December 23: Oh Tannenbaum

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No country has had more of an effect on my personal knitting history than Germany.

Mom learned to knit as a young girl from a German woman who lived next door. Her first project was a sweater for her little brother, using wool Christine brought back from her motherland. This is a picture of her knitting teacher Christine and my uncle, the recipient of the sweater. And I’m quite certain Christine knit the sweater she’s wearing!

christine

When mom took up knitting again when I was a kid, Mutti’s was the place to go in Lawton. We spent a lot of time with Mutti. I can still remember sitting at her round table surrounded by yarn in bags stacked practically to the ceiling. While she’d stock some Brunswick (you either sold Brunswick or Unger back in those days, that was pretty much your two choices), she’d travel back to Germany and bring home much of her stock with her.  I seem to remember helping mom watch the shop for Mutti while she was out of the country a time or two.

gummi

My favorite part of Mutti’s shop was the Gummi bears she’d bring back from Germany. Hey, back in the mid-70’s these were exotic and exciting. Other than the yarn shop and Schulz’s German Meat Market, they were not to be found – at least in Lawton.

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Naturally mom was taught to knit continental. As far as German women of a certain age are concerned, there is NO other acceptable way to knit. I picked up continental knitting as well, which came in handy when we still had that generation of German knitters around as customers in the early days. When they’d realize I knit like a proper German girl, then I was alright in their book.

This has been a very long and difficult year. We lost mom, I had a major surgery, underwent major renovations at the shop…throw a skunk and a handicapped dad in the mix and it just goes downhill from there. Needless to say, I have not had as much time to spend in the kitchen as I would like. And trying new recipes? Yeah, that didn’t happen. So I’ve been at a bit of a loss of fresh recipes to share with you.

germanyFortunately in walks Jenna with what has to be the best darn coffee cake I have ever eaten. Coffee cake usually isn’t anything to get excited about, especially if you’re like me and don’t drink coffee. It can be a bit like biscotti, which leaves us non-coffee drinkers thinking ???? Biscotti is like a dog biscuit for people, but I digress.

For me to be shoveling coffee cake into my mouth along with just my Pepsi says a lot. Jenna’s recipe is not just delicious for coffee cake, it ranks up there with one of the most delicious cakes (period) that I have eaten in a long while. Jenna was so kind to share her recipe with us, which so happens to be an old family recipe. And you guessed it, they’re of German heritage too. Thank you Jenna, and Germany!

germany6Jenna’s Old-Fashioned Coffee Cake

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup shortening, or ¼ vegetable oil, or ¼ cup coconut oil (your choice)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Topping: ⅓ cup granulated sugar, ⅓ cup flour, ½ tsp cinnamon and ¼ cup cold butter

Preheat oven to 375º. Grease and flour a 9×9 pan.

Combine sugar, shortening (or oil) and egg. Beat well. Stir in milk.

Add dry ingredients and mix until evenly moist. May be slightly lumpy. Spoon into prepared pan.

For topping, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives. Sprinkle evenly on top of batter before baking.

Bake at 375º for 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick, bake an extra 5 minutes if needed.

This batch can be doubled and baked in a 13×9 pan for 25-30 minutes.

Jenna finds that with shortening it has a moist crumb, and vegetable oil is okay but goes stale quickly.  Coconut oil is great, stays very moist and fresh for a couple of days, may require a little less oil and more cook time as the batter seems “runny” compared to other fats.

When I asked Jenna if I could please share her coffee cake recipe, she was also kind enough to share her favorite holiday bread recipe too.

germany5German Stollen Holiday Bread

  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ½ cup mixed candied fruits and peels
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 4 ½ to 4 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 packages instant yeast,
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp orange peel
  • 1 tbsp lemon peel
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped almonds
  • rum icing

Soak raisins, mixed fruits and peels, and currants in rum.  Refrigerate, overnight, or up to 3 days.  Stir once or twice a day.  These are not strict quantities – if you want more fruit the mix can hold up to 1/2 cup more, just drizzle on a little more rum for the fruit to soak up.  Remove from fridge and allow to warm up a bit before cooking, so you don’t hit the yeast dough with ice cold fruit.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 flour and yeast.

Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt until warm (115-120 degrees), stirring until butter melts.

Add milk to dry mix in bowl.  Add eggs, orange and lemon peels, and almond extract.  Beat at low speed with electric mixer to combine (30 seconds or so).  Beat 3 minutes at high speed.

By hand stir in fruit rum mix, almonds and more flour (or use the dough hooks on your favorite standing mixer, set to knead dough).  Knead in remaining flour to make soft dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes.  Shape into a ball, place in a very large greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch dough down, divide in half and cover with the towel again.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 12″ x 8″ oval.  Fold over the long side to within 1 inch of the other side (not exactly in half, but sort of overlapping).  Pinch dough to seal the edge.  Place on greased cookie sheet.  Cover with towel and let rise until double (about 45 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes (don’t forget to take the towel out 🙂 )  When done baking, remove bread from pan immediately and cool on wire racks.  Frost with rum icing and garnish with almonds.  Your choice – frost while still slightly warm, or spread it on when cool.

Rum Icing:  1 cup confectioner’s sugar, and enough rum or milk to achieve desired icing consistency.

Make it AheadI can’t wait to try this one too! I also have another cookbook to give away today. I don’t happen to have a German one laying around, so you’ll have to settle for one by this yankee woman you may have heard me mention a time or two.

Share who or what has influence you the most in your knitting or crochet, and I’ll randomly select one lucky winner. The prize? Ina Garten’s Make it Ahead. Another great book from the Barefoot Contessa!

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12 thoughts on “December 23: Oh Tannenbaum

  1. My grandma had taught me when I was little; but I am left-handed, and it felt awkward, and it was slow going, so I put it aside in favor of other crafts (including macrame, LOL). The abundance of beautiful and interesting novelty yarns brought me back to knitting in 2007, I think it was. The book _Knitting in Plain English_ was a lifesaver in helping me refresh my basic skills. I made my friend, Karen, a HUGE scarf for Christmas that year. I was using your basic craft store yarns then (novelty, of course). For my birthday in 2008, my friend Karen pronounced, “I’m going to take you to a REAL yarn store,” and introduced me to SWAK.

    So, while Maggie Righetti gets an honorable mention, and Karen is definitely first runner-up, the person who’s influenced me the most is YOU, Keely. SWAK is where I learned about the world beyond acrylic yarn. Where I’ve found tools to make my knitting easier and better. Where there are classes and people to help me along. Where Knit-Outs introduced me to experts who shared expertise and encouraged my curiosity. Where there are events that make me feel like more than just a customer. It’s your vision and your passion that have nurtured and inspired mine.

    Knitting is the first hobby I’ve had where I find myself wanting to learn seemingly everything: about sheep and wool, dyeing techniques, the math behind designs. etc. I’ve often wondered why I never developed a similar passion for other crafts, and I realize now it’s because they didn’t have a place like SWAK to offer, to be the anchor and the door for that craft. There’s an LYS about eight miles from my house, but I happily make a 75-mile round trip to visit SWAK instead because of everything I find there, from yarn to learning to fellowship.

    1. Congratulations Jennifer! You’re the winner. I have your cookbook set aside for you. Please pick up your prize by January 31, or they will be put back in the prize hopper.

  2. I first learned to knit in Girl Scouts, then again as an adult from you and your mom. Of course, I need another lesson now since it’s been so long since I used 2 sticks. I learned to crochet in home ec. class. I think Ravelry has been a big influence, along with Interweave, as it’s given me access to wonderful patterns and ideas. Fine yarn, like that available at SWAK has also been a good influence.
    Merry Christmas, Keely!

  3. When we first came to Oklahoma we landed in Lawton too. I remember the German store. I think that’s why I started making stollen. My grandma tried to teach me to knit, but it never sank in. It started to click a few years ago and really took off last year when we discovered SWAK. Thanks to you and your gang for opening up a whole new world! Merry Christmas!

  4. You & your mom are my rock stars, coaches, lifesavers & inspiration. Can’t imagine what I’d be knitting without your guidance, classes & yarn wisdom

  5. Keely,

    You have truly taught me to LOVE knitting. I was saddened that I wasn’t able to know your Mom better, since all who learned from her tout she was a “star” in the knitting world, but since you learned from her, then I KNOW I have also learned from a “star.” I came to your shop after a very frustrating experience. Whereas, I don’t frequent your shop as often as I desire, I NEVER miss the chance to share about YOU and your shop…just days ago as I stood in line at the PO kiosk, someone said they had just moved here from ??? And I immediately invited them to your shop…then only days prior to that, I invited someone to your shop and they complained about the prices. I reminded them you carry QUALITY yarn…I won’t ramble on about all of this, but I DO LOVE to knit…though not as skilled as most of your customers, it hasn’t diminished my love for the art. I will always recall with fondness the Tues. knitting groups, knowing we never knew in which dir. the conversation would go, but it was ALWAYS a great experience. THANK YOU KEELY, for the kindness and love you share with your customers. It causes each of us to enjoy what you so greatly love.

  6. One Christmas my mom gave me a knitting kit with no instructions. I drove her crazy all day while she was trying to get Christmas dinner ready. I wanted her to show me how to knit. I learned the basics then, but life happened and I didn’t pick up the needles again until I had three small children. Women’s day was a marvelous resource and their Christmas issue always had a large section of diys, including knitting. I fell in love with a children’s hoodie and I started knitting again. I basically taught myself to knit until I found Swak and Sherry. She made such a difference in how my finished projects looked and how to make things simpler. I loved her technique class. So I guess that Sherry has impacted my knitting more than anyone else.

  7. I was an air force brat who took to knitting after my mother and grandmother got me started. Our overseas tour was in Norway, where an impressionable ‘thrower’ of tender years (I was about 10) witnessed the Norwegian ladies knitting like lightning with multiple colors on circular needles. I set out to imitate the technique and didn’t look back. I never approached their speed, but improved my own pace considerably and have knit ‘continental’ ever since. I am grateful in retrospect that my mom and grandmother both encouraged my habit – I mean hobby! The experience also gave me an early appreciation for wool and color work.

    And as an aside, I have been making the same Christmas cookies and candies since 1972. It may be time for a switch up!

  8. My grandmother … she knitted, crocheted, and tatted. I so admired how her hands and fingers moved in a rapid, fluid motion.!! I had to learn how to make that magic!! Sears had a class on Saturday mornings and my first project was houseshoes. That taught me the basics of knit & purl. After that I would spend weekends with my grandmother and we would knit the hours away. She was always available providing guidance and patient instruction when I moved to more challenging projects. I still miss her

  9. My mother was a knitter and saw that we had lessons. We think the shop was around 36th and Robinson. For socks, it was your mom. And that picture of your uncle looks like Mason!!!

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