Christmas baking

Jean Raber mentioned on another thread the use of lard in baking. One of my sisters is coming down from New Hampshire on Tuesday, eager to start the baking, making ample use of lard. She still laughs at the woman who, seeing her put lard on the moving band at the check-out counter, exclaimed, "Do you know that's just pig fat?" And my sister replied: "Yes, and nothing is as good for baking." She makes wonderful date cookies.At the Monastery of Bose a few years back, at the end of a conference, we had a wondeful meal, the first course of which was bread sticks and lard, with a wonderful local wine.My brother is in the kitchen at the moment at a huge mixing bowl to make our traditional Slovak Christmas rolled cakes with almond or walnut or prune or poppy seed filling. He just showed me the huge ball of dough that will be put aside to rise during the day, punched down three or four times. The other day he made hundreds of ceregi, known to many as angel-wings; see here. All made, of course, with the feshest of eggs.Another sister specializes in kolachki, small cakes (some people use that word of the nut rolls).So the wonderful traditions continue: from my Slovak grandmother to my Irish mother to her children and on to theirs.So whos going to be baking? (With or without lard?) And what are the seasonal favorites?

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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