Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Hoska Sweet Bread
Here's a delicious way to use the many fruits you dried last summer and fall (or just buy them from the store). With a cup of hot milk, tea, or coffee, this bread is great as a late-night treat, breakfast staple, or snack.
If you're wary of from-scratch yeast breads, just use a commercial freezer dough and add 4 tablespoons of honey or sugar when you roll it out before kneading in the fruit, nuts, and spices.
Mix and set in a warm spot till foamy:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 stick margarine, melted and cooled till just warm
5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
2 teaspoons crushed anise OR 1 teaspoon mace OR 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
Knead, put into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let rise in a warm spot till doubled, roll out 1/2 inch thick.
1 cup raisins and/or berries, plumped in warm water (or overnight in rum or brandy)
2 cups assorted dried fruits (apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, pineapple, etc.),
chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups almonds, slivered
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon coriander (optional)
Roll up and knead the dough to mix the fruit, nuts, and spices into it. Then cut it into six equal pieces and roll them into 18-inch lengths. Braid three of the lengths, twist two of the braids and press them into center of braid, and twist the last one and press it on top. Anchor with bamboo skewers so it doesn't slump as it rises and bake crooked.
Place the bread on a cookie sheet on the second-lowest rack in the cold oven. Place a damp hand towel on the
upper rack. Let the bread rise until not quite doubled. Remove upper rack and towel. Bake 40 minutes at 375F, or until a bamboo skewer in the thickest section comes out clean. If desired, brush on a glaze of 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon water and bake another 5 minutes.
Cool at least 1/2 hour. Slice, serve, and celebrate your garden's bounty. Freezes well, too.
Makes one loaf
Watching the Weather
The garden is almost at a standstill this month; it's dormant. Frost is still a possibility until the end of January, and heavy rains can occur into March. Most outside gardening activity is limited to pruning and spreading soil amendments. After a rain, the soil retains a good deal of water, and stomping on it or digging it too much will compact it and destroy its tilth. On the other hand, if temperatures remain above 50F during the day and 40F at night, and you haven't had much rain, it's prime time for sowing seeds and transplanting veggies and flowers that love the coolness of early spring.