Saturday, December 20, 2014

Coffee Cakes and Good Byes

Ahh. Sad times in the midst of holiday happiness.

My much loved uncle passed away a few days ago. Yesterday was his funeral, and although I really wanted to be there, because it was so far away I simply couldn't. Instead I attended our church's daily Mass which happened to be scheduled at the exact same time that Uncle Eugene's funeral Mass was being celebrated. It made me feel as though I was joining my prayers with the rest of the family from across the US, which provided a comfort of sorts. And although this prayer was not included in our Mass, I knew that it was sung for Uncle Eugene's Requiem Mass, which is one of my favorites:

I sat quietly after the service to remember the good times that our families had over the years, and to contemplate what a good man he was, and how much he will be missed.

After I dried my tears and composed myself, I headed home to check a few more things off my Christmas list, and coincidentally the next item on my to-do list was to make Uncle's favorite treat: his wife Betty's coffeecake. Aunt Betty is the QUEEN of coffeecakes, and no one except my mother can make them as well as she can.

Hers is a complicated recipe, one that was handed down from generations of Eugene's family. The original recipe yields twenty - yes, twenty - fragrant, delicious, fruit filled, yeast bread rounds. I suppose it's a bit of a misnomer to call these delicious round breads "cakes" but it's what Auntie Betty calls them, so there you have it.

You really seriously don't want to argue with Auntie Betty because you won't win.

If you are interested in her recipe I'd be happy to share it with you, but send me an email. I won't post it here because the instructions are pages and pages long. They include lots of butter and sugar and lard and yeast and good flour and directions which are....well like this: "No amount of flour for dough specified. Just put enough in to make a sticky but dinner-roll like dough."


Lucky for me, I've sat at Mom's side as she's whipped out more of these beauties than I can count, so I have some concept of what Aunt Betty meant. And watched as she put the enormous mass of dough to rise, punched it down, put it into pie pans (yes, my mom has twenty pie pans) and proofed the dough further in a warm oven, then after adding filling, pull the edges of the soft dough over the filling and patted it flat and sprinkled streusel over. And then let them rise some more.

This isn't a recipe that you decide to whip up in an hour.

I rolled up my sleeves, and was hesitant to actually break out the yeast and other ingredients.

Gee. I wonder if I can remember how to do this? I thought. Then looked up to the sky and asked, Hey, Uncle? Give me a hand here, ok?

It was the best batch of coffeecakes that I have ever made. Thanks, Uncle Eugene. And may you rest in peace.

This enormous bowl of dough is one third of Aunt Betty's recipe.

After you pull them out of the oven, you cool them briefly on wire racks....

.....then transfer them to finish cooling on brown paper bags.


1 comment:

annie said...

Condolences on your loss, Julia. As sad as any death is, your Uncle's passing is doubly so as it is so close to the holidays.So sad for the family.

I do lots of baking, but I have never come across a recipe such as yours. The finished product almost looks like a pie. Is it difficult to make? time consuming?