Oh.my.goodness. It’s been a tough few weeks months. Let’s get the big news out of the closet first. We moved to…Tunisia! Yes, another international move has swept us to a new land, new city, new apartment, and new kitchen! It’s been a hectic whirlwind of packing, shipping, flying, searching, settling, and waiting. We packed everything up at the end of October, the movers came to pick up our things from Rabat, aaaand we’re still waiting for all of our things from Morocco. But, let’s not fuss over the bumps in the road right now.
I want to share my triumphs! I want to share my new kitchen! I have new adventures, travels, and all of the things I’ve been cooking, baking, and EATING to tell you about! But where to start?
Let’s just start with right now. I’ll find some time over the next few weeks to get you all caught up on the rest. This week, I made a bolo rei.
What is a bolo rei? I made one to show you!
Last Christmas, Omar and I were in Portugal where I discovered his DEEP love for fruit bread. I mean, it’s serious. Let me tell you, at the buffet with chocolates, cakes, cookies, fruit tarts, and custards, he goes right for the fruit bread. Now, for my dear Americans, I’m not talking the sweet, gooey, dense, brick of fruitcake familiar to us back in the US. European fruit breads, like Pannetone, Stollen, or Bolo Rei, are airy with just a hint of sweetness and very much in the bread (not, cake) category. Bolo Rei is the Portuguese version, traditionally shaped into a large wreath and served between Christmas and Epiphany.
Ok, so, back to the here and now. A few weeks into our new home in Tunis, and I’m still sans kitchen utensils. I mean we’ve got the basics: forks, spoons, knives, and a couple of pots and pans, but nothing that I consider essential. Read: no kitchen scale, no measuring spoons, no hand mixer, no baking sheets, and no mixing bowls. It’s like a form of torture to be in the month of December without any baking supplies. It’s agonizing!
Finally, this week, I resolved not to be a victim of my circumstances. I decided that I’d bake, something. I originally planned on a simple quick bread, but then I saw a packet of yeast and some dates and the Carrefour and I was inspired. It’s December. It’s almost Christmas. Dried fruit, flour, yeast, and eggs are all begging to party together in a Christmas Bread! I did some quick internet research on Christmas breads and as soon as I came across the Family Foodie’s family recipe for Bolo Rei, I was immediately reminded of our trip to Portugal and I knew I’d found my gem.
I followed the recipe as closely as I could, but made a few modifications because I didn’t have access to port wine and I eyeballed every.single.measurement. Remember? I have none of my regular baking supplies. This endeavor was pure instinct, and a lotta of hope and faith. I don’t recommend trying this at home.
Instead of creaming the sugar and butter until light and fluffly, grabbed two forks and with one fork in each hand, I shook the two forks back and forth and in circles like a maniac until the butter was creamed—sort of.
Forks are apparently the closest thing to a whisk or a hand mixer when neither are available.
I did my best, and then I waited for the sponge to form. Next, 12 minutes of kneading by hand. Then more waiting for the dough to rise. And then more waiting for the dough to rise after shaping it into a ring.
The result? Gorgeous and delicious. I was speechless. And, really, really, giddy with excitement.
I’m throwing modesty to the side on this one friends. I was so excited that this turned out so beautifully without any measurements. If you want the recipe I tried to follow, give a shout out to Isabel of the Family Foodie. My only modifications were to simmer the dried fruit in red wine and honey instead of port wine. I also omitted the decorative powered sugar because Omar really dislikes the anything overwhelmingly sweet.
In my world, a house filled with the aromas of freshly baked bread, followed by happy bellies can only be a sign of good things to come. And, on that note, we got word today that our goods from Morocco should arrive in Tunis this weekend!
What have all of you been baking for the holidays?