Today was our traditional "Big Stollen Bake," in which Sr. Mary Catharine, master baker, along with "sous-bakers," Sr. Greta and Sr. Judith Miryam, baked nearly 50 loaves of the special Christmas bread, which represents the Christ Child's manger. The stollen is given as Christmas gifts to our employees and benefactors. Beyond planning and preparing for this baking event, Sr. Mary Catharine also coordinates the distribution of the loaves, which are always eagerly anticipated and warmly received. Here is a detailed account of the bakers' very full day!

6:30 a.m. Right after Lauds (Morning Prayer), Sr. Mary Catharine goes downstairs to the bakery annex and begins the first batch of stollen in our large industrial-size mixer. The day before, Sister has prudently prepared all her ingredients and has them laid out for easy access. Talk about organization and efficiency! By the time Holy Mass is over (around 8:00 a.m.) this first batch is ready, risen, and waiting to be formed into loaves. All told, Sister makes four batches! Phew!

8:30 a.m. After Tierce (Mid-Morning Prayer), Sr. Greta joins Sr. Mary Catharine in the bakery. As is evident in these photos, Sister is no stranger to baking bread. And, we were very grateful for her expertise!

After the dough is punched down (get out those air bubbles!), our sister in formation participates in the loaves' "formation," with much "gravitas."

Sister's "gravitas" breaks into a beaming smile as the loaves, uniform in size, shape, and weight (2 lbs. each!) emerge from her nimble fingers.

9:00 a.m. After the loaves have filled out a bit in their second rising, Sr. Mary Catharine engages in the next stage of baking by brushing them with margarine...

...and then, it's into the oven, for approximately 30 minutes and/or whenever they are done! Halfway through the baking, the pan is turned around. The heavenly scent ("Whence comes that goodly fragrance?") of the baking bread fills the house, and always brings a few curious sisters (looking for samples, of course) down to the bakery.

We used the two ovens in the bakery and one oven upstairs in the kitchen, which meant going up and down the stairs (very carefully) while holding the large baking pan. Since the bakery stairwell gets a lot of traffic, there are usually a few near-collisions!

10:50 a.m. A flour-dusted Sr. Judith Miryam enjoys coffee break time with her favorite "Papa-Vision" coffee mug. Yes, it is true! An "apparition" of Pope John Paul II appears when a hot beverage is poured into the mug! This brief respite from our labors also offers an opportunity to put up our feet and taste the stollen (yum!).

11:00 a.m. After successfully navigating the stairs, Sr. Judith Miryam brings down a pan of baked stollen, piping hot from the oven, down under the cloister for the next step which is...

..brushing the loaves again with margarine, and then...

...covering them with powdered sugar, as demonstrated by Sr. Mary Catharine and Sr. Greta. Hey, it looks like the formidable-looking stollen is on the march!

12:55 p.m. When the stollen are sufficiently cooled, they are placed in plastic bags and then transported to the printshop on the "Little Red Stollen Cart."

Once in the printshop, the bags are pulled off the cart, clipped...

...and custom-labelled!

Looks like a beribboned Sr. Mary Catharine is really getting into the Christmas spirit proving that being novice mistress is not always serious business!

After the stollen is bagged, it is placed in gift baskets and bags for distribution to the lucky recipients!

Some of the larger baskets also feature jars of our homemade relish and raspberry jam.

4:50 p.m. Yes! And, after it is all over, there is the "BIG POST-BIG STOLLEN-BAKE CLEAN-UP"! There's nothing quite like sweeping up and washing off (prying off?!) candied tutti frutti and raisins!

It sure takes a lotta elbow grease to scrub and buff those counters!

And then, there are all those dishes to wash! But, as St. Teresa of Avila was fond of saying, "God can be found among the dishes and the pans!" Amen!

We thank the Lord for all those who made our stollen baking possible, especially our magnificent benefactors at Natale's Bakery here in Summit, who provided the flour, sugar, and butter! May the Lord bless all those who do good to us for the sake of His Holy Name!