December 19, 2011

The Reading Corner.... Christmas in the Country!

"It was a fortnight before Christmas, and everyone agreed that this would be a real Christmas, such as had not been seen for many years. There was a delightful cold nip in the air, as exhilarating as good news; the sky was grey and overcast, and the streets were covered with a thick layer of snow. Few sights are more charming than that of a town covered with a new-fallen, clean, white snow; and how pretty it is to watch the tiny flakes drift downward through the air as if there were a wedding in the sky and the fairies were throwing confetti..." ~Excerpt from The Mysterious Toyshop by Cyril W. Beaumont, 1891-1976.

  Ritual is important, family and friends are important,
snow is good, and a tangerine in a stocking is enough to inspire
oohs and ahs of delight.
"Christmas in the Country" is a worthy addition to the genre.

“This loving celebration of Christmas is as fresh as the season’s first snowfall, and as warm as a steaming mug of eggnog. A young girl growing up in the country enjoys a simple but enchanting Christmas with her family. Boxes of treasured homemade ornaments are brought out; an evergreen wreath brightens the front door; and relatives gather for a delicious meal.
In it, our pony-tailed heroine lives in the country with Grandma and Grandpa in a house that is "small and white. It had an old coal stove to keep us warm and a tiny little kitchen for supper and a nice back porch for the dogs." In the country, spring is for walks, summer for tomatoes, and fall for apples. In winter, "The snow slows everything down. Birds are silent and serious. Dogs stay in their warm houses. Children want cocoa and blankets. Everyone is ready for something really special."
Grandpa will cut the tree in the forest, and the narrator and Grandma will take the precious old ornaments from the closet that "smells like wool and mothballs." Diane Goode's illustrations are just right - simple and energetic. Everyone's hair is windblown at all times, as if country folk have better things to do than spray, mousse or pin! Captured here are the memorable holiday moments we cherish and remember – always”

1 Italian panettone, about 1.2 pounds
Unsalted butter, for greasing the dish
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Trim the dark brown outer crust from the panettone (optional). Cut the rest of the loaf in 1-inch cubes and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast the panettone for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Grease a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with the butter. Place the panettone cubes in the baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar. Pour this custard mixture over the panettone. Set aside for 10 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the pudding. Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add very hot tap water to the larger pan until it's halfway up the side of the baking dish. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn't touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm!

1 comment:

  1. Just lovely...a book full of Christmas memories and a recipe that's worthy! I'll have to search for Panettone, we are in the midwest!


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