Jan Kooistra - Our Daily Bread
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La Belle Cuisine - More Bread Recipes

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Moravian Sugar Bread and Love Feast Coffee

 

 

 

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..."
- M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating


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Moravian Sugar Bread and Love Feast Coffee
Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking

by William F. Neal, 1985, The University of North Carolina Press

Rare and Out of Print Books

“The Anglican Church sent Charles Woodmason on a mission to the Carolina upland in 1766. He found little to his liking, especially in the larders, as he related in his diaries, published as ‘The Carolina Back Country on the Eve of the Revolution’: ‘Nothing but Indian Corn Meal to be had Bacon and Eggs in some Places – No Butter, Rice or Milk – As for Tea and Coffee they know it not. These people are all from Ireland, and live wholly on Butter, Milk, Clabber and what is in England given to the Hogs and Dogs.’ Only among Moravian settlements in North Carolina could he find anything praiseworthy, and he provides an exuberant description:
’The Spot is not only Rich, fertile, and luxuriant, but the most Romantic is Nature Sir Phillip Sydneys Description of Arcadia, falls sort of this real Arcadia Georgia, Circassia, Armenia, or whatever Region it may be compared too… Here they  have laid out two Towns – Bethlehem and Bethsada; delightlfully charming! Rocks, Cascades, Hills, Vales, Groves, Plains – Woods, Waters and all most strangely intermixt, so that Imagination cannot paint anything more vivid. They have Mills, Furnaces, Forges, Potteries, Founderies, All Trades, and all things in and among themselves… they are all Bees, not a Drone suffer’d in the Hive.”

The Moravians celebrated their religion in every aspect of their lives. The beginning or end of most projects – a new building, a successful harvest – was marked by the religious ritual called the love feast. Hymns were sung and a simple communal meal of bread and coffee was served.”

The Bread

Yields 16 servings

1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
5 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1 pound light brown sugar
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Butter for greasing pans

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Combine the milk, granulated sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan, heating gently until the sugar dissolves and the butter is melted. Remove saucepan from heat and cool slightly. Stir in dissolved yeast and beaten eggs. transfer mixture to a large bowl and gradually add the flour, stirring constantly. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it until smooth. Butter or grease a large mixing bowl and place the dough into it, turning it over once. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until volume doubles. Punch dough down and divide in two, spreading one half in each of two 11-by-7-inch baking dishes. Brush surfaces with a little butter, and let rise until volume doubles.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Make holes in the dough by poking it with a finger (Moravian wisdom has it that a miserly cook uses her index finger, the generous one her thumb.) Melt the 1/2 cup butter with the light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over the dough, filling the indentations. Bake about 25 minutes. Serve warm.
 

The Coffee

“For the love feast the Congregation Council of the church had sanctified coffee rather than tea in 1789, but suggested sangaree for the hot weather in August. The Moravians shared with all their neighbors this penchant for coffee. In times of scarcity, southerners sought substitutes wherever they could find them: grains, sweet potatoes, acorns, and the seeds of persimmons, okra, and watermelon. In good times, though, each day’s coffee was roasted in the morning, kitchens filling with the aroma.
It’s a satisfying step backwards to roast coffee I a skillet on top of the stove. Beans should rest in a single layer and cook over a medium high heat. It is imperative to keep the beans moving to avoid scorched areas. Some beans turn much more quickly than others; this is not a problem unless scorching does occur. In 10 minutes, I have a pan full of richly roasted beans. When I started roasting my own beans it was helpful to have a few whole beans already roasted to my taste for comparison. Now I can judge by the odor alone. Roasted beans should cool off the fire uncovered and should be stored in airtight containers. Grinding can be done
by hand or in an electric coffee grinder. A blender will work, but gives a slightly uneven grind.”

Yields 30 to 40 servings

2 gallons water

1 pound dark, freshly roasted finely ground coffee
(such as French Roast or Espresso)
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups half-and-half

Recommended equipment: An unbleached, undyed muslin bag approximately
8 by 8 inches; needle and thread; an 8-quart stainless steel stockpot

Fill the clean cloth bag with the coffee and sew securely. Bring the water to a boil and add the coffee. Keep at a simmer, but not a boil, for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the bag, add sugar and cream, and serve immediately.

A note on the coffee bag: Use clean, unbleached muslin. Wash several times with no soap. A bag 8 x 8 inches will hold 1 pound of coffee. If you want to reuse the bag, add stainless steel snaps for closing, but never use soap in washing the sack.
 

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