What must be nearly 40 years ago, while waiting in the grocery store line with my two little boys in tow—I picked up a small holiday recipe book from the folks at Pillsbury Publishing.
What caught our collective attention was the adorable Teddy Bear on the cover—made with bread dough.
That year, and several years to follow, the three of us we made Teddy Bears for family gifts, and what a hit!
It became a tradition, or so my younger son reminds me—and one of his very best childhood Christmas memories.
A lot has happened over the years, enough so that a few weeks ago when he asked me to continue this tradition with his boys—our two grandchildren—I was nonplussed. Vaguely I recalled the Teddy Bears, but not in such keen detail as Josh.
As we reminisced about how much fun it was to make the Teddy Bears—but even more fun to surprise grandparents and friends with the boys’ homemade gifts—I got this wave of nostalgia mixed with sadness. I have no idea what happened to that recipe book!
I supposed I could figure out how to make something close from regular bread dough, but the bears he remembers were special. And the book with the full-page picture. These were no ordinary bears—they were honey bears with a light brown finish that made them shiny and so adorable.
Call it pure coincidence if you want, however, I prefer to call it a Christmas Miracle. Here’s what happened.
Just one week ago as I was clearing closet space for family who will be arriving tomorrow, I opened a box and what to my wondering eyes should appear—right there tucked inside the venerable Hunt Family Cookbook which has also been lost for years—you guessed it, that Pillsbury Holiday Recipes booklet, missing its cover but dutifully opened to Mr. Honey Bear!
Today is Fun Friday at our house and Eli, Sam and I will officially pick up where we left off to carry on the tradition. We’re making Honey Bear Bread as a big surprise for their parents.
It might take us a few tries, but we have time. And lots of honey!
Honey Bear Breads
These shapeable, lovable, edible bears are a unique gift to give.
- 6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
Chocolate chips, raisins, icing or assorted candies
Grease 2 large cookie sheets.
In a large bowl combine 2 cups flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, and yeast; blend well.
In a small saucepan, heat milk, water, and 1/2 cup butter until very warm but not boiling (120 to 130 F). Add warm liquid, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture. Using an electric mixer, blend at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in 3 cups flour to form a stiff dough.
On a floured surface, knead in 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Place dough in greased bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place (80 to 85 F) until light and doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough several times to remove all air bubbles. Top form 4 bears, divide dough into 4 equal parts. To shape each bear, divide 1 part in half. Shape 1 half into a smooth oval ball for the bear’s body; place on prepared cookie sheet.
Cut remaining half of dough into 2 equal parts. Pinch two 1-inch balls from 1 part for bear’s ears; shape remaining dough into a smooth round ball for bear’s head and attach to body. Flatten the 1-inch balls for ears and position on the head.
Cut remaining part of dough into 4 equal pieces; shape into arms and legs and attach to bear’s body.
Repeat with remaining 3 portions of dough so there are two bears on each cookie sheet.
Cover the bears with cloth towel; let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 F. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 1/4 cup butter and honey. Remove bears from the oven; brush generously with glaze. Return to oven and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until glaze is set and loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped.
Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheets. Cool on wire racks.
Decorate as desired and tie a ribbon bow around each neck. Yield: 4 bears, 4 servings each.
High Altitude—above 3,500 feet: no change.
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