Monday, September 2, 2013

Memories of Blessed Bread…Apple Almond Coffee Ring

In 2005, I turned 50 -  The number was no big deal to me. I had always felt every year that passed was a privilege and a blessing, whether it had its trials or its triumphs. This year was no different. However, it was the uncertainty of my life circumstances that had me reeling a bit….

Several days before my birthday, my husband and I made a trip to the Cleveland Clinic to talk to the doctors about a breast biopsy I had recently had done. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and our plans included a day of shopping in Cleveland after we finished with the doctor. We were totally confident of a great prognosis – I had always had problems with cysts and had never had a serious issue, so we had no reason to believe this would be any different. But , much to our surprise, it was different…..very different.

We sat in the doctor’s office, stunned at the words we had just heard…..breast cancer. Our plans for sight-seeing and shopping were abandoned as we were whisked from his office to an oncologist’s office and then to a radiologist’s office. It seemed as though everything changed in one afternoon.

Mom at her best!!
Friends and family gathered days later for a birthday party for me. It was a lovely, quiet evening, but the thing I remember most is how tired my mother was. She looked beautiful dressed in a bright pink, but she seemed so very, very weary. Making her apologies, she left the party early and headed to bed.

Later that month, I proceeded with a mastectomy. Everything went well and I was home in no time. We were adjusting to the reality of dealing with my diagnosis, when we received a call from the local
hospital. My mother had been admitted directly from her doctor’s office. Her diagnosis – Cancer. Everywhere. She was terminal and had only weeks to several months to live.

It turned out that it was “weeks”…… She declined treatment, other than radiation for her brain so she could remain lucid. We spent almost all our time together, except when I was in Cleveland receiving chemotherapy. We laughed together as I went bald – she kept assuring me of how great I looked even without hair. We planned and prayed together as her time grew shorter. Baking bread in her kitchen became a solace for me…..something “normal” in this completely abnormal world. And God chose to bless that baking.

In reaching for that “normal”, I had chosen to go ahead and submit an entry to the Canfield Fair baking competition, as I did every year. I selected a favorite yeasted apple coffee cake to enter. A dear friend of Mom’s agreed to come and be with her as Dave & I took a few hours to attend the fair and check out the prize winners. When we arrived at the Arts and Crafts building, my bread was nowhere to be found among the competitors. My heart began to beat wildly with anticipation, and we rushed to where the “Best of Show” ribbon winners were featured – and there was my bread! After years of competition, this was my first “Grand Prize”, and I wept with appreciation for God’s little gift of joy.

When we returned home, we were able to share our surprise. Mom, though weak and unable to speak, squeezed my hand with pride. And days later, she was gone.

Every time I make this bread, I think about Mom…..and about the sweetness of our relationship….and about God’s little blessings, even in our dark hours. Here’s that DELICIOUS recipe – Make it with JOY!! (Share the joy — This makes 2 coffee cakes!)

Apple-Almond Coffee Ring
1 pkg/1 Tbsp. Red Star Platinum yeast 
¼ Cup warm water
¼ Cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ Cup sour cream
1/3 Cup softened butter or margarine
2 eggs
2 ¾ -3 ¼ Cup all purpose, unbleached flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let rest for 1-2 minutes. Blend in remaining ingredients and knead (traditionally or by stand mixer or EZ DOH), adding enough flour to make a smooth, satiny dough. Place dough in greased bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm location until doubled. Grease 2- 9” round cake pans.

½ Cup Sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ Cup chopped almonds
1 1/3 Cup finely chopped, peeled apples (about 2 medium)
¼ Cup softened butter or margarine

Combine filling ingredients, except margarine. Punch down & divide risen dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into 12” circle and spread with 2 Tablespoons of butter or margarine. Sprinkle ½ of apple mixture over each circle. Cut each circle into 12 wedges and roll up each wedge, starting with wide end. Place point side down in prepared pans (12 wedges/pan) , arranging in a spoke-like fashion to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled. Heat oven to 375. Bake 30-35 minutes until golden. Remove from pans immediately. Turn upright onto cooling racks. When cooled, glaze with a confectioner’s icing made with 1/8-1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 1 Cup powdered sugar and 4-6 teaspoons milk.

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