Boots of St. Nicholas Bread

by Kim Long

Years ago I decided to revisit the piano lessons I had as a child. I was so thrilled when I could navigate the simplest arrangements of popular Christmas songs, chief among them “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.” I wanted to learn that particular song because my youngest son Nicholas’ first grade class was singing it in the school Christmas program. He stood beside the piano and sang with my hesitant melody. I play that song now with a bit more confidence, but still an elementary arrangement. The truth is I have a soft spot for St. Nicholas. I have collected his likenesses for a long time but my search ended when I found the “perfect” statue. It’s the Bishop of Myra alright, but four sons later his bishop’s crosier is missing and one hand has been glued on more times than I can count and the music box in the base of the statue has long ceased to work. Still out he comes every Christmas.

My fascination with all things Catholica and indeed for St. Nicholas extends to the kitchen. This year for the first time I baked a St. Nicholas boot. There is a story about St. Nicholas tossing some coins through a window and saving the virtue of three young women, but let’s go further. The shoes (or in this case boots) of St. Nicholas carried him and his love for the gospel everywhere he went. Not a bad way to remember Jolly Old Saint Nicholas at all!

Nikolaussteifel “Boots of St. Nicholas” Bread

• 4 cups flour
• 1 tsp. dry yeast
• 1 tsp. sugar
• 3/4 cup milk, lukewarm
• 5 tbsp. butter
• 5 tbsp. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1 pinch salt

Egg Wash:
•1 egg yolk
• 1 tbsp. water

•Almonds, powdered sugar, candies

Preheat the oven to 400. Mix yeast, 1 tsp. sugar and milk in a bowl until yeast is dissolved and let it stand for 15 minutes.

Add the flour to the bowl, melt the butter. Add 5 tbsp. sugar, vanilla, egg, salt, and melted butter to the flour. Work to a smooth dough first by stirring, then kneading. Put in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

Form dough in the shape of a boot, using some for the rim and boot heel, and place on greased baking sheet. Make the egg wash by mixing the egg yolk and milk. Brush the boot with the egg wash. Scatter the almonds over the boot.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. After the boot is cool have some fun and spill treats and jellied fruit from the top of the boot and use icing to define the details such as boot laces. This is a great treat as the dough is not overly sweet.

* Recipe originally from Christmas Baking: Traditional Recipes Made Easy by Christian Teubner Copyright 1983 Barron’s New York ,Large.

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