Sabbath: water

In last week’s post I discussed the symbolism behind lighting candles to welcome in the Sabbath at day’s close on Friday. This week I’ll share my contemplations around the meaning of washing our hands together before the meal.

Water, especially in the context of the Sabbath, represents baptism: repentance from our sins and being made new. We must be washed before we can take part in the meal, just as we must be made new before we can enter the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said, “Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” John 3:5 CJB

In this story, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must become like a newborn baby to be a part of God’s kingdom.

I am no Hebrew scholar, but I would like to share what I have read about the Hebrew letter mem. In the Hebrew language, you can search out the deeper meaning of a word or thought by understanding the letters that build it. Hebrew is different from English in this way. The letter mem, represented by a wave pictograph in antiquity, has several related meanings but primarily that of “water.” It also has a numerical value of 40.

Just as the earth was washed in water for forty days and nights during the flood in Noah’s day, so a baby is formed in a bag of waters over a period of forty weeks. We see also the forty years the people of Israel spent in the wilderness before entering the promised land, and the forty-day wilderness fast of Jesus before beginning his ministry.

It seems that in these instances, something is being purified and made new. In the waiting, something is about to be born.

Thus says Adonai, who made you,
formed you in the womb, and will help you:
“Don’t be afraid, Ya‘akov my servant,
Yeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit on your descendants,
my blessing on your offspring.
They will spring up among the grass
like willows on the riverbanks.
One will say, ‘I belong to Adonai.’
Another will be called by the name of Ya‘akov.
Yet another will write that he belongs to Adonai.
and adopt the surname Isra’el.”
Isaiah 44:2-5 CJB

As you wash your hands before the meal this Shabbat, consider the beautiful meaning behind the ritual. Each week we renew our repentance and admit that we are in need of being washed. Each week a chance to remember how Jesus has cleansed us and we are no longer sinners, but pure and spotless like newly born babies.

I wash my hands to Messiah, the hope of glory, to serve him only.

Winter Reads

My most favorite thing to do is read, especially when winter weather keeps us indoors most of the season. I do love to bake, but reading is definitely my favorite way to relax. I can always find snatches of time in my day for a little reading break! Here is a selection of some of my favorite reads this year.

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One of my favorite things to read is a cookbook. I like a memoir with recipes but I like to simply read a cookbook as others would read a novel. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is not strictly a cookbook, although it contains many recipes. Rather, it is more of a textbook of cooking. The author, Samin Nosrat, takes the four title elements — salt, fat, acid, and heat — and teaches how to use each one to improve the quality of your cooking. I watched her 4-part documentary by the same name on Netflix and loved it so much that I rewatched it several times and bought the book! It has made a remarkable difference in the way I cook! Not only is the book informative, it also has beautiful illustrations and helpful charts to demonstrate the science of cooking and how to combine ingredients in different ways. Samin is an excellent teacher, funny, and personable, so it’s an enjoyable experience to read the book and learn to use these basic elements in new ways.

I owned Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin for quite a while before I actually read it. During 2020 when we were at home so much, I decided to read it slowly and attempt some of the projects. The hilarious subtitle of Happier at Home is: “Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life.” This book essentially has a project every month, helping you to organize your home, improve family relationships, or renovate yourself so can identify what makes you happy and establish some habits to help you maintain those things. It is not a Christian book, but I found it to be helpful. I had planned to work on a few of the projects while we were in quarantine, but I wound up doing one huge project that took months, but made me so happy when it was finished. I think this book is worth reading in January if you feel motivated to tackle some issues in your home, both with possessions and with the people you love and you feel the need to work on some better habits.

Elizabeth Goudge is an author I enjoy reading. Her books are usually pretty long, so they are good for winter reading. Last year, I read The Dean’s Watch and thought it was one of the most endearing books I’d ever read. The description on the back of the book says: “In a remote mid-nineteenth-century English town, cathedral Dean Adam Ayscough holds a deep love for his parishioners and townspeople though he is held captive by an irrational shyness and, ironically, an intimidating manner. Yet when an obscure watchmaker who does not think he and God have anything in common strikes up an unlikely friendship with the Dean, it leads to an unusual spiritual awakening in both men that eventually reaches out to the entire community.”

My very favorite author is D. E. Stevenson. She was Scottish and wrote books from the 1920s to the 1960s. Her books are set in Scotland or England and are charming stories. One that I read over and over is Miss Buncle’s Book. It is a book about someone who writes a fictional book about people in her village, but then the things that happen to the characters in the book start happening to the real-life people in the village. It’s quite funny and is a great book to read first as an introduction to D. E. Stevenson.

I hope you’ll enjoy making a hot drink, pulling out a warm throw, and settling down with a good book this winter! I’ll be in the den with my coffee, my favorite white blanket and my ever-present book, too!

Sabbath: light

As I wrote in this post last week, our family observes a simple Sabbath service every Friday night, inspired by our dear friends who began the practice to build community in our little midwestern town.

Each Shabbat, we follow a familiar liturgy before the meal. We light candles, ceremonially wash our hands, and share bread and wine or juice in a manner similar to holy communion. This short liturgy is a version of the Passover Seder, when Jews observe the liberation of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. So many comparisons can be drawn between this story and our salvation through Jesus, and the Gospels relate how Jesus placed himself into the familiar ritual, giving new light to the age-old words.

When Jesus broke the matzo to distribute it to his disciples, he said, “This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19b) Was it at that moment that they recognized him as their promised savior, finally here to rescue them from oppression and slavery to sin? Their Passover tradition foreshadowed this, and they would have been well familiar with the sacred ritual.

At the beginning of both the Seder and Shabbat liturgies, two candles are symbolically lit, typically by the woman of the house. The Jewish Talmud tells us that these candles are lit to invite peace and harmony into the home. According to some, they represent unity between husband and wife. So we invite shalom bayit (“peaceful household” is a simple translation) as we light the two candles.

Here is another way I think about the candle lighting: just like the disciples of Jesus, we too must recognize him as the promised Passover lamb. They were illuminated to his Lordship and to the reality that he was their spiritual savior, rather than a political one (as some Jews had assumed the messiah would be). “In him was life,” says the book of John, “and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it.” (John 1:4-5)

After all this time, the promised savior was come. We didn’t know we needed a savior until he came — we have to be made aware of our sinful nature before we can repent and accept his deliverance.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked.” (Genesis 3:7a)

Perhaps the light symbolizes the revelation of our need for reconciliation with God. Before we can repent and enter into Sabbath rest, we must acknowledge our sinful condition, and prepare our hearts to receive his grace.

We bless you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us Jesus, the light of the world. Thank you that whoever follows you will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life.

Broccoli Chicken Hand Pies

In January, after eating our way through the holidays, it’s nice to have something that feels healthier! We’ve been making one of our favorite recipes for years and enjoy them all year, both as winter comfort food and for summer picnics.

Anna adds: These keep well in the freezer, too. I like to keep a bag on hand for when my husband needs to take a lunch to work!


For the Crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 packet or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bowl
1 1/3 cups warm water (between 100F and 110F)

1 egg, beaten, to brush pies before baking

For the filling:

1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped
1 1/2 pounds of broccoli, stems removed and crowns chopped into small pieces
2 Tablespoons onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice chicken breast in half horizontally, spread olive oil on each side with a little salt and roast for about 20 minutes, until done and juices run clear. Let cool for a few minutes and chop. Rotisserie chicken may be used instead.

Place chopped broccoli and onion in a small saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water. Steam on medium high heat for about 5-10 minutes until tender, but still bright green. Drain thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl. Add thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside to cool.

For the crust: Mix flour, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add salt, olive oil, and water. Mix until dough forms. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and turn out dough. Knead to bring the dough together, about 1 minute, then knead for about 5 minutes, until dough is smooth. Pour a little oil into a clean bowl, place dough in it and turn the dough to cover with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes.

Add cheese and chicken to cooled broccoli mixture.

Punch down dough and place on lightly-floured counter. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll into 8 8-inch circles, adding a bit of flour to counter as needed to keep dough from sticking. Add about 3/4 cup of filling to each circle and crimp. The cheese tends to leak out during baking, so make sure you’ve crimped each pie well.

Place on a greased or parchment-covered baking sheet. Brush each pie with beaten egg and let rise for 20 minutes. Bake at 400F for about 12 minutes or until top and bottom is golden brown. Serve immediately or have at room temperature for lunches or picnics.

Yield: 8 servings

The holy days

It’s Monday, and many of us are still groggy from the weekend. It’s a struggle to force our bodies and families back into the routine, like stuffing ourselves into stiff jeans after wearing leggings a bit too long. Monday can be a challenge. It couldn’t feel less sacred, and yet, like any other day, it is.

My favorite Christmas Eve tradition is to visit the Anglican church for their beautiful midnight service. The archaic building with arched gothic windows, vaulted ceilings and intricate stained glass, a place where people speak in hushed tones and genuflect before the crucifix before sitting or kneeling in the cloistered wooden pews. Then we hear the angelic voices of the choir as they make a procession up the aisle to the chancel, cross and holy Bible held aloft. The candles are lit; the incense swings, diffusing its heady aroma. The crystalline voices join with the powerful organ in worship, and I think to myself as my eyes fill with tears that this is how we will worship in heaven when we stand before the throne of God.

But here I am, on Monday morning, pouring a strong black cup of coffee, thinking about the week’s demands and wishing I were better prepared. I could not feel further from the beautiful choral music and candle lit wonder of the church on Christmas Eve. The piles of laundry, dirty floor, and long to-do list pull my mind in a hundred directions. And yet, the King of Heaven is here in my kitchen. Here, my home — my heart — is his throne. These mundane and tedious tasks are my worship. During the long hours with a crying baby, or scrubbing a crusty spill off the floor, or compiling receipts for our business, God is present in my life, and my work is praise for him. It’s in the day to day that I am practicing holiness and obedience, growing in my relationship with my Father.

Observing special seasons and days like Christmas Eve is a biblical practice, rooted in Old Testament commands. The holy days observed by our spiritual ancestors, the Israelites, were given to them by God with instructions to teach their children how he brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land.

Additionally, we read many times how an altar is constructed to give a thanks offering to God after he has helped his people and given a victory. After being used for burnt offerings, these altars stood as monuments, reminders of God’s faithfulness for generations. The holidays we observe are monuments in the same way.

As we live our day-to-day, we can build our own altars to God’s faithfulness. He has shown me his goodness through his steadfast love, through answered prayers and gentle teaching. As I live in this relationship with him, growing in maturity and holiness, my day to day is the physical manifestation of the worship of my heart.

The Kingdom of God is among us. In our relationships, in our caring for others by doing our work, we proclaim the truth of Christ until he comes. These are the holy days.

Beginning a Sabbath practice

Two years ago, our friends began a beautiful practice of inviting people into their home for a sabbath meal. Gathering around pushed-together tables to share homemade bread and delicious soup, we share a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice with a simple sabbath liturgy, and spend time in relationship that has grown into a beautiful community.

Some Jews observe a Shabbat every Friday night and Saturday until sundown, resting from their work and enjoying time together with their families. This tradition is of course passed down from God’s command to “honor the sabbath day and keep it holy” in a time when work was even more intricately tied to survival. Giving God the day was a “tithe” of days, showing faith in him as the creator and sustainer of life.

The tradition of a Sabbath remains as important as ever for those who worship Adonai, whether Jewish or not, and there are many ways to observe it as a family.

• Rest from work
• Doing work for others rather than for personal gain
• Resting from media and choosing to focus on scripture instead
• Or simply pausing on a Friday night to celebrate communion with family and friends and offer thanks to God for his love.

Since our friends pioneered this practice, more than forty people have come through their doors and shared the sabbath meal with us. We’ve begun to branch out into more homes in order to practice hospitality and invite new friends into an experience with Jesus. The liturgy of lighting candles, thanking God for bread and wine and washing our hands is reminiscent of the much longer Passover Haggadah, which Jesus was observing with his disciples in the upper room just before his arrest. “Every time you do this,” he told them, “do it in remembrance of me.”

For millennia, Jews had been observing the Passover ritual every year, looking forward to the hope of a messiah. The liturgy contains many allusions to a savior, many representations of how he will come. The lamb slain and its blood smeared over the door marked the homes to be “passed over” by the death angel when the first born sons were to be killed. At Passover time we will delve deeper into the symbolism in the ritual and give you a simple way to observe the feast with your community.

Our sabbath ritual is a “mini Passover,” where broken bread represents Christ’s body, wine or juice represents his blood, and washing our hands together represents how we are made new by his sacrifice. This is what has been passed down by the Church as the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. It is a beautiful observance to share together as a body of believers.

If this inspires you, consider beginning a sabbath ritual of your own. It’s a meaningful pause in the week’s hubbub to celebrate Christ with your family, and offers a beautiful way to invite others into your home and into your faith. We’ll be sharing more about sabbath to help you celebrate!

Winter Soup

My family enjoys soup in the fall and winter (and even in summer sometimes!). We like all kinds, but especially soups with a thicker texture. This recipe is one I made when I needed to use up some roasted butternut squash and it has proven to be one we like to eat over and over. Delicious with a fresh-baked buttery challah on a cold winter evening. I hope you enjoy it!

Winter Soup

1 medium chicken breast, cooked and diced. Leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken may be used
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
4 teaspoons oil, divided
1/2 of an onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 14.5oz cans of chicken broth
2 15.5oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon thyme
5 oz fresh spinach leaves, long stems removed
Half of a lemon

1. Prepare chicken breast, set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 425F.
3. Toss cubed squash with 2 teaspoons oil and a little salt. Place on a parchment-lined or greased cookie sheet. Roast in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, just until tender. Do not overcook.
4. Place 2 teaspoons of oil into a large stockpot. Add diced onions and cook on medium until tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Add chicken broth to pot, along with cooked and diced chicken, roasted squash, beans, and spices. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.
6. Add spinach and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Taste, adjust spices, add a bit of water or more chicken broth if you would like the soup to be a bit thinner, and add a squeeze of lemon.
7. Serve with bread, salad, or your choice of accompaniment. Enjoy!

A rare Alabama snow!

Rhythm over resolutions

As we put away the Christmas decorations, tighten our belts and resolve to do better in the coming year, I’m sure many of us are reflecting on the difficulty of keeping our resolutions beyond the first few weeks of January. Willpower is in short order these days, it seems, made shorter this year by the trying world news and the prospect of another few months spent indoors. At least, those are the excuses we give ourselves as we contemplate the scale and the bank account.

Here is a way to circumvent your atrocious willpower and still have a well-managed, meaningful year. This year, instead of making resolutions, focus on creating rhythms and observing rituals.

Rhythms are flexible schedules that allow room for the flow of life. As the mom of a newborn, I know well that life is unpredictable. Instead of trying to force a rigid schedule, I keep a rhythm for my day, choosing the most important things to do and going through them in the same order as the day allows. Here’s an example of what is important for me at this stage:

• Prayer and devotion with Nathan before he leaves for work
• Educational activities with baby like music, reading books, and free play/ tummy time
• Take a walk
• Cook dinner
• Chores and work for our businesses
• Regular feeds and naps for baby based on age appropriate needs

I use these priorities to create a rhythm for the day and it will change and flex as baby grows and we move on to new activities. Day to day, the order of events is predictable, which creates peace and harmony for both baby and me. There are weekly rhythms as well: Monday stretch class, Tuesday mom group, Thursday prayer and Friday Shabbat. Then there are the annual rhythms of seasons and holidays that bring a special magic to the daily routine.

Rituals help us center ourselves in the day to day as well. The ritual of family dinner time is an important one to us — we use cloth napkins and light a candle, pray together holding hands and talk about our day, whether dinner is as simple as a quesadilla or as special as a roast. But there are other little rituals too: singing the playtime song as I put baby on his floor quilt signals that it’s time to wiggle and explore. Putting on jammies and turning on the salt lamp gets us ready for sleep. Tidying up our spaces before I begin work helps me clear my head and think creatively.

Think of how children interact with the day — they have no real concept of time, they don’t watch the clock. They need lots of preparation for what is coming next. If the daily rhythm is predictable, if their rituals are familiar, they feel at peace because they can get mentally prepared for the day. Adults have a higher capacity for processing changes, but I wonder if it comes at a greater cost than we realize. I wonder if adults would benefit almost as much as children by following a predictable rhythm and familiar rituals.

Scientific studies show that willpower is reduced by having too many decisions to make. Like children, we thrive if more of the decisions have been made for us beforehand. We can use rhythm to set our life in order so that there is no question to settle of what we will do next.

Our hectic modern-day world prioritizes punctuality and productivity. Since the industrial revolution, the speed at which a machine or person can produce output has been a high measure of success. Instead of “what did I do today?” the question asked is, “what did I get done?” But the problem here is that we are not machines, we are humans. We are made for human connection, and our work is meant to be integrated into the rest of our lives. Really, what is the purpose of work except to sustain our selves and care for those around us?

Maybe we can shift our thinking this year from one of output and resolve and focus instead on meaning. There are important tasks to accomplish, to be sure, but it takes healthy bodies and whole minds to accomplish them, which we cannot achieve by sheer willpower. Rhythm and rituals nourish the mind, foster connection, and tether our lives to the deeper meaning beneath it all.

Transitioning through the seasons

To celebrate the coming of a new season, I like to transition my decor. I like to think about the five senses and help my family to be happy and cozy at home in ways other than using store-bought holiday items. I’ll show you how I have transitioned from fall decor to Christmas and now to winter.

A simple winter mantelpiece.

Fall is not just Thanksgiving or Halloween and winter is not just Christmas. Fall and winter are both seasons unto themselves apart from holidays. My family doesn’t need me to tell them it is a new season — they can see for themselves by going outside! — but my family does enjoy the senses that help them celebrate each season. Fall is a season with its own smells, tastes, and sights. I know for a lot of people, fall is their favorite season! I started to move into fall by taking out summer decor such as bright throw pillows and pulling out throws, moving from big salads to soup, planning trips and having gatherings that celebrate things we love about fall, buying new fall candles, and thinking about certain kinds of music that celebrate fall.

I’m pretty much a minimalist decorator, so when Thanksgiving is over, there isn’t much to put away before thinking about winter. I bring in branches with colored leaves and this past year bought three beautiful pumpkins to use inside and outside and had candles all around the house and wreaths for the doors. I don’t want to usher in Christmas right away, preferring to wait until about the middle of December. I took down the fall wreaths, gave the pumpkins to the animals in our woods and threw out the branches. I have some textured pillows for winter and some heavier throws to use on our couches and chairs. I make sure the comforters and quilts are on our beds. I like to have candles that smell like pine instead of leaves and pumpkins. I make sure we have lotion and gentle soap for our winter skin. And I move away from pumpkin recipes to things that are spicier and smell wonderful, such as gingerbread and chai. In the fall, since it is quite warm here, we still eat a lot of salads, but in winter we tend to enjoy more soups and stews. And we drink more coffee and tea, so it’s fun to have some new ones to try. I like to add winter things slowly to the house, just as I have done with fall, and usually bring out something about every week until I’m satisfied. I notice that nature does the same thing: we don’t wake up one day to total fall or total summer (although in the South sometimes summer comes pretty quickly!).

For Christmas, I enjoy putting up a tree and decorating the mantel with fresh cedar. I have a Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen and enjoy adding some things to it and a few things in the kitchen. I like to decorate the kitchen and dining room tables with candles, fruit, and fresh greenery and put wreaths on the front and back doors. After Christmas, I leave up a few things that seem like winter to me. I leave these things up until the end of February. Then I will start to transition to spring.

Crochet pompoms and candles — so much hygge!

I am a novice at crochet, but I made a couple of chains with pompoms for the den and dining room windows. I use them at Christmas and then leave them up for the rest of winter. I have some felt embroidered hearts I made for the kitchen windows and a garland over the sink and will leave them up until after St. Valentine’s Day. I have red accents in the kitchen anyway, so I can leave my red pitchers and red transferware in the Hoosier all winter, but I use some boxwood instead of cedar in the pitchers. And we certainly want to continue to have candles all winter, so if I have been given any as Christmas presents, they are a welcome addition.

A simple craft that adds a bit of beauty to the windows.

As far as music goes, I really enjoy Advent hymns (actually, more than Christmas music!) so I still listen to that playlist sometimes throughout the winter. Music is not so much my thing, but I do listen to audio books in winter when I’m in the house, snuggled on the couch with my cup of coffee or ginger tea. And we enjoy watching movies or listening to music in the evening.

I want my family to enjoy all the things that go with each season. Craft-store decorations are not the only way to celebrate the season! I prefer to think about the five senses and look at nature and welcome the beauty of each season God has given us in that way.

King Cake (Dreikonigskuchen)

Happy Epiphany! Besides rereading the beautiful story of the wise men, a fun thing to do for Epiphany is to make a King cake. King cake can be eaten on Epiphany or anytime until Lent begins.  Some people have them for Shrove or Fat Tuesday, which is February 16 in 2021. You have plenty of time to try out this recipe and have a party or gift one to someone!

I usually make American style King cakes to celebrate Epiphany. But this year I decided to make an easier one called Dreikonigskuchen, which is from Germany. It is actually a bread and not a cake as we usually think of cake.  This one has raisins and lemon rind, but I think you could substitute orange or tangerine rind if you have some lurking around from Christmas. Also, in the photos, I have added the raisins before kneading, as the original recipe said, but I think it would be much better to add them after kneading for a better presentation. You can do whichever you prefer.  

Mix the ingredients
Dough after kneading in the mixer
Let rise
Divide into portions
Hide the almond!


½ cup (70g) raisins, placed in a bowl with warm water covering to plump them
1 cup (250mL) milk, warmed to 80F
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespooon (50g plus 14g) sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon or 1 packet active dry yeast 
4 Tablespoons (55g) butter, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
Zest of one large lemon 
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (4g) salt
1 almond for the king (optional)
1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk
1-2 teaspoons of sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw, which is a larger grained sugar)
1 Tablespoon sliced almonds (optional)


  1. In a small bowl, cover raisins with warm water to plump.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix 1 Tablespoon of sugar and yeast with milk.  Let stand until bubbles appear, in about 5 minutes.
  3. Mix the softened butter, ¼ cup of sugar, egg, and lemon zest in with the yeast mixture.
  4. Mix in half of the flour.  At this point, the recipe I used says to add the raisins.  If you are using a stand mixer, the raisins will be mostly pulverized.  If you want your raisins to be whole, add them after kneading. Then add the other 2 cups of flour and the salt.
  5. If you are using the stand mixer, knead on medium speed for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth but soft.  If you are kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes. If you are adding the raisins after kneading, add them now and knead until combined with the dough. 
  6. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a draft-free place to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.  
  7. After rising, turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice to deflate.  Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces.  I used my scale for this but you can eye it if you have no scale.  
  8. Shape 8 of the pieces into rolls.  Combine 2 of the pieces into one large roll. Place the almond, if using, inside one of the rolls. 
  9. Arrange the rolls on a greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper. Place the larger one in the center and the 8 rolls around the large one, leaving just a little room between each roll for them to touch as they rise. If there are whole raisins on the surface, remove them as they will burn during baking.
  10. Mix together the egg and 1 Tablespoon of milk.  Brush the rolls.  Sprinkle with sugar and sliced almonds.
  11. Let the rolls rise until puffy and doubled, about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.  
  12. Bake the risen rolls for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  13. Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Let cool completely before transferring to a serving plate.
  14. These are probably best eaten the day they are baked, but will keep in an airtight container or tightly covered for 3-4 days.

Traditionally, the person who gets the almond is King for the day.  It’s fun to make or purchase a crown or other prize for the King!