What is it about the Christmas season that calls us to come home? “Home for the Holidays” is a popular decorating idea and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” rings from the radio, giving voice to the cry of our hearts to come home.
And this where cakes and cookies come in—baked goods are such a joyous response to the hope of our loved ones’ return. How wonderful to celebrate by preparing the best and sweetest of the garden, excited to greet our people in delicious welcome. O Lord, our hearts are patterned after yours, for you command your mountains to yield their goods for your people’s return:
But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.
Ezekiel 36:8 NIV
Tucked in these tender words are references to the LORD’s most joyful celebration, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, when God’s people gather branches and fruit to decorate little shelters or booths. The festival recounts God’s provision of temporary haven while on their journey to their promised homeland, all the while whispering our ultimate homecoming.
“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. ”
John 14:1-4 The Message
A Citron Fruit Celebration
Garden in Delight welcomes citron to the Plant Guide, the one and only citrus fruit to be cultivated during Bible times. How much more plentiful are citrus fruits today, abundant in supermarkets with a glorious increase from one to many varieties of the tangy-good flavor citrus offers. However, as the LORD gave direction for celebrating the third festival, citron must have stood apart as a “goodly” fruit for its evergreen, ever-blooming habit. Fruits and flowers fill the tree simultaneously nearly year round, unlike the more common Deuteronomy 8:8 species which only bloom in spring, flowers growing into fruits over summer, harvest-ready in fall. Citron’s leaves, blooms, and the brightly colored bounty are all fragrant, another measure of continual and splendid delight.
Branches and Fruit Baking
Naturally we headed to the kitchen with citron fruit –
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Psalm 34:8 NIV
and brought along a few myrtle branches, too. Enjoy this recipe to glaze your cakes or cookies this season with the sweet zest of citrus, bringing the surprising, gentle flavors of “branch and fruit” plants from God’s Word to your baking.
Citron-Myrtle Baked Goods Glaze
Citron, often sold under its Hebrew name, Etrog, is available in specialty supermarkets. Where availability or cost is prohibitive, feel free to substitute lemon, Meyer lemon, orange, tangerine, or clementine, all plentiful in the winter months.
To your favorite vanilla cake or sugar cookies recipe, add 1 T. citron zest and 1/4 t. almond extract. Bake as directed.
In small saucepan over medium heat, whisk:
1/4 C. water
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 T. grated citron zest
Stir rapidly until sugar dissolves, keeping mixture at a bubbly simmer 3 to 5 minutes. Add:
2 T. powdered sugar
Continue stirring for about 1 minute. Once dissolved, remove from heat. Add:
4 myrtle leaves or 3 inch long dwarf myrtle sprig (substitute: 1 inch long sprig of rosemary)
Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
Remove myrtle leaves. Set glaze aside or store until baked goods come out of the oven.
Transfer cake to cake plate or cookies to a wire rack. Put wax or parchment paper in place to catch glaze drippings under rack or surrounding cake. Warm glaze again slightly and stir for even consistency.
Over warm cake or cookies, use pastry brush to apply glaze with even coverage. Let cake cool 2 hours. Cookies will be set in approximately 30 minutes and remain a little gooey to the touch. Enjoy!
“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
Luke 8:39 NIV
Photo Credits: ©2015 Shelley S. Cramm