Jule Kag (Danish Christmas Bread)

Over Christmas break, we packed our bags, boarded a plane, and flew a few states over to milder weather to visit Hubs' family.

As I was chatting with my mother-in-law (MIL) and grandmother-in-law (her mom, let's call her GGP) one afternoon, we started talking about bread (anyone who's been around here much knows I love baking bread!) . GGP was telling us that she is not much of a bread baker, but had fond memories of her mother's recipe for Jule Kag. 

Well, that was all the motivation I needed!  When we got back to the house, MIL found her recipe for Jule Kag, then GGP found an original copy, handwritten by her mother in 1960!  I love old handwritten recipes!

The next day, we gather ingredients and made this delightful bread to share.

Interesting note about Jule Kag.  As I was researching (before I got my hands on the recipe), I noticed that this often shows up as a Norwegian Christmas bread (it makes sense that Denmark would have a version, they're neighbors).  However, the Norwegian version typically includes raisins or other dried fruit as well was spices, typically cardamom.  This is a much simpler sweet bread and everyone here enjoyed!  Stay tuned for a scrumptious breakfast variation!

Recipe Note:
*The original Jule Kag recipe from great grandma called for oleo (margarine).  I used butter instead.
*I made the Jule Kag by hand for this recipe, but it can easily be made in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook instead.

Jule Kag
Recipe from Great Grandma Holt

2 cups whole milk
1 cup butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound)
1 cup sugar
2 packets instant/quick yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, beaten
7 cups flour (more as needed)

Scald the milk by heat the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat until the milk is steaming.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the sugar and butter.  Stir until the butter is melted and the milk is cooled (milk must be under 120 degrees or it will be too hot for the yeast).

Stir in the yeast, set aside for 5-10 minutes.  Usually I wait for the yeast to get foamy, but it was hard to tell with the butter floating on top of the milk mixture.

Stir in the salt and eggs.

Add about half of the flour and stir until combined.  Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, stirring until the dough becomes too thick to stir.  Then, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and continue kneading by hand, incorporating the remaining flour as you go.  The resulting dough should be smooth and tacky, but not overly sticky.
 It was pouring rain outside and very humid when I made this, so I needed about 3/4 cup additional flour to reach the correct consistency.

Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Set in a warm (preferably over 80 degrees F), draft-free area to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hour (the high sugar and fat content makes this dough rise very slowly).

Once the dough has risen, punch it down.  Turn out onto a work surface and divide into three equal pieces.

To make loaves, form the dough pieces into a loaf shape.  Place onto lined or greased baking sheets.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat an egg with 1 teaspoon of water.  Brush the egg wash over the loaves and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until deeply browned.  To check if done, a sharp knife can be inserted into the center of the dough, and will come out clean if done.  Or a thermometer  inserted into the center of the dough and read at least 190 degrees F.

Cool, then cut and serve with butter.


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