And so it ends, Christmastide. The twelfth night, or Epiphany, has passed and we’re going back to our daily lives. The kids are back in school, and most of us are back to work. I just wanted to get one last Christmas post in before the season is over. Here’s a clip from This Hour has 22 Minutes about mummering:
As I said before Old Christmas day was a big thing in Newfoundland, more so for my parents and grandparents than now, but there are still traditions of mummering and celebrating throughout the province. Depending on what part of the province you were from sometimes it was called mummering and sometimes called Janneying. The term “mummer” was derived from the fact that those who were mumming remained silent (mum) to prevent those for whom they performed from guessing their identities. The origin of the word “janneying” is uncertain, but some believe it was derived from “jannies,” referring to young boys who disguised themselves to perform mischief during the Christmas season. It’s also thought as another form of Johnnies, a common name for young boys.
I was reading an account about Old Christmas day and there was a mention of Twelfth buns. This is taken from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English: “Those twelve nights [of Christmas] we’d be at it, and the last night we[‘d] make a pan of sweet buns, twelfth buns, and give ’em to the people. Every house we’d go to we’d give ’em a bun for Twelfth Night.”
I was talking with my father the other night and he remembers going Janneying when he was a boy. Like mummering, the group would go in the house, play a bit, stay for some cake and then move on. Here’s a great recount of those times taken from the Southwest Arm Historical Society: “Where we lived in St. Jones, Christmas was good because we’d be Jannying for the twelve days of Christmas. We’d go to people’s door and knock. When they come out you’d say, “Any Jannies ‘lowed in?” They’d say come on in now. They’d try to guess who we were. Then they’d give you a piece of cake and a drop of syrup. Sometimes the people would want you to dance.
On Old Christmas night, we’d go around to the different houses. Around 11:00 pm a number of young people would get together and make an old twelve cake. Everyone would bring something to put in the cake like figs, fat pork, berries and whatever you could get. When it was baked, we’d all share. Somebody would bring partridge berries and we’d steep it in the kettle and remove the berries and drink the juice. This was how we made berry ocky.”
So I got to searching about buns, and cakes. Unlike now sweet bread was considered a treat. Sugar and raisins were not something you would throw into bread; too expensive. Bread usually was the plain white loaf, made into the three bun loaves, used for everyday meals. Sweet breads were for special occasions like the holidays. Breads such as raisin loaf were only made a few times a year.
A sweet bread is an enhanced dough, usually with eggs and sugar. Then you can augment the dough by added ingredients like fruit or nuts. My grandmother’s cinnamon raisin bread is always a big hit when we go visit. I like it toasted with a slathering of butter. This recipe I have is done in the bread mixer, so I can mix it and walk away and do other things while the bread is proofing (like write blog posts).
This recipe makes a two pound loaf and will be separated into twelve buns. In the bread maker place the following ingredients in this order:
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup skim milk powder
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp butter (room temp)
- 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp bread machine yeast
- 1 cup raisins
Put machine on dough cycle and mix. I like to have my water a little warm, just to give the yeast a bit of a head start. The trick is that if you can leave your finger in the water for five seconds comfortably then it’s warm enough. Longer than that the water is too cool.
Once the cycle is complete remove dough and shape into twelve buns. I noticed the buns were about 80 grams each. I measure them because I like to have all the buns about the same size, but you can eyeball it too. Place the buns in a greased 9X13 pan and leave to rise again in a warm place. About 30-40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F and once risen again, bake for 25 minutes. Let cool on the rack for 20 minutes. Enjoy with a nice warm cup of tea or coffee, and a little bit of butter.
Cinnamon Raisin Buns
This raisin bun is perfect for a sweet treat in the afternoon.
Measure all ingredients into baking pan in the order given. Insert pan into the oven chamber. Select "Dough" cycle.
When dough is done in bread machine, remove from pan and shape into twelve equal sized balls. Place into a greased 9X13 pan. Let rise in a warm space for 30-40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F. Place pan in oven and bake for 25 minutes, until the tops of the buns are a golden brown. Once done remove from oven and brush with melted butter (optional). Let cool for 20 minutes on rack.