Yesterday it snowed – really snowed – for the first time this winter. All night we heard the wind throwing sharp crystals against the glass and I dreamed the way I would dream when I was little and waiting for a snow day – in short, intense bursts followed by long stretches of quiet listening.
When I made my way outside in the morning, the world was still save for the blowing snowflakes. In the 5:30 darkness I walked to the end of the driveway and stood for a moment in the road. I could hear the soft padding of snow falling on snow and the whooshing gusts of wind pushing through the trees and into the house. I could hear a plow growling up from Bond Hollow and the crunch of my boots against the pavement’s ice crust. The world felt magical and new.
I love second chances and small beginnings, or any tiny moment of change, really, that sparks inspiration around a goal. For me, these times are mostly arbitrary – a leaving or a coming home, a new season, a full moon, a first snow – but the big classic times of change like New Year’s or my birthday work just as well. If there’s an opportunity to try again, I will most certainly take it.
As silly as it may seem, I’m not too fussed with the outcomes of these new beginnings. I know that I’m going to make mistakes, that my resolve might weaken, or that something might simply get in the way of my better intentions. What matters to me most of all is that after every joyful victory and epic fuck up and terrible sadness, I have the chance wake up and have another go at life.
Yeah, I know that we also have to consider those times when it’s really best to stop trying and walk away and those times when we’d really rather tell change to come back later, but I’m going to save that discussion for sometime when I’m feeling more cynical. For now, I’m going to take advantage of this new snowy beginning, set an intention, and try again. Happy 2016, friends!
SWEDISH TEA RING
For the dough:
4 Tbls. salted butter
2/3 cup whole milk, lightly warmed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. instant yeast
½ tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
4 Tbls. butter, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup sliced almonds
1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp. water
In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Once the butter has melted, transfer to a large bowl to cool. Add the milk to the saucepan and heat gently, until warm. Pour the milk into the bowl along with the butter and stir in the sugar and egg, beating together until well mixed. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the white whole wheat flour, the salt, and the yeast, and beat well. Add in a cup and a half of the all-purpose flour and mix until well combined.
Turn the dough out onto your countertop and knead for 10 minutes, slowly incorporating the remaining ½ cup of all-purpose flour. The dough should be smooth and elastic, not sticky or stiff – you might have a few tablespoons of flour leftover or need to add in a few extra, depending on the humidity of your kitchen.
Lightly butter a large bowl and place the kneaded dough inside, covering with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.
While the dough rises, place the almonds in a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. To make the filling, mix together butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Beat well, with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, until the filling comes together in a thick, uniform, spreadable paste.
Once the dough has finished proofing, turn it out onto the counter and roll into a large rectangle of about 12” x 18.” Spread the filling over the dough using an offset spatula or a butter knife (mimicking the movement of icing a cake to get a thin coat across the whole sheet), being sure to leave about a 1/2 “ border on all sides. Sprinkle the filling with toasted almonds. Roll up the dough along the long edge to form a thick coil. Using a sharp knife, cut off the uneven ends and then fit the clean cut ends together to form a circle. Pinch the ends together, carefully folding dough over the crease so that no filling will leak out of the circle. Transfer the ring to a lightly buttered baking sheet and using sharp scissors, snip the dough into 2“ segments, ending the cuts 2/3 of the way into the circle. Turn each cut slice up slightly to expose the insides of the dough. Cover with plastic and let rise for another hour in a warm place.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the ring with the beaten egg and sprinkle liberally with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the dough is dark golden brown and the filling is bubbling.