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Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, makes a stollen with a unique, folded-over shape.
Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, makes a stollen with a unique, folded-over shape.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Reedy Press

Father Dominic cites traditions, religious messages in Christmas baking

‘Bread Monk’ says ‘charming traditons’ in baking often have a religious tone

Christmas baking is meant to be part of your spiritual preparation, according to Father Dominic Garramone, OSB.

“It’s not one more thing you have to do, but rather it’s one of the ways you instruct your children or send messages of hope to your friends, by baking these loaves from these different traditions,” said Father Dominic, a monk of Saint Bede Abbey in Peru, Ill., who was host of the PBS show “Breaking Bread with Father Dominic.”

Fr. Garramone
He cites stollen, a German bread. There’s a yeasted version that takes “all day,” he said with a laugh, and a shortcut version “made with almost like a glorified biscuit dough, almost like a giant scone.”

This version has a unique folded-over shape. The purpose is to represent wrapping up the baby Jesus in a blanket. “It’s one of those traditional breads that uses that uses dried fruits because that’s all that would have been available in the wintertime,” Father Dominic said.

Almost all Christmas breads have some story behind them, often with a religious message or with origins from a religious celebration, he said. In one tradition that accompanies it, before the bread is wrapped up in the “blanket,” the cook and/or family members “lean down and whisper their hopes and prayers for the coming new year, and you wrap them up with the baby,” Father Dominic said.

It’s “such a charming tradition, and one of those little things children will remember the rest of their lives and want to repeat. It’s an example of the kinds of things holiday baking does because it gives us the opportunity to reflect on things,” he said.

The recipe is in Father Dominic’s new book, “Baking Your Way Through the Holidays.”

“We have this opportunity to make angels” with cookie cutters, he said, “and to talk about what angels do, why they’re important, the angel who came to Mary, what that message was, the angels who sang to the shepherds and so forth. I find that those sort of opportunities — not Santas, bells and stars — we can use as a catechetical tool and to enhance our own spirituality.”

He pointed to speculass, a spiced cookie made for the feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6. The feast sets a tone for Advent because of the saint’s concern for people in poverty and children, Father Dominic said.

Some families have a tradition of giving “the big present” on St. Nicholas Day, he said. “When Christmas comes, you’re focusing on the birth of Jesus. I think that’s a really positive thing.”

The Dec. 6 feast is an opportunity to talk to children about the origins of Santa Claus and the real meaning of that sense of generosity, which is an obedience to the Gospel, Father Dominic said.

Advent is “the adornment of expectation,” he explained. In the monastic tradition, decorating doesn’t begin until Dec. 23. The tree may go up earlier, but it’s not decorated or lights turned on until Christmas Eve. “We tend to be concerned more with the liturgy than celebration,” Father Dominic said. “It’s quite simple.”

He makes rolls in the shape of roses, an easy-to-make recipe. They’re made for the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He makes them as a reminder that early on the season is about Mary, her growth in faith and her coming to understand how God’s life is unfolding. “They’re rolled up just like cinnamon rolls, with just butter and no cinnamon. You put them in muffin tins and cut an X on top. In the oven, they open up, uncurl and turn into a rose. There’s this sense of opening up to the will of God into this beautiful flower.”

>> Breakfast with the Bread Monk

WHAT: A breakfast and presentation by Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, author of the new book, “Baking Your Way Through the Holidays” published by Reedy Press. Enjoy Belgian waffles, gingerbread pancakes and breakfast sausage prepared by Father Dominic. He will give a presentation about traditional holiday recipes such as Challah, Hoska and Pannetone, along with personal favorites like his grandmother’s Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls and his mother’s Almond-flavored cut-out sugar cookies.

WHEN: 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14

WHERE: All Saints Parish Annex in St. Peters, 310 Cardinal Place

WHO: Father Dominic is a monk of Saint Bede Abbey in Peru, Ill. He is head of the religion department at Saint Bede Academy and teaches Sacraments and Comparative Religion. He was the host of the PBS cooking show “Breaking Bread with Father Dominic” from 1999-2001 and has written six cookbooks. He is also an online baking instructor on Bluprint.com.

DETAILS: Tickets are $20 and include breakfast and a copy of the book. For tickets and more information, call (636) 397-1440, ext. 221. or email [email protected]. Credit card or check accepted.

Rose Rolls

You’ll look like a professional pastry chef with these unique dinner rolls shaped like roses. Just as easy to shape as cinnamon rolls and truly beautiful on the dinner table. Makes 12 rolls.

• Any dinner roll dough, enough for 12 rolls

• 2 Tbs. butter, melted

Punch dough down and knead lightly to expel larger air bubbles. Cover with a clean, dry cloth and let rest 10 minutes to allow the gluten strands to relax so it will be easier to roll out. On a lightly floured board, roll dough out into a rectangle 12” high by 15” wide. Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving ½ inch of the top edge dry. Roll the dough up jellyroll style. Lightly brush the top edge with a little water, so it will stick to the roll; pinch to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 even pieces. Cut side down, place them into the cups of a lightly greased muffin tin. Using a pair of scissors cut an “X” in the top of each roll — you should cut about 2/3 of the way through the roll. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from pans and place on wire racks to cool slightly. If desired, brush tops of rolls with more melted butter before serving warm.

Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

“The Bread Monk”

Religion Dept. Chair, Drama Director

St. Bede Academy

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