Thursday, November 19, 2009

Advent Bread Dough Wreath

Advent and Christmas have always been my very favorite time of the year for baking. Not that the other seasons - Easter and Ordinary Time don't have some great recipes to make and bake, but Advent and Christmas traditions reach so far back into my childhood and memory, that it would be impossible to replace these two seasons with any others.
Maria Von Trapp’s book Around the Year with the Trapp Family, out of print, and Evelyn Birge Vitz’s A Continual Feast inspired my interest in Catholic cultural and food traditions. Fr. Francis X. Weiser’s, S.J., popular research into every facet of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time customs kept me learning. Did you know that mince meat pie was banned in England by the Puritans when they came to power? There are many fascinating connections to discover between food and history.
In our home as the children were born I incorporated my love of Advent and Christmas baking with new found knowledge about food and Catholic cultural customs associated with the seasons. The recipe I am sharing today was found in a San Diego Parents’ advertiser. I used it with our children to make an Advent Bread Dough wreath. It is very kid friendly. Everyone can get their hands in the dough without much damage! One recipe makes a 9 inch wreath or you can make a few smaller wreaths. The smaller wreaths work well in a classroom setting. The students can fashion them at their desks with a piece of aluminum foil under the lump of dough. The teacher can bake them in a school or parish oven. A few hours later or the following day the wreaths can be painted and then taken home. The wreath will last for a number of years after it is baked, painted and sealed. Just store it in a plastic Ziploc baggy where it is cool and dry until next Advent. The recipe and directions follow.
PREP: 20 minutes BAKE: 325 1 hour or until hard and dry
INGREDIENTS                                                                         EQUIPMENT
4 cups of flour  large mixing bowl, baking sheet
1 ½ cups of warm water floured board, plastic, foil or wax paper
1 cup of salt green, purple & rose acrylic paint
paint brushes, size #12 & #3
4 candles: 3 purple, 1 rose or birthday
candles for mini-wreaths- I use white
candles and colored ribbons – purple & rose
acrylic spray sealer to seal the paint, optional

DIRECTIONS: YIELD: 1 large or 4 -6 mini-wreaths

1. Combine flour and salt in bowl. Mix thoroughly. (For the classroom, have a few parents send in one recipe each in a gallon baggy. Only water will need to be added!)
2. Make a well in center of flour/salt mixture.
3. Pour 1 cup water into flour mixture and stir.
4. Add more water until flour is moist but not wet.* Continue mixing. May use hands.
5. Knead dough 5 minutes on floured board or in bowl until smooth.
6. Turn oven on to 325 degrees.
7. Take the lump of kneaded dough and roll between hands making a rope of about 18 inches in length and 3 ½ inches in width. Attach ends to one another making a fairly smooth seam by using a small amount of water to work dough together. (For smaller wreaths divide the dough into four or six lumps. Follow preceding directions. Rope will be shorter and not as wide.)
8. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. With one of your Advent candles (or birthday candle for smaller wreaths), make four impressions about four inches apart to 1 – inch depth. Be sure impressions are fuller than candles because impressions shrink as the dough bakes.
9. Bake for 1 hour or until very hard. Let cool thoroughly before decorating.
*Be careful not to use too much water or bread dough will not harden but instead puff out!
1. Paint the wreath with green acrylic paint. Use number 12 (or so )paint brush for broad strokes.
2. After the paint dries we paint four sacred symbols* one beside each candle hole. Three we paint with purple acrylic paint and one we paint with rose color. Either older children or a parent will have to do this. Use a number 3 (or so )paint brush for the symbols. Or you may simply paint a purple circle around three candle holes and a pink around the fourth hole. When dry, spray with acrylic sealer to seal the paint and enhance the surface – preferably outside since there are fumes.
3. Some people like to weave an artificial strand of store-bought evergreen around the bread dough wreath. The wreath may be set on a table or hung by purple and rose ribbons from a fixture – some chandeliers are ideal for hanging the wreath from. I set ours on a table in the living room.
4. Place your candles in the wreath after you have placed or hung it. A small amount of melted wax applied to the base of each hole may help the candles to remain firmly in place.
5. Change candles to white Christmas Eve and include the Christ candle in the center of the wreath – those that are resting on a table! Ribbons may be changed to red and white.
6. Store in a cool, dry place after the Christmas season in a gallon-size plastic Ziploc bag.
*Two books in print which contain sacred Advent symbols and monograms: John Bradner’s Symbols of Church Seasons & Days and George Ferguson’s Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.
These wreaths are the work of children ages 7 – 13 and they are in various stages of completion.


  1. My dear husband showed me how to create a Google account so I could respond. I have tried many of your wonderful ideas, and hope you have great success on your new blog!!!

  2. Colleen, how fun. Teresa told me that you came. I remember making bread dough crucifixes we made together in your kitchen many years ago. I look forward to enjoying your blog as it develops.

  3. Thank you for starting this blog--I know it will be a great help this Advent!