During the holidays season, my children and I wear a slow and steady path to Old Salem. Old Salem is a very special place. It is history brought to life for anyone at every age. As a living history town, it’s core mission is to preserve the architecture, land and trades of 18th century Salem. A hallmark stop for us is the baker’s shop for Moravian sugar cake, Kuchen, Love Feast buns, or their infamous ginger cakes.
In the early mornings, you can smell the wood burning in the deep underbelly of the dome oven followed by the slow and steady rising scents of breads and cakes which are infused by an array of sublime spices and herbs. I’m not sure if I can scientifically prove it, but for some reason these smells seem to hang in the crisp fall weather better than any other time of year. I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed our morning in Old Salem.
I have a thing for cookbooks, especially historical ones. It’s only a minor addiction and I haven’t gone into debt to afford one…yet! Whenever I am visiting a new place, whether it’s a new town or museum, there are two things I look for in every gift shop I enter: cookie cutters and cookbooks. Here is a recipe for Butter Semmels. Semmels are the buns traditionally served at Moravian Love Feasts. The traditional Moravian Love Feast is a service that includes scripture reading, prayer, singing, lighting of candles and the serving of Moravian buns and coffee to celebrate the birth of Christ. The first love feast was performed in Wachovia, or what is now known as Old Salem district of Winston-Salem. Here is a recipe for semmels taken from an old cookbook, the “Pages from Old Salem Cook Books” page 9.
Set to rise at 6:00 PM:
1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, 1/2 yeast cake, dissolved in 1/4 cup water.
At 10:00 PM:
1 pint milk, 1-2 eggs, 3 pints flour, 1/2 cup butter and lard, 1/4 tsp. salt.
Knead until dough blisters and drops clean from hands. Set in warm place to rise until morning. Roll out 1/4 inch thick and cut in 2 inch squares. Lap over and set in pan one inch apart. Let rise and bake 15-20 minutes in hot oven. Brush with melted butter and dust with powdered sugar when cool.
* a note about the title: the title of this post is a “lift” from a Pablo Neruda poem “and because Love battles”. Typically thought of as a romantic love poem, I think this excerpt speaks to me in a way that I love my own children and their need and dependence on my love and care for them. This excerpt just struck that chord with me.
“To bread I do not ask to teach me
but only not to lack during every day of life.
I don’t know anything about light, from where
it comes nor where it goes,
I only want the light to light up,
I do not ask to the night
I wait for it and it envelops me,
And so you, bread and light
And shadow are.”