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The Food: Saint Lucy's Feast Day

St. Lucy's Day Cuccia (Sicilian Cuccia: a Dessert)

1 pound wheat berries
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn starch
2 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate bits
1/2 cup candied citron

Soak wheat berries in water overnight. If you aren't cooking them in the morning, the wheat berries can continue to soak, but change water in the morning. Drain wheat and place in a wide-bottomed soup pot with water to cover by two inches. Add salt and simmer for three hours (or until tender). Add water if necessary. When tender, drain excess water. Set aside, covered. In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch with 1/2 cup milk until cornstarch is dissolved and smooth. Put in a saucepan with remaining milk, lemon zest, and chocolate bits. Cook over low flame, stirring continuously, until milk thickens. Be careful the milk does not boil. Remove from heat and mix with drained wheat. Add citron just before serving. Serves 12.

Cuccia - St. Lucy's Day Soup

1 lb wheat
1 lb Fava beans
1 lb Ceci
1 clove of Garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp Crushed Red pepper
1/3 cup Olive Oil

Each ingredient is soaked overnight, rinsed, and cooked separately, since these items cook at different rates. The wheat has a good consistency if cooked 3-4 hours depending upon if it is winter wheat or summer. The fava beans take about 2 hours and the ceci takes about 1 hour. The water should be salted with a teaspoon of salt. Garlic can be added to each as well as a bay leaf. Crushed red pepper can be added to taste. After ingredients are cooked separately, they are combined. Olive oil is added to form a thin layer on top, about 1/3 cup. The Cuccia is then stirred and served hot in a soup bowl. Some towns added cooked dried peas and/or corn as well.

In Isnello, Palermo, Sicily, the recipe called for just soaking the wheat (1 pound) overnight, rinsing it the next morning, and boiling it for hours until it was tender. It was served with milk and sugar, similar to oatmeal.

Santa Lucia Crown [Makes 1 crown.]

1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon saffron powder
4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
powdered sugar frosting, optional (recipe follows)
red and green candied cherry halves, optional
6 candles, optional

Place 1/4 cup warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, saffron, and 1 1/2 cups flour; blend well. Stir in 2 eggs and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6--8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; reserve 1/3 of dough for top of crown. Divide remaining dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each to 25-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. To shape top of crown, divide reserved dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each to 16-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on separate greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. Cover braids; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Lightly beat remaining egg; brush on braids. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or until done (small braid) and 25 minutes or until done (large braid), covering large braid with foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove braids from baking sheets; let cool on wire racks.

To decorate, make 6 holes for candles in small braid. Place small braid on top of large braid. If desired, drizzle with powdered sugar frosting and garnish with candied cherry halves. Insert candles in prepared holes.

Powdered Sugar Frosting:
In small bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted; 4 to 5 teaspoons milk; and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir until smooth.  

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