice (mouth)


1. For the basic shape, set a dome cake upside down in the center of a round cake and secure with icing.

2. Cut one cupcake in half and place it for the ears, then arrange two more cupcakes as legs.

3. Frost the cakes (except for a triangular face area), the outsides of the ears, and the top halves of the hooves with the white icing, then cover with mini marshmallows.

4. Use a pastry bag (or a plastic bag with one corner cut off) to pipe small dollops of chocolate icing onto the face, bottom halves of the hooves, and centers of the ears. Decorate as shown.

Here's another idea for decorating an Easter Cake:

The other night, when I was out running a few errands, I noticed these cute little white chocolate lambs at Target, and thought the larger one might look darling sitting on top of a round cake, with a chocolate Cross! It would be very easy to make, and I think my children would love it. We'll see! Pin It

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Festive Easter Breads and Cheese: Paska and Pascha

ETA 2013: See my updates for Paska and Pascha.

Since my family has no dominant ethnic heritage, I love to dig up cookbooks and be inspired by different cultural traditions for feast days. Florence Berger echoes my thoughts:
Being American Catholic, we can choose the best of the cultures of all the nations of the world and make them ours in Christ. We can call the songs, the stories, the dances and the foods of all peoples our own because in our American heritage there is blood and bone and spirit of these different men and women. If America is a melting pot, it can also be a cooking pot from which we women can serve up a Christian culture. (Cooking for Christ, NCRLC, 1949)
My favorite area is through festive breads (although I confess I haven't been as adventurous since my son was diagnosed with food allergies). My interest in Ukrainian psyanky (and Polish pisanki) made me interested also in the Ukrainian and Polish foods used to celebrate Easter.

One year I made this very simple Paska, Ukrainian Easter Bread from The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler (1982). It's festive, but not heavy, and a perfect accompaniment to the sweet Easter cheese mold. This is usually included in the Easter Baskets brought to church for a blessing (also the Roman Ritual). I simply used a Corning Ware 1-1/2 quart round covered French White Casserole without the lid and it worked out fine (use what you have!).

Paska (Ukrainian Easter Bread)

1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup golden raisins (I used more, up to one cup)
1/2 cup milk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
melted butter, if desired

Beat egg and egg yolk until fluffy and light. Add 2 cups flour, sugar, salt yeast, lemon peel, orange peel, vanilla and raisins. Mix thoroughly.

Heat milk and butter to hot (120 to 130 degrees F). Add to flour mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth -- about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double -- about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Set aside a little of the dough to be used as decoration on top for the loaf. Shape the rest into a ball.

Place in greased cake pan 3 inches deep and 6 inches across or 1 quart souffle dish. Make cross of remaining piece of dough; place on top of loaf.

Cover; let rise in warm place until double -- about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 45-60 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. While still warm, brush with melted butter if desired.

The decorations on top of the loaf are very individual, and can be ornate. These hints from Ukrainian Easter by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn are extremely helpful. I did a simple cross and made an Alpha and Omega on either side of the cross, reminiscent of the Paschal Candle decorations.

We enjoyed spreading the Easter Cheese Mold on the bread. At first I was a bit confused, as the name for the dessert cheese is Pascha (or Pashka), very close to the Ukrainian name for the bread. And "Pascha" is the Orthodox name for Easter. Once I got the names sorted out, I was convinced I had to try the cheese. I didn't have an "official" mold, so used the clean clay unglazed flowerpot as per A Continual Feast's directions. Be sure to make ahead (today or tomorrow). I omitted the candied fruit. My cheese did not mold (it didn't drain), so I ended up serving from the flowerpot. It was still delicious.


This is an absolutely beautiful and delicious dish; versions are prepared in Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, and Latvia. It is made in a tall mold (or flower pot), then turned out onto a large platter and decorated. Cool and rich, it tastes like a cross between ice cream and cheesecake. It goes wonderfully with the sweet Easter breads, such as Kulich, or with the various Easter cakes.

1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 pounds farmer cheese (see comments)
1/2 pound sweet butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fruit: raisins and/ or dried currants, mixed candied fruit peel
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange or lemon rind
For decorating:
Candied fruit peel, maraschino cherries, or nuts
Fresh strawberries to place around the base and on top

Beat the egg and the yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour into a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of the cream.

Heat over medium-low heat, beating constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not boil. Remove the pan from the heat and continue beating until the mixture has cooled to lukewarm.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, butter, the other 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla. Cream until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg mixture, then the fruits, almonds, and orange or lemon rind. Blend thoroughly.

Line a flower pot or Pascha mold with 2 thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the pot over a bowl (to catch liquid), and pour the Pascha mixture into the pot. Put a layer or two of cheesecloth over the top, set a plate on it and something heavy on the plate. (The purpose is to press the extra liquid out of the Pascha and into the bowl below.) Chill overnight or for a day or two.

Remove the top cheesecloth. Unmold the Pascha onto a large platter, and remove the rest of the cheesecloth.

Decorate the Pascha with the candied fruit peel or maraschino cherries or nuts to form the letters XB or CR (Christ is risen) on one side, and on the other side a cross. You may use the Western cross form or the Orthodox cross, or any other cross design that you prefer. In Russia, Pascha is often decorated with an angel and a lily, as well as the cross.

Around the base and on top of the Pascha, place fresh strawberries. Serve chilled.

Yield: 14 to 16 servings
From A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz

The best part after making these goodies, was arranging the Easter basket for a blessing at our parish by the pastor. I included our Easter eggs, pysanky, ham, wine, butter lamb, paska and pashka. I loved seeing all elaborate cloths and baskets and beautiful breads and goodies, and it inspired me to do more the next year.

Pictures from and . Pin It

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hot Cross Buns - A History

This is really meant as a follow-up post to Jessica's great sharing and recipe on the hot cross bun.

Many wonder about the use of icing on the bun - and I did too, particularly icing on Good Friday. It doesn't seem to make sense. I decided to look up a little more information and history on the tradition and custom of the Hot Cross Buns.

From Father Francis Weiser in Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (emphasis mine):
"It was a universal custom (and still is in Catholic countries) to mark a new loaf of break with the sign of the cross before cutting it, in order to bless it and thank God for it. On special occasions the cross was imprinted on the loaf before baking, as on the Christmas loaves in southern France and in Greece, the Kreuzstollen (cross loaf) in Germany, the cross bread of Mid-Lent among the Slavs. On Good Friday, loaves bearing an imprinted cross (Karfreitaglaib) are eaten in Austria. In England, from the end of the fourteenth century, buns were baked with a cross marked on them. They are said to have originated at Saint Alban's Abbey in 1361, where the monks distributed them to the poor. Whatever their origin, these "hot cross buns" became a famous Good Friday feature in England and Ireland, and later in this country. They were made of spiced dough, round in shape, with a cross made of icing on the top. In recent times these cross buns are sold not only on Good Friday but all through Lent."

I find it difficult to believe that devout Christians of the time, those in Ireland who often observed a Black Fast (taking only water or tea during the day) on Good Friday, would break the fast to eat a bun with icing. But, I could be wrong. It seems more plausible that the hot cross bun would be marked with the cross before baking as those from Saint Alban's Abbey were.

Interestingly, an entry at the Food Timeline seems to suggest that the cross was originally scored in the top of the bun with a knife and that the pastry or icing cross was a modern decorative feature as Jessica alluded to.

Many quibble over the date of their origin - they are first mentioned by name as "hot cross buns" in Poor Robin's Amanack in 1773. Most agree that they predate this mention. They are popular in Tudor days, as there are specific mentions of them being permitted to be baked under certain conditions by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. But, perhaps most fascinating is this mention taken from Sue Ellen Thompson's Holiday Symbols and Customs:
"When archaeologists excavated the ancient city of Herculaneum in southwestern Italy, which had been buried under volcanic ash and lava since 79 C.E., they found two small loaves, each with a cross on it, among the ruins."

An early hot cross bun?

And, if you're interested, Wikipedia has the entirety of the music based on the selling of the hot cross buns ( a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns...).

It is so interesting to dig into the rich history and traditions of our faith! Whether your hot cross buns are adorned with an icing cross, scored with a cross, or store bought, I pray your Good Friday is blessed with adoration and deep reflection of Our Lord's Passion and Crucifixion. Pin It


In my previous post, Holy Thursday in the Home, I mentioned the Czechoslovakian tradition of serving Judases on Holy Thursday:

On Green Thursday (Holy Thursday) the Czechoslovakians eat "Judases" and greens--a soup of green herbs followed by a green salad. Housewives busy themselves with the preparation of the Easter foods that will be consumed on the holy weekend. They say:
Soon will come Green Thursday
When we shall bake the Lamb;
We shall eat Judases farina
And three spoonfuls of honey.
"Judasas" are served with honey at breakfast in Czechoslovakia. These are breakfast cakes of twisted dough, made to look like rope, suggesting the fate of Judas the Betrayer, who "went and hanged himself" in remorse after he had identified Jesus to His enemies. Honey is considered a preventive against disaster (Easter the World Over by Priscilla Sawyer Lord and Daniel J. Foley, 1971, p. 58).
I had mentioned that I couldn't find a recipe, nor did I know the Czechoslovakian name. A reader, Michelle, was up for a challenge and found a recipe (and also thanks to P.J. for sending another one). After I found that they are called "Jidáše" (pronounced yi-dah-shay), I was able to find one other one. I've adapted the recipes below, fleshing out instructions and posting it here. I have to give warning that the recipe is "untested" and the conversions into American measurements in parentheses are my suggestions and not exact. I've shared a few photos to illustrate there are various interpretations on how to shape the "rope", so there's not one "correct" way to form the bread, so have fun!

And although the Czechoslovakian tradition is to serve them on Holy Thursday, in remembrance of Judas hanging himself, I think I would serve them the day before, today, on Spy Wednesday. It is known as Spy Wednesday because this is the day in the liturgy that Judas met with the high priests and made the bargain for his betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (Matt 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:1-6).

Recipe for Jidáše or Judases (Easter sweet rolls):

500 g of regular flour (4 cups)
250 ml of milk (1 cup)
30 g of yeast (1 oz)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 egg yolks
120 g of butter (8 Tbsp or 1/2 cup)
80 g of honey (1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk for egg wash, beaten with small amount of water
honey thinned with water for glaze

Prepare the leavening mixture using the milk, yeast and sugar. In a separate bowl, blend the butter, egg yolks and 80 grams of honey. Mix in the flour with the leavening mixture, then add the butter and egg mixture. Add grated lemon zest and salt. Leave the dough to rise for one hour. Then, cut strips and shape them into spirals (this shape is to remind us of the rope with which Judas hung himself). Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let rise. Preheat oven to 375°F, brush the jidáše with the egg wash. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 375°F or until golden brown. While still hot, glaze with honey.

See also this recipe for Judas Rope. (Images from and ) Pin It

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Thursday in the Home

In a few days we begin the holiest days of the year, the Sacred Triduum. In planning for Holy Week, my first thoughts go to menu planning. Is it good that I'll be doing extra things in the kitchen to prepare for Holy Week? Am I being more of a Martha than Mary and detracting from the feast? I watched Joanna Bogle's Feasts and Seasons on EWTN and she also mentioned something about being in the kitchen more during holydays such as Holy Week than the rest of the year. She had an opposite opinion and allayed my fears — spending the extra time making these treats for the holy days marks the time and food as special, unique. She said it more eloquently, but it made me feel more confident to continue.

Holy Thursday is marked with many food traditions. I'm sharing my Holy Thursday meal traditions, but also wanted to mention a few cultural ones from around the world.

Traditions of Holy Thursday

Father Francis X. Weiser, S.J., The Easter Book (1954) explains the popular names of Holy Thursday:
The second day of the celebration of Tenebrae bears the liturgical name "Thursday of the Lord's Supper" (Feria Quinta in Coena Domini). Of its many popular names the more generally known are:
  • Maundy Thursday (le mande; Thursday of the Mandatum) — The word Mandatum means "commandment." This name is taken from the first words sung at the ceremony of the washing of the feet, "A new commandment I give you" (John 13, 34); also from the commandment of Christ that we should imitate His loving humility in the washing of the feet (John 13, 14-17). Thus the term Mandatum (maundy) was applied to the rite of the feet-washing on this day.

  • Green Thursday — In all German-speaking countries people call Maundy Thursday by this name (Gründonnerstag). From Germany the term was adopted by the Slavic nations (zeleny ctvrtek) and in Hungary (zold csutortok). Scholars explain its origin from the old German word grunen (to mourn) which was later corrupted into grün (green). Another explanation is that in many places, before the thirteenth century, green vestments were used for the Mass that day.

  • Pure or Clean Thursday — This name emphasizes the ancient tradition that on Holy Thursday not only the souls were cleansed through the absolution of public sinners but the faithful in all countries also made it a great cleansing day of the body (washing, bathing, shaving, etc.) in preparation for Easter. Saint Augustine (430) mentioned this custom. The Old English name was "Shere Thursday" (meaning sheer, clean), and the Scandinavian, Skaer torsdag. (Because of the exertions and thoroughness of this cleansing in an age when bathing was not an everyday affair, the faithful were exempted from fasting on Maundy Thursday.)

  • Holy or Great Thursday — The meaning of this title is obvious since it is the one Thursday of the year on which the sacred events of Christ's Passion are celebrated. The English-speaking nations and the people of the Latin countries use the term "Holy," while the Slavic populations generally apply the title "Great." The Ukrainians call it also the "Thursday of the Passion." In the Greek Church it is called "The Holy and Great Thursday of the Mystic Supper."
In some Latin countries sugared almonds are eaten by everybody on Maundy Thursday. From this custom it bears the name "Almond Day" in the Azores. In central Europe the name "Green Thursday" inspired a tradition of eating green things. The main meal starts with a soup of green herbs, followed by a bowl of spinach with boiled or fried eggs, and meat with dishes of various green salads.

Easter the World Over by Priscilla Sawyer Lord and Daniel J. Foley (1971) mentions the Czechoslovakian traditions for Holy Thursday. I'm not sure if this is a Czech or a Slovak tradition:
On Green Thursday (Holy Thursday) the Czechoslovakians eat "Judases" and greens--a soup of green herbs followed by a green salad. Housewives busy themselves with the preparation of the Easter foods that will be consumed on the holy weekend. They say:
Soon will come Green Thursday
When we shall bake the Lamb;
We shall eat Judases farina
And three spoonfuls of honey.
"Judasas" are served with honey at breakfast in Czechoslovakia. These are breakfast cakes of twisted dough, made to look like rope, suggesting the fate of Judas the Betrayer, who "went and hanged himself" in remorse after he had identified Jesus to His enemies. Honey is considered a preventive against disaster (p. 58).
I have searched through all my books and on the Internet, and I cannot find any recipes for Judases in the English language and measurements. If I had the Czechoslovakian word perhaps I would have better luck. It has been mentioned as a bread, sometimes cake, but no recipe. Update 2015: I did find a few recipes, one which I posted here: Judases. Anna also shared a link to a recipe in the comments, Judas Rope.

Jennifer Mackintosh already mentioned the tradition of eating green for Green Thursday, including a wonderful recipe for Spinach Pie. Evelyn Vitz in A Continual Feast suggests a Seven-Herb Vichyssoise, and fish with a green herb butter, spinach, a mixed green salad, and green desserts such as Mint or Pistachio Ice Cream or Lime Sherbet. The custom of the green foods can be traced to the Jewish Passover meal with the bitter herbs, but also a health focus, as spring is arriving, and the green herbs provide a healthy spring cleansing. Since some people serve all green meals on St. Patrick's Day, that would be another place for inspiration for serving green foods.

Passover Meal

Since I was a young girl my family has gathered to celebrate a Holy Thursday meal. We never called it a Seder, although we have called it a Passover meal. The purpose was to remember Jesus' Last Supper, and to prepare the family for participation at the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper. I did try to learn more about the Jewish Seder meal, and over the years we would try to be more "authentic". But I have to say the men in my family were always a good barometer -- "Why are we doing this? We're not Jewish." They pointed out that we are Catholics trying to recall Jesus' last days, not trying to practice the Jewish faith. I found in my reading that the current Seder meal wasn't established until after 70 A.D., and many sources say not until 500 years after Christ's death. After prayerful consideration, why would we implement a ritual that was written after Christ that emphasizes awaiting the Messiah when He has already come? Wouldn't it make more sense to look back at the Old and New Testaments and imitate what Jesus the Messiah did at His Last Supper?

It was interesting to study, butI realized I wasn't sharing the night with Christ. I respect the Jewish religious ritual of a Seder meal, but not as something to implement in my home. I used the Old Testament and New Testaments as inspiration. Francis Fernandez (In Conversation With God, Volume 2) mentions that the Last Supper is "to be the last Jewish Passover and the first Passover in which her Son is both Priest and Victim" (p. 252). (See also The Hunt for the Fourth Cup by Dr. Scott Hahn.) I want to look forward to the Paschal Feast, which is the Mass, and particularly the Easter Vigil liturgy.

I found it so interesting that in Celebrating the Faith in the Home: Lent and Easter in the Christian Kitchen by Laurie Navar Gill and Terea Cepeda (printed by Emmanuel Books) that Mrs. Gill came to a similar conclusion:
The "Christian Seder" or Passover meal on Holy Thursday has become popular in some circles in the past few decades. I have attended such dinners and have even tried to put one on myself. I enjoyed learning more about the Jewish Passover traditions as Our Lord observed them -- the symbolic foods, the toasts, the questions and the beautiful Jewish blessing prayers.

Yet my own sense is that too closely to imitate a Jewish Passover rings falsely at my table. Our Holy Thursday menu does include some symbolic foods from the Passover meal. We read about both the Exodus of Jews and the story of the Last Supper, but we do not imitate the narrative and blessings from the Jewish observance.

Instead, we try to concentrate on the fulfillment of the Passover in Jesus. Through His blood, He has saved us from death. And in the Holy Eucharist, He feeds us with His own flesh and blood. The high point of our Holy Thursday observance is our participation in the true carrying on of that last Passover meal. No re-enactment around our table, no matter how authentic, can compare with the Truth that we encounter in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
While reading Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede, I was struck by the description of Holy Week in the Benedictine Monastery. While this is a fictitious work, the author based the writings on actual convent life. I have the whole quote here but I loved this description of the table for Holy Thursday dinner, and have used it as inspiration for my own table:
On that same day, the Abbess, following her Master’s example, became the servant of the whole community, serving them at midday dinner. The sight of the refectory was inviting: each place was laid with a snow-white napkin, a glass of wine, a bunch of grapes, a small wheaten loaf, and a brown earthenware bowl of vegetable soup. Apricot puffs and cheese were laid along the side tables. When the nuns were seated, the Abbess came in, wearing a white apron and white sleeves, and with her came the kitchener, Sister Priscilla, bearing a great silver salver of fish. The Abbess went to every nun, serving her and laying beside her plate a nose-gay of small flowers: violets, wood anemones, primulas, grape hyacinths, tiny ferns, pink heaths.
Father Francis Weiser from his Religious Customs in the Family gives some wise instructions on a family celebrating a Passover-type meal on Holy Thursday:
In many homes the memory of the Last Supper is brought out by the arrangement of the main meal in the evening. Of late the custom has been suggested in various books and pamphlets, of imitating the ancient Passover meal even in its details. A yearling lamb is to be roasted and served with bitter herbs and a brown sauce. Jewish matzos, together with wine, are to be distributed by the father in silence to all members of the family, thus commemorating the institution of the Blessed Sacrament.

The use of some pious "ritual" at the supper on Holy Thursday is surely to be recommended, although a complete I imitation of the Last Supper of our Lord in its details does not seem to be advisable. Children, with their gift of keen and faithful observation, might easily conceive the ritual at the family table as a "photographic" reproduction of the Last Supper and thus acquire inaccurate and unhistorical notions about it. To mention only one example, are we sure that Christ used massah (unleavened bread) of the shape and size of modern Jewish "matzos".
Our Holy Thursday Meal

I love how Florence Berger in Cooking for Christ answers the apostles' question:
Whenever I hear Peter and John asking the Lord, "Where wilt Thou that we prepare the Pasch?" I want to interrupt and say, "Come to our house, please do." But even today we, as Catholics, can bring Christ and His friends home with us. When we receive the Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, He lives within us. When we gather guests at our tables to re-enact the last supper, Christ is in our midst. For, as the antiphon of Holy Thursday sings, "where charity and love are, there is God." There is a divine bond between our altar and our home.
Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The Eucharist was established within the Passover meal by Jesus with His Apostles. A wonderful way to bring home the richness of this feast is to imitate the Last Supper by recalling some aspects of the Passover meal, and a foot washing ceremony with the family in imitation of Jesus. This a wonderful tradition to start in the family. If things are rushed on Holy Thursday, move the meal sometime before Holy Thursday (Wednesday night, for example) so that the whole family can participate in imitating Christ at the Last Supper.

The idea is serving foods reminiscent of the Passover meal as the Jews did in Egypt and Christ did in imitation of the Exodus, not in imitation of Judaic religion. Elements of the Mass of the Lord's Supper are included to prepare us for participation at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. Incorporating the various senses in this meal really helps active participation, particularly for children.

Holy Thursday is one of the biggest feasts in the Church year, since it commemorates the institution of Holy Orders and of the Holy Eucharist. Sunday-best should be worn by participants and the table should be beautifully decorated, with a white tablecloth (in imitation of the white vestments used at Mass) and even the good china and silver. For dessert (since this is a special feast day, no Lenten abstaining here), at times I have baked a cake in the shape of a lamb (there are numerous types of lamb molds available at craft stores or baking supply stores). Before or during the dinner, we read from Exodus 12:1-20 —- the story of the first Passover. Then someone reads from the New Testament reading about the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist rom either Matt 26:17:30; Mark 14:12-26 or Luke 22:7-20.

Simple Menu Suggestions:

These ideas loosely follow the instructions in Exodus, "A lamb...a year-old male lamb without blemish...That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs...."
  • Bitter Herbs: Cooked spinach and raw celery sticks dipped in salt water, mixed green salad (the greens also incorporate the "Green Thursday" tradition)
  • Unleavened bread: Crackers or store-bought matzohs, pita bread or homemade unleavened bread
  • Wine: red wine and/or grape juice
  • Lamb: Leg of lamb, or roast lamb, lamb chops, or meatloaf baked in shape of lamb (use a lamb cake mold)
  • Haroset: Applesauce with raisins, reminding of the bricks and mortar the Jews laid in Egypt. (This is an additional element we have added.)
Our Holy Thursday Dinner Menu:
  • Roast Beef (Reminder of the Passover Lamb, and Christ the Paschal Lamb)
  • Mashed Potatoes (allergy free, made with safe margarine and chicken broth and seasonings)
  • Cooked Spinach (reminder of the bitter herbs)
  • Applesauce (reminder of the Charoses, the bricks and mortar in Egypt)
  • Bread (reminder of the Unleavened Bread and the Eucharist)
  • Grapes (reminder of the wine of the Last Supper which becomes the Blood of Christ)
  • Dessert (Because it is a festive day in the eyes of the Church)
  • Wine and/or Grape Juice
Our family doesn't like the taste of lamb, so I'm actually serving roast beef. It looks similar to lamb. It seems Holy Week has extra constraints, so while I want to make a festive meal, sometimes time, energy, (and nowadays) and budget is lacking. One year my mother actually made a meatloaf in the lamb cake mold pan. It was definitely memorable.

We usually save making the lamb cake for Easter. I usually choose a dessert that won't have leftovers to taunt us during Good Friday. Depending on my time, I might make unleavened bread, following Maria von Trapp's recipe. If I use regular bread it will be small individual loaves at each place setting. For my son with food allergies, I will serve gluten free bread sticks. Another alternative is serving Hot Cross Buns, again, following Maria Von Trapp's recipe.

Before eating, the family gathers for the "Washing of the Feet", which I've described on my blog.

The children are reminded that this meal is different than what the Jews celebrate because Christ already died and saved us, so we are not still awaiting a Messiah. We are not obliged to follow the directives for the Passover meal, we are merely doing it in imitation of Christ, so we can use all of our senses to know, love and serve Christ. While eating the reading from Exodus 12: 1-20, the story of the First Passover, is read out loud. This is the same first reading at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

The meal is simple, joyful, and family-friendly, and wonderful preparation to enter more deeply into the liturgy of the Sacred Triduum. Pin It

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally served on Good Friday. They are a spiced bun and each bun is marked with the shape of a cross to symbolize Christ's suffering and crucifixion. I usually serve these to my family for breakfast on Good Friday. Sometimes I make them from scratch, and when that is not possible I frantically try to find some in town order some from our local bakery.

In her book A Continual Feast, author Evelyn Birge Vitz shares the traditions behind serving Hot Cross Buns on this day, as well as a delicious recipe:

"The Hot Cross Bun is the most famous, and probably the oldest, of the many English buns. Unlike today, when it is to be found throughout Lent, the Hot Cross Bun was originally eaten only on Good Friday. According to tradition, Father Rocliff, a monk and the cook of St. Alban's Abbey, in Hertfordshire, on Good Friday in 1361 gave to each poor person who came to the abbey one of these spiced buns marked with the sign of the cross, along with the usual bowl of soup. The custom was continued and soon spread throughout the country - though no other buns could compare, it was said, with Father Rocliff's. Hot Cross Buns became enormously popular in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Street cries were commonly heard on Good Friday:"
Hot Cross buns, Hot Cross buns,
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot Cross buns!

If your daughters won't eat them,
Give them to your sons;
But if you have none of those little elves,
Then you must eat them all yourselves!

The author goes on to say that "Hot Cross Buns, and other forms of Good Friday bread, were considered blessed, and were believed to provide powerful protection against disease and danger."

Hot Cross Buns

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 100-100 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon white or light brown sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sweet butter
  • 1/3 cup brown or raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup dried currants
  • Optional:
  • 1/3 cup finely diced or julienned citron
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (more if needed)
  • grated rind of 1 lemon


Sprinkle the yeast into the lukewarm water. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar. Let sit until frothy.

Scald the milk. Add the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until blended. Cool to lukewarm. Beat the eggs until light, and combine with the milk mixture. Add the yeast.

Sift 3 1/2 cups of the flour with the spices into a mixing bowl. Make a well, and pour in the yeast mixture. Beat for 5 minutes. Toss the currants, and citron, if using it, with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Mix into the dough.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be fairly firm, otherwise it will not take the cuts for the cross.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover the dough with a towel and put it to rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in volume. This will take about 2 hours.

Punch the dough down. Shape it into 2 dozen buns.

Place the buns 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on well-greased cookie sheets or in muffin pans. With a sharp knife cut a cross into the top of each bun. Allow them to rise until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

For the frosting, mix the milk with enough sugar so that the icing is not runny. Add the rind. Brush a cross on the top of each bun.

Yield: about 24 buns

Variations: (also from A Continual Feast)

Try varying the spice ratios: for example, eliminate the cinnamon, and use only the other spices (increasing the quantities proportionately). You can also substitute allspice for the ginger.

Eliminate the icing: the icing on Hot Cross Buns is considered by some purists to be new-fangled.

Since I promised pictures, here are a couple even though they didn't turn out near as good as others I seen online. They tasted delicious, or so I was told!

The Hot Cross Buns in this first picture were baked on a cookie sheet:

The Hot Cross Buns in this picture were baked in a muffin pan:

Since I made them for Good Friday, I left the frosting off... I'll add frosting to the remaining Hot Cross Buns and serve them with our Easter Brunch.

Be sure to read Jen's interesting post on the
History of the Hot Cross Bun.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Living Easter Grass

Bring a little springtime into your kitchen.

With Easter quickly approaching we have just about the perfect amount of time (7-10 days) to grow a living basket of Easter grass. Wheat berries (or rye berries) from the pantry are used for this project. Plant them and in about a week you’ll have a lovely and living basket. It makes a beautiful center piece with a few colored eggs inside. Don’t forget the health benefits of wheatgrass – which could be juiced or blended into a smoothie after the celebration. Wheatgrass berries are famous for their medicinal and nutritional benefits. They are an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphur, cobalt and zinc.

If you don’t normally keep wheat berries on hand, you can purchase them at most health food stores. To prepare your basket(s), first, rinse the seeds. Then soak them in water for 6-12 hours (until slightly sprouted – just opening). Choose a container (basket, tray, flower pot). If you choose a basket cut a piece of cellophane or plastic wrap large enough to line the plus stick out over the top edge by about one inch (this will keep it from getting soil or water all over). After the wheat grass seeds have sprouted, line the bottom of your growing container/basket with approx. 2 inches of potting soil (or vermiculite mixed with soil). Drain and rinse seeds and spread them over the soil in a single layer, with seeds close but not overlapping. Cover with a very light layer of soil. Lightly water the seeds with a spray bottle.

Place basket or container in a warm area but not in direct sunlight. Cover it with newspaper or paper towel. Each day mist the seeds with water. Do not use too much water – just keep moist. Remove the newspaper once the leaves start to sprout (usually a couple of days). Watch them grow. In about a week you’ll have several inches of lovely green Easter grass.

In researching I found several cutlures where setting out seeds to sprout before Easter was a common tradition. Italy, Greece, Finland are mentioned. The symbol of a seed bringing forth new life and the image it calls to mind of the death and resurrection make this a timely project for the Easter season.

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. ~John 12:24

Update: Day 4

Update Day 7

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

An Overview - Planning the Menu for Holy Week

There are some weeks during the year, liturgically speaking, that allow us to link our offerings in the kitchen to the Church year more than others - Holy Week is one of those weeks.

Florence Berger perhaps sums it up best in her book, Cooking For Christ, when she says,
"...the cooking which we do will add special significance to the Church Year and Christ will sanctify our daily bread. That is what is meant by the liturgical year in the kitchen."

There are so many recipes here - ideas for those lovely teas, Resurrection Rolls - and so many others in the archives...and yet to be posted. How does one organize and shop for all these ideas to live the liturgy through our humble offerings in the kitchen?

I'd like to offer a weekly menu planning sheet for you to use as you plan your offerings next week.

Click on the image, and then print the menu. Fill in your plans as you go, add in a teatime next week, your meals, the significant focus of each day. Use the menu to shop from as you go to market. I know on a week like Holy Week I like to have a good plan going in so that I too can observe a little silence rather than rushing around wondering if I have everything I need for Hot Cross Buns.

I use this menu sheet year round to help me plan because it helps me link seasonal offerings at the market with meals, teas, and menu plans that link the liturgical year with my family table.

Consider the days of Holy Week:

Palm Sunday
Figs are associated with Palm Sunday - possibly because of the traditionally held belief that Christ ate figs after His entry into Jerusalem. There is also the account of the withering fig tree right after Our Lord's entry.

**A plate of fresh figs and cheese would be lovely on Palm Sunday.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week
These days are usually set aside for intense cleaning and tidying so that the house is made ready to rejoice in the Resurrection and so that the woman of the house can spend Holy Thursday and Good Friday immersed in the liturgy, observing silence, and reflecting in prayer. These days are good days for baking and preparing foods for the days to come. Consider:

**Several loaves of homemade bread
**Your Maundy Thursday meal as you are likely to return home late after the liturgy that evening.
**Get a head start on Easter baking.

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday
Maundy comes from the Latin "Mandatum", more specifically "Mandatum novum do vobis" -- "A New Commandment I give to you", Our Lord's words spoken to His disciples on the eve of His death. In Germany, Holy Thursday is referred to as Green Thursday. It's actually quite odd how the name came about - Father Weiser explains in Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs,
"In all German-speaking countries people call Maundy Thursday by this name (Grundonnerstag)...Scholars explain its origin from the old German word grunen or greinen (to mourn), which was later corrupted into grun (green)."

**In light of the green connection, albeit a strange one, why not consider a Spinach pie? (recipe below). It is easy to use a paring knife to etch a symbol into the top of a Spinach pie...consider a simple crown of thorns, a Cross, a nail.
**How about shaping your bread dough into a rope to signify the ropes Our Lord was bound by during the scourging?

Spinach Pie

2 boxes of Pillsbury frozen pie shells (in the refrig section)
2 pkgs. frozen spinach - thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
1 lg container ricotta cheese
2 cups fresh grated parmesan
1 large onion - chopped and sauteed in olive oil
3 eggs

You'll need 2 9inch pie dishes. Press a pie shell into the bottom and sides of each pie dish.

Mix spinach, ricotta, onion, eggs, and cheeses in large bowl. Divide in half and split between the two pie dishes. Cover with remaining two pie shells. Trim edges and slit top for venting. Brush with egg if desired. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

Good Friday
Without a doubt, the Church leads the faithful on a journey throughout Lent building us to this point - Good Friday. Pius Parsch calls this "Christendom's great day of mourning" and that is exactly what it is. On this one day of the year, out of reverence for the day that Our Lord sacrificed Himself for us, Holy Mother Church restrains from offering the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass. The altar is stripped, sanctuary lamp is dark, lights are out. Our Lord is on the Cross. He thirsts. We mourn.

This one statement by Our Lord, "I thirst", motivates my entire meal plan for the day - it should leave us thirsting. I don't mean that I withhold liquids from my family, but I do mean that the meal offerings are stripped of every extra, every shred of decadence. According to Florence Berger in Cooking for Christ, "Pope Gregory (I) directed that only bread, salt, and vegetables be eaten on Good Friday." For a few years now, we've tried this.

**Consider a hearty, whole-grain bread to sustain everyone on this day.
**How about a vegetable tray for lunch?
**Try roasting or baking some vegetables as a dinner with the whole grain bread - roasted sweet potatoes, baked potatoes (minus all the toppings) with chives and salt, cucumber salad tossed with vinegar.
**Consider incorporating vinegar into an offering this day as a remembrance that vinegar was offered to Our Lord on the Cross.
**Consider water only as a drink for the day remembering that from the Cross Jesus thirsted.

May your Holy Week plans allow you and your families to immerse in the sorrowful tone of the week so that you may rejoice all the more when we hear the Alleluia once again on Easter morning! Pin It


Traditionally, the pretzel was only eaten during Lent. It is available all year round now, but before it became a popular snack food it was available from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. There are records of Lenten pretzels in a 5th century manuscript in the Vatican Library. Early Christians ate no dairy products during Lent, so pretzels were made from the simplest of ingredients - flour, salt, and water.

It is made in the shape of two arms crossed in prayer. The origin of the name comes from the word "bracellae" (little arms). In German it became "Bretzel" which then changed to "Pretzel".

If you haven't yet made pretzels during Lent, why not try it during Holy Week?


1 tablespoon honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour (I make mine with half white, half whole wheat sometimes)
Coarse or kosher salt
1 egg, beaten

Add the honey to the water; sprinkle in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Blend in flour, and knead the dough until smooth. Cut the dough into pieces. Roll them into ropes and twist into pretzel shapes. Place pretzels on lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush them with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425 for 12 - 15 minutes - or until the pretzels are golden brown.

These pretzels make a lovely Lenten tea. Pair them with a nice Earl Grey or your favorite tea. Pin It