Hello everyone, welcome back to “A Dash of Donnie”. Now for this week, we are doing something a little different. Rather than preparing a new dish to share with you all, us folks over at a Dash of Donnie have decided to take a moment to sit down and share some of our favorite holiday traditions. Traditions are, what we would say, the most important part of this season because they are what connects you to either the people you love or to what you identify with. To be 100% honest and upfront about this article, we will admit that we took influence for this idea from none other than the legendary Mikendra McCoy, Minaret’s very own Living Pro, Speech & Debate, and a whole lot of other things, teacher. In her Living Pro class specifically, though, we have been discussing the origins of food and the traditions that follow them.
To first introduce the topic of a food's origins and its importance she brought a dish to share with the class called Hefezopf, which is a German sweet bread that is similar to the American pound cake. McCoy says that she makes this dish each year because she loves the taste but also because it helps her recognize morality and how eating certain foods keeps the memory of someone you have lost alive, in McCoy’s case, her father who has sadly passed. Another reason as to why McCoy chooses to continue this recipe is to share the tradition of creating it, not only with her daughter but also with those who don’t have a tradition or simply haven’t explored any traditions outside of the one they know. McCoy says that, “The only way that I’ve ever felt alive was learning what I didn’t know because in the moments where you think you know everything, that arrogance is terrifying and the humility around learning is both awe-inspiring and door opening.”
McCoy’s very first memory of ever eating this dessert was when she was four years old and was sitting on the kitchen counter, helping her grandmother bake in Cave Junction, Oregon. She remembers this simply because of the way that her grandmother explained that the reason they create this dish every year is to remember the story of how they got here. McCoy revealed that the reason they are here is because of the fact that her grandfather got drafted to go to war and since he didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing, they decided to flee the country through Russia. McCoy say’s, “They were stuck out in this snow barren place in the middle of what used to be the USSR but is now 66 different countries and it was just terrible. They were dying off because of the cold and trying to escape from one place to another and German officers knew they were trying to leave and so there was a ransom and a price.” They ended up being saved by a German-Mennonite Church, just outside of Modesto, that used to sponsor Germans fleeing Hitler's reign. This Church ended up providing them with enough money to buy a ranch, which they worked on for an estimated 20 years, in order to pay them back. This story helped a young McCoy to understand that “Family is valuable and worth fighting for and that your history matters.” McCoy also wants to remind us that, “Not to take for granted moments or work, they both matter, and food can remind you of both.”
Three cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Two tablespoon vanilla
Bake at 350* for 1 ½ hour; preferably in a bundt cake pan
The advice that McCoy has for making this dish is to make it your own. “The beauty of baking is evolution and the truth is that we are consistently existing in evolutionary places and if we don’t continue to change the change we learn and grow and do we will die. The beauty of sharing a recipe is that someone gets to put their own evolutionary spin on it and it changes to become an itch in the story of us. History is his story and her story is still being written and our story is something we have to share and if we forget that we are all part of it, what are we even doing here? That is our purpose. Recipes are just another page in the textbook of our existence.”
With that, it is now your head chef's turn to explain his dish. Donnie Eniram honestly had a lot of different foods to choose from. Growing up one of the dishes his grandmother would make every Christmas was Champurrado. Champurrado is traditionally chocolate-based atole. Atole is a thick and rich Mexican drink. Its main ingredient is chocolate, milk, and masa harina (corn flour). The flour is the defending ingredient to this dish. It's what gives it its thick consistency making it a much heavier filling drink. This was a way families could have a filling and warming meal during the harsh winter, but now it's more of comfort food. His family loves to have champurrado with pan dulce, another kind of Mexican dish, and just talk and relax during the chilly weather. Admittedly not everyone likes it but for those of us that do it's always a comforting reminder of our childhood walking into grandma's kitchen and the smell of Champurrado was there.
4 cups milk
2 ounces piloncillo
2 (3-ounce) discs Mexican chocolate
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup masa harina
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
Add milk, piloncillo, Mexican chocolate, and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan or pot. Heat over low-medium heat until the piloncillo and chocolate have completely dissolved. Stir frequently to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.
Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, using a strainer if it has broken into pieces.
In a small bowl, add warm water and masa harina. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth.
Add the masa harina mixture, vanilla extract, and salt to the saucepan. Whisk to combine.
Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook, whisking frequently, for 25-30 minutes until thick, creamy, velvety, and smooth. The champurrado should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Serve and garnish with a touch of ground cinnamon or a cinnamon stick.
Now onto my personal festive tradition. I, Eve Romano, make fudge every single Christmas in memory of my aunt who passed away about six years ago due to cancer. Before she got sick, we would spend the week before Christmas together each year in order to try and make something to share with our family. We tried to make just about everything, we tried making gingerbread cookies, shortbread cookies, all types of pies and cake, peppermint bark, and even puddings. I can very easily say that we failed at each one and ended up only getting a mess in the kitchen as a result. One day, though, we ended up deciding to try our hand at making fudge. For some reason, we ended up excelling at making it. We had found the original recipe in some random Christmas catalog my aunt insisted on being subscribed to and made sure to renew every single year. I remember the catalog saying something along the lines of, "Fudge so easy a frog with no fingers could make it." which is a statement that to this day confuses me. Moving on from the fingerless frogs, let's get into the recipe.
2 cups white sugar
½ cup cocoa
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grease an 8x8 inch square baking pan and set it aside.
Combine sugar, cocoa, and milk in a medium saucepan. Stir to blend, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and let simmer. DO NOT STIR AGAIN.
Place candy thermometer in pan and cook until temperature reaches 238 degrees F. IF YOU ARE NOT USING A THERMOMETER, then cook until a drop of this mixture in a cup of cold water forms a soft ball. Feel the ball with your fingers to make sure it is the right consistency. It should flatten when pressed between your fingers.
Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla extract. Beat with a wooden spoon until the fudge loses its sheen. Do not under beat.
Pour into prepared pan and let cool. Cut into as large of pieces as you want.