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Chef Patti Anastasia
Serving Southern New Hampshire since 2003
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Table Talk » Twister - Our Christmas Morning Breakfast Tradition
Twister is Tom's nickname for French Twist, the breakfast bread that my family has had for Christmas morning breakfast since I was a kid. I don't remember any other Christmas morning breakfast. This recipe came from Mrs. Ruth Schiff, a woman who summered on Priscilla Beach, where I grew up. My mother befriended Mrs. Schiff when I was a child. Mrs. Schiff's recipe became our Christmas morning breakfast. It's an interesting recipe, I'd love to know the origins of it. My mom and I were talking about it on our Christmas afternoon walk around her neighborhood and she doesn't know anything about the recipe's origins other than it came from Mrs. Schiff. I think fondly of Mrs. Schiff every Christmas Eve when I make it. It is baked on Christmas Eve and served at room temperature on Christmas morning (and for as long as it lasts, which isn't very long because we love it.)
What is French Twist? It's a slightly sweet, moist yeast bread that is filled with meringue, cinnamon, and raisins and baked in a bundt or tube (angel food cake) pan. Mrs. Schiff's recipe baked in a tube pan, but the first time I made it, I didn't have a tube pan, so I used a bundt pan. I've been using a bundt pan ever since. My mom thinks that she added the raisins for my dad, who loves raisins and asks for raisins in everything.
I probably wouldn't figure out this recipe if I hadn't made it with my mother for years before attempting it on my own.
First you cream the butter and sugar. This is my favorite step because I use vanilla that my dad and grandfather made in the 1950s using grain alcohol and vanilla beans. This vanilla is older than me and it smells so wonderful. The supply is dwindling, so every drop is precious. My mom gave me about 6 ounces of dad's vanilla in my stocking. Yay!
After mixing in all of the dough ingredients, you knead the dough for a few minutes. I do this in my KitchenAid mixer, but you can do it by hand. Here's the dough after kneading.
The dough rises in the refrigerator for a few hours, then you roll it out into a rectangle, spread the meringue over the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins. Some of the folks who eat my mom's French Twist with don't like raisins, so my mom puts raisins on only half of the dough for the raisin lovers. Tom and I love raisins, so I use lots of raisins. I prefer golden raisins, so that is what I use.
Now comes the tricky part. Rolling up the dough, cutting it into six pieces, and putting them in the pan to rise again. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of this because I was too busy (and sticky) with the rolling and cutting. You roll the dough like a jelly roll, rolling from one long edge to the other. Just try to keep as much of the meringue filling in the roll, but don't worry if it oozes out a bit. French Twist is baked in a bundt pan. Make sure that your pan is well-greased or it will stick. I use a silicone bundt pan that I spray with oil spray. After you roll it up, you have a long tube that you need to cut into six pieces. I cut it in half, then cut each half in thirds. Place each section upright in the prepared bundt pan. You'll have six towers in your pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and let it rise for 2 hours. Here's what it looks like after rising.
After rising, it bakes at 325F for 50 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. While it is hot, it is fragile, so be careful. I put a small, square cooling rack face down on top of the bundt pan and flip over the cooling rack and the pan. With the silicone pan, I tap it in a few places and the French Twist releases. I always had a heck of a time getting it to release from a metal bundt pan, but since switching to the silicone pan, it always releases beautifully. Cool it completely, the cover it or wrap it in plastic wrap. My French Twist is always coming out of the oven around 9:30 or 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so I cool it on our 3-season porch. On Monday, it was 40 degrees in the porch, so it cooled quickly.
This recipe sounds more complicated than it really is. It takes time to make, but each step is easy. I can't imagine Christmas without French Twist.
On Christmas afternoon, we were talking about French Toast and I wondered what French Twist French Toast would be like. If there is any left in a few days, Tom will be happy to be a French Twist French Toast tester.
2 sticks butter, softened
Cream butter, eggs yolks, sugar, and vanilla.
Mix yeast with 1 cup flour; mix well. Add yeast/flour mixture to butter mixture; mix well.
Add milk and sour cream; mix well. Mix in the rest of the flour, adding 1 cup at a time.
Knead until dough is smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2-3 hours.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator. While dough warms to room temperature, beat egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
Roll the dough out into a large oblong shape. It should be about 1/2 thick, 10-12 inches wide, and 18 inches long. Spread the meringue on the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins. Roll, along the long edge, like a jelly roll. Cut into 6 pieces.
Grease a tube pan or bundt pan. Place the pieces in the pan, cut side up, spacing them evenly around the pan. Cover pan with a clean towel and let rise in a warm, dry place for 2 hours.
Bake at 325° for 45-55 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
Serve at room temperature. To store, place on a covered cake dish or wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
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This looks fabulously tasty. My family usually has orange rolls, and fresh squeezed orange juice. For a long time we also made pull-apart bread, or monkey bread. That's surely a make-ahead item, thanks to that yeasty bread. If only all these things didn't require a bit of time, it might be nice to come up with some other variations. I think you're really playing with fire by possibly changing traditional recipes, though. People sure can be sensitive about them.
Oh Patti....this sounds divine. Since my boys have grown up and gone on to their own lives our Christmas Day has become very quiet....but nice. We've never had a Christmas culinary tradition...but if you don't mind, I'm going to adopt yours. Dan and I are going to LOVE this baby.
Amy said… (on January 1, 2008 at 10:33 AM #)
Patti - Just wanted to drop you a note to say how much I enjoy reading your posts. Happy New Year!
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