Christmas morning, with the aromas of cinnamon, butter and bacon mingling with the cool morning breezes and the fragrance of pine. It is a special time, a quiet time, I think, to be treasured, no matter your relationship to the holiday.
If little kids are part of your morning, it will be shaped by early-morning footsteps, the crinkling of gift wrap and squeals of delight.
If not, you may linger in bed a tad longer than usual, sipping tea or coffee, reading the paper and enjoying the silence, uninterrupted by annoying phone calls and a need to rush off to the next obligation.
My preference is to enjoy a pot of homemade chai tea as I make a favorite cinnamon coffee cake and fry some bacon to go along with it.
It's a once-a-year indulgence that neither induces guilt no matter how much butter I slather on the cake nor makes me want to repeat it, except a year from now.
It's a lovely indulgence but not an addictive one.
When the coffee cake is ready and the bacon sufficiently crisp, I'll pour a glass of sparkling wine and savor it all slowly, before heading to the nearby coast so the puppies can sniff the shoreline to their hearts' content.
Whatever it is you are doing or not doing today, Happy Christmas. I hope it is a delicious day, full of love.
In "Cooking for Comfort" (Simon & Schuster, 2003), journalist Marian Burros offers several of her mother's recipes, including this one.
It is so similar to one that I loved when I was a little girl that I couldn't resist making a small change by adding butter to the filling and topping, which is how I remember it.
Coffee cake should, especially on Christmas Day, be served with good butter alongside.
<strong>Marian Burros' Mother's Sour Cream Coffee Cake</strong>
<em> Makes 8 to 12 servings</em>
<strong><em> For filling and topping:</em></strong>
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
<em><strong> For cake:</strong></em>
— Butter, for the pan
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
Put the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon into a medium bowl and mix with a fork. Add the butter and mix again. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter the inside of a 9-inch spring form or tube pan. Put the butter into a bowl and use an electric mixer to whip it until it is light in color. Add the sugar and continue mixing until very pale and fluffy.
Sift the flour and re-measure it, using just 2 1/2 cups. Sift it again with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
With the electric mixer on low, add about a quarter of the eggs, followed by about a quarter of the dry ingredients. Continue, alternating eggs and dry ingredients, until all have been incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix quickly but thoroughly.