Just a few days ago, I noted my love for highly specific food traditions, tied to holidays and celebrations -- hoppin' john on New Year's Day, king cake on Mardi Gras, mint juleps on Derby Day. So, it seemed foolhardy not to avail myself of a Moravian Love Feast bun when I had the chance, seeing as how I was in North Carolina, and my in-laws have been attending the Christmas Eve Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church's Love Feast since back when Rudolph was a fawn. I'm not, by habit, a churchgoing gal, but was assured that all (even long-lapsed Catholic school girls like me) are welcome to share in the ritual.
What the heck is a Love Feast, you ask? Well, according to North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery (1955):
No church service is more distinctive than a Moravian love feast. Love feasts are held in connection with holidays such as Christmas, New Year's, Easter and on days of special significance to the church such as church anniversaries and a day set aside to honor missionaries.While there are regional variations in the components of the feast -- some congregations subbing in warm cider or hot Russian tea for the coffee, or embossing an "M" on the bun tops, rather than the Moravian star seen in the image above -- the recipe invariably calls for the inclusion of mashed potatoes. As a choir or orchestra performs, the buns are passed in baskets throughout the congregation, followed by cups of the hot beverage. After these have been collected, beeswax candles -- decorated with red paper frills to catch dripping -- are distributed to the assembled, lit from wick to wick, and carried in procession out of the church.
During the love feast, each person in the church receives a large, flat yeast bun and a mug of coffee containing cream and sugar.
The love feast is symbolic of the fellowship of the church. The idea behind the simple meal is that those who break bread together are united in the fellowship the way a family is.
Two bun recipes after the jump.
Moravian Love Feast Buns
from North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery (1955)
Beat 4 eggs. Add 4 cups sugar, 1 cup soft butter and lard (mixed), 2 tablespoons salt, 1 cup warm mashed potatoes, 1 1/2 pints liquid yeast or 3 cakes yeast and 2 gallons flour. Add lukewarm water to make soft dough.
Turn out on lightly floured board and knead until smooth. Place in warm place until "light."
Make into buns about 4 inches in diameter. Place on greased sheets so they don't touch and let rise until light. Bake until golden brown.
Brush with cream or melted butter just after removing from stove. Makes about 45 buns. At love feasts, the buns are served cold.
Another, more intricately spiced variation:
East Hills Moravian Love Feast Buns
Makes about 30 buns
2 packages yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup hot, dry mashed potatoes, unseasoned
1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons orange rind
2 tablespoons lemon rind
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mace
1-1/2 pounds flour
Mix together the yeast and water. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Cream together sugar and butter. Add and mix in well the potatoes, milk, and eggs.
Add the dissolved yeast mixture.
Mix spices into the yeast mixture. Add in enough flour to make a soft dough.
Knead dough on well floured table. Form into ball and place in greased bowl. Cover with cloth and let rise in warm place until double in size (about 2 hours). Pinch down; let rise again 5-10 minutes. Flouring hands well (dough will be sticky), form dough into small (3 oz) balls. Place on cookie sheet. Slash tops with razor blade to release air. Cover and let rise again till double in size. Bake at 350 degrees until golden all over (about 15-20 minutes).
[via: East Hills Moravian Church]