Tea Rings were a Christmas tradition when I was growing up. I think they are officially know as Swedish Tea Rings, but because of their place in my childhood, I’ve always thought of them as Christmas Tea Rings. They were a part of our Christmas morning brunch, along with broiled grapefruit, cheesy apples and sausage breakfast casserole. In addition, my mom would make extra to wrap up, tie with beautiful holiday ribbon, and send off to a few of her friends.
Since making bread has always intimidated me, I’ve never attempted to make tea rings until this year. While the process looks long, I promise, this is quite easy. There’s lots of waiting between steps, so read through the instructions a few times and plan time to make this when you come back to them a couple of times throughout the day.
If you have a simple bread recipe you like, you can skip the bread recipe and go to the instructions for the tea rings.
2 pkgs active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 t salt
1 cup warm water
1 cup warm whole milk
5 1/2 cups bread flour
Add yeast to warm water and stir until it dissolves. In mixer, combine sugar, oil, salt, and egg. Add yeast water. Add warm milk and continue to mix well. Add 1-2 cups of flour. Change mixer attachment to bread attachment. Slowly, add the remaining flour to ensure it mixes well. This will require scraping sides of bowl periodically with a stiff spatula. You should end up with a sticky ball of dough.
Scrape or roll the dough ball into another greased bowl. Cover bowl with a towel. Place in a warm room or in a warm spot and let it rise for an hour. (My mom always placed the bowl on our hearth.) It should double in size.
Punch to release air and dump onto well floured surface.
This is where you get to decide what to do with your bread: loaves, dinner rolls or tea rings. This recipe will make two large tea rings or three medium size; two large loaves or four small; or some combination of each including dinner rolls.
For tea rings:
1 simple bread recipe (above)
1 stick of butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
3 T cinnamon (mix with sugar)
2/3 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup sliced almonds or pecans
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 t almond extract
Divide the bread into half or thirds, depending on what you’re making. (These instructions are for three.)
Roll a single bread ball out into about a 15×9 rectangle. Use flour to combat stickiness. Let the dough “rest” for a few minutes after it is rolled out. This will help the finished tea ring keep its form.
Brush bread rectangle with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture and then (if using) sprinkle with raisins. (You can also add nuts – mom used pecans – or other dried fruit.)
Roll the dough into a log from the long side. Move to a greased cookie sheet and pinch to connect the ends into a circle. Add water to your fingers to help connect the dough ends if needed. You should have a circle with a distinct open center.
With cooking scissors, cut two-thirds into the ring toward the center about every inch. Pull out each cut tab and turn it on its side. (This will allow the cinnamon layers to show – see photo.) Brush again with butter.
To serve the same day: Cover with a towel and let it rise again for an hour.
To serve the next day: Cover tightly with Saran Wrap and put in refrigerator. Take out of fridge 2-3 hours before cooking (to allow it to come to room temperature and to rise a second time), remove plastic wrap, and cover with a towel.
Cook for 20 minutes at 350. Watch to make sure it doesn’t get too brown.
Mix powdered sugar with almond extract (don’t use this if using pecans instead of almonds) and a few teaspoons of water or milk. Add water slowly and mix until you have a consistency that will spoon/pour over warm ring. Sprinkle with sliced almonds or pecan halves. Cut cherries in half and decorate tea ring.
For bread loaves or rolls, shape, place in greased bread pans. Follow same instructions for cooking same day or next day. For rolls, cut cook time to 16 minutes. Add a few minutes to larger bread loaves.
I hope many of you try this and make it a part of your holiday traditions!
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