Thursday, February 7, 2008

This Post is Brought to You By the Letter "S"

When my husband and I were blessed with our first child we did not have an easy time coming up with a name. We didn't know if it was going to be a boy or girl, so we had to be prepared in either case. We had no problem coming up with girl names. The hard part there was whittling down the list to the one we liked the best. But we just couldn't come up with a boy name. Every name I put forth my husband would shoot down with a "No, I knew a boy named that who was a huge bully." Every name he picked I'd dismiss with a "Oh, no, I grew up with a boy named that who picked his nose and ate the boogers." Or something along those lines.

I went into labor two weeks before my due date so we were caught off guard, still unprepared with a boy's name. So between contractions we discussed possibilities. My husband tossed out a name. "Fine," I said, breathing slowly and evenly. I was in no mood to have an argument about names. So, when my son was born we were ready with a name. Which happened to start with an "S".

When child #2 came along I was sure it was a girl. So sure, in fact, that I didn't even pick out a boy's name. I wanted to name her after one of my childhood best friends. Thankfully, yes, she's a girl (it would have been an awkward name for a boy), and she, too has an "S" name.

Several years later, bundle of joy #3 was on the way. I was happily compiling a list of beautiful girl names (I knew this time) when my kids said, "No, you can't name her that. She's got to have an "S" name, too, or she'll feel like she doesn't belong!" I think pregnancy hormones damage the brain because this seemed like sound logic to me, so we picked out a lovely "S" name for her.

And when the youngest came, it was a foregone conclusion that this one, too had to be an "S".

What was I thinking? When I am irritated about a chore left undone or a pile toys in the middle of the floor, I start to holler for the child responsible, my brain pulls out the mental file labelled "Annoying child, alphabetized" and I have to run through all their names, sometimes combining the names, sounding like an epileptic snake. When I'm really enraged (library book 2 years overdue that I swore to the librarian I'd returned, found under the bed in a treasure trove of dust bunnies, single socks and missing toy parts) all that comes out is a hiss, like a teakettle about to pop it's top.

But on the plus side, for the beginning reader, "S" is easy to recognize, doesn't get confused with any other letter, has only one possible sound, and is simple to make out of playdough. My youngest thinks anything with an "S" is for him. That's his name letter, after all.

I've had a recipe for Lucia buns bookmarked for years. They are a traditional Swedish bun, made for the Queen of Light Festival (December 13th), marking the beginning of the Christmas festivities. And the traditional shape for these buns is an "S". My son named them "S" cookies and thought the whole batch was for him.

I've never baked with cardamom before and had no idea what it was like. I opened a brand new jar and sniffed. Whew! It smells like a pine forest. Was I going to be making pine needle buns? But I was pleased with how the spice mellowed in the buns into a subtle, unique taste. They were delicious and didn't last long. My husband particularly liked them with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Swedish Lucia Buns
- adapted from Betty Crocker's International Cookbook

2 pkgs active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 deg F)
2/3 cup lukewarm milk (scalded, then cooled)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grated orange peel
5 to 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
Softened butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp sugar

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 2 eggs, the cardamom, salt, orange peel and 3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The dough is ready if you poke your finger in to the first knuckle and the indentation remains.

If your raisins are not plump and soft, place them in a bowl and cover them with very hot water. Soak for about 10 minutes, then drain them set on a towel to dry off. This will prevent them from scorching in the oven.

Punch dough down; divide into 4 equal parts. Cut each part into 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth rope, 10 to 12 inches long. Shape each rope into a "S"; curve both ends into a coil. Place a raisin in the center of each coil. Place on greased baking sheets. Brush tops lightly with softened butter (I forgot this step); let rise until doubled, 35 to 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 deg. F. Mix 1 egg and 1 Tbsp water; brush buns lightly with egg mixture. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.


Chelsea said...

If I didn't have to knit a hat this weekend I would totally be baking something with yeast. Those look delicious.

My sister is Lexsea so my would just yell Chelex and we would figure out who she wanted later.

Anonymous said...

the best part about this bread is the shape. gotta love those s curves!

Gigi said...

My brother and his wife have the same problem, ...An-dri-lysa (Anthony, Adrian & Alyssa). I wonder if I could shape your lovely S's into A's for them? Great post!

Angelica said...

Oh, no saffron! It's not Lucia buns if there's no saffron in the dough!

Proper Lucia buns:

Melinda said...

They look like beauties to me!
I love the bit where you are trying to call the right offender and get in a tis!
Louisa hates it when I call for her and use the dogs name. Why is that, I wonder?

Brilynn said...

I could see how your son would think those were just for him, and why not!

ryles said...

what a great story! Boy do I know how that feels.. My sister and I are both R names.. I constantly get called her name by my mom. So much So that I answer to Ryan on a frequent basis and people think I'm nuts!!!

I've always worried about getting trapped in a genre with my kids.. I think when that time comes I'll just try to keep it pretty random!!

Great story.. And hopefully you let him have all the S shaped rolls!! :)

Peabody said...

My nephews are named to be TEG as their initials and my nieces are ETG. So you are not the only one.
Those S' look pretty tasty!

Mary Luce said...

Loved your 'S' story but your kid is wrong about the buns. If they're Lucia buns, then they're MY buns, 'cos that's my name!

They look wonderful and I've been wanting to try something with cardamom...

RecipeGirl said...

Love your post :) Before my blog life, I was a teacher for many years... so when it came to choosing a name for our son it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE! There were so many names that I just kept saying NO- Bully, or NO- wimpy kid, or NO- icky kid, etc. etc. We finally settled on a name, and one of my favorite students had that name too! Thankfully, we didn't have any more kids and had no more sifting to do!

A Swedish Mom from one of my classes made these buns long ago for our international holidays week when I was teaching. They were yummy. Yours look beautiful, and I'd love to make them myself!

Aimée said...

Beautiful buns, Lynn! Four kids, wow! That's what we want eventually, but one at a time, eh?

Kevin said...

Those buns look good. The S's are perfectly shaped. Baking with cardamom does sound interesting.

Sarah said...

Hehe. These are very cute. And they look delicious!

Being an "S" name myself, I think you made a wise decision with the names! :)

Rose&Thorn said...

My sister has two kids, and when she is shouting to them, somehow my name normally comes out too.. Go figure. My Mom used to call Janrose - Janice and Rose - you could tell who she is calling by the tone in her voice!

Lien said...

What a lovely story about finding the right names. Isn't it funny that with girlsnames it's so much easier to think of a good one.The first time we didn't have a boys name...fortunately it was a girl. The second time we knew for sure it would be a boy, so we finally thought of one.
I think your kids would really like these italian cookies called Buranelli, they're also s-shaped.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You are so fun Lynn! I've had these on a list to bake for years! You've really done beautiful ones!!
Gorn & I were able to pick boys names not a girl's name either time.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Oh, Lynn, I love that story! And "s" is such a sonorous letter... Great choice.

And these buns look fantastic! I love these, "original" or not. I don't care. :)

Julie said...

Those came out so beautifully. My mom and her sisters are Janet, Joan and Jeanne, but I really don't think the parents meant to do that. It's cute.

Anne said...

Beautiful! I think Betty missed the most crucial ingredient to make these different from regular buns though: saffron. (I have a recipe for them on my blog too, being Swedish and all.) :)

You really nailed the shape though, very very pretty! :)

Anonymous said...

It is a delight, this recipe we are going to prepare, congratulations on your blog.


Claire said...

How cute that he thinks the letter "s" is "his!" This is a beautiful bread.

Tartelette said...

Love the name story! My niece is Lea and my nephew is Lucas...all because of Star Wars...and they knew at 4 how to humm the music...freaky!! The breads are beautiful!

Anne said...

I have two sisters and our names starts with letter M. Whenever my mother calls one of us, she would recite all our names.

The bread looks yummy. You shaped it really well :)

ovenhaven said...

There are six of us in the family, and my parents named us all beginning with 'Z'. Now if only I can somehow tweak the shape of these buns to look like 'Z', it would be perfect for the next family gathering :) Lovely shots as always!

Cakespy said...

S for SPECTACULAR! I Love these buns. You did a really beautiful job. Mine always end up looking more..."S for So nice you tried".

VeggieGirl said...

okay, I absolutely LOVE the story of the letter "S" and its significance with the names in your family; and it works PERFECTLY with those buns!! yum!!

eatme_delicious said...

What beautiful buns! I've never heard of or seen them before. The image that was conjured in my head from "epileptic snake" made me laugh!

LyB said...

Lynn, I laughed out loud reading this post! I love it! My dad insisted that my brother and I both have the letter "y" in our names, thankfully not at the beginning! Your Swedish Lucia Buns look wonderful!

GirlCanBake said...

Great post! You totally had me cracking up!

Maya said...

Hi Lynn:
Will I be able to substitute regular milk with nut milk of hemp milk?

Anonymous said...

Those look wonderful but as a Swede I have to say that without saffron they aren't real lussebullar. I've never encountered any with orange crust in them either, maybe because the saffron is such a center star... I don't know. Anyway, traditional lussebullar are really pretty too because they have a really vibrant yello colour.

These look mouth-watering too, but if you want to make real lussebullar try to look up a recipe with saffron. Trust me, it'll make a world of a difference. Lussebullar without saffron is like a stew without meat.

Ketutar said...

Yep, another gal living in Sweden here, who was struck by the very same thing LOL No saffron, therefore these are not Lucia buns.
But the buns have the right form, and the dough with cardamon is Swedish, so two out of three isn't bad :-)(Though I haven't met the orange zest in a bun dough earlier either.)
They look very pretty and I love the story :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story. Now I have to make the Lucia buns. I am one of 5 girls, all starting with S, plus my mom. Dad was definitely outnumbered.