My mother was born in Riga, Latvia, and as a kid, I spent a lot of time with her parents (my grandparents) over the holidays. My grandfather was a pastor, and after he’d give hisholiday sermon (often in Latvian) we’d go back the house of one of the old ladies from the church and celebrate with lots of traditional Latvian foods.
I’d like to say I loved all the food, but since much of it involved sour cream and dill, vinegar, and weird gelatinous meats, well…let’s just say my 11 year-old self wasn’t toointerested. But there would always be one thing I loved–the klingeris. Latvians celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other big occasions with a klingeris. It’s a sweet, dense yeast bread flavored with saffron and cardamon. It’s not easy to make but it’s incredible and unique, not too heavy or sweet, perfect with a cup of coffee or glass of milk. The traditional recipe calls for almonds mixed into the bread, but I just sprinkle a few on top.
Merry Christmas–or as you say in Latvian, Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!
1 package yeast
1/4 c. + 1/2 c. lukewarm water
1/2 c. + 1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. saffron
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/4 c. sour cream
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 1/2 c. golden raisins soaked in water
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1 beaten egg white with 1 tbsp. water
1. Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp. sugar in 1/4 c. lukewarm water.
2. Steep saffron in 1/2 c. lukewarm water.
3. Beat together butter, sugar, egg yolks and sour cream.
4. Strain water from saffron.
5. Mix yeast, saffron, raisins, and enough flour to form a soft dough (about 2 c.).
6. Knead well until dough loses stickiness. Cover, let rise until it doubles.
7. Punch down, roll into a cord, twist to form a large pretzel.
8. Cover, let rise until it almost doubles. Pre-heat oven to 350º F.
9. Brush with egg white and water mixture. Sprinkle with almonds.
10. Bake at 350º for about 45 min.
11. Remove from oven and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.