Celebrating Feasts With Food – St. Catherine of Alexandria
St. Catherine of Alexandria was born towards the end of the 3rd century. According to legend, she became a Christian at the age of 14 following a vision. She was known for her wisdom and is said to have successfully debated 50 non-Christian philosophers when she was only 18. Responsible for the conversion of hundreds of people, she was eventually martyred (around 310 AD). Condemned to death on the wheel, instead she was beheaded because the wheel broke at her touch. Catherine is remembered since the 14th century as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers saints to whom people prayed especially for healing and protection from diseases.
In the middle ages, a tradition arose of celebrating her feast by visiting neighbors, singing songs requesting food and drink (cakes and breads or apples and beer). I came across this recipe for Catherine’s Cake (Kattern Cakes or Catterning Cakes). It is simple to make and would make a great project to do with children to help make it fun to be Catholic Christians. The detailed recipe on the web is written in metric system, however, there’s a basic description with quantities in the old English system we still use in the United States.
2 pounds yeast bread dough
2 oz (1/4 cup) butter
2 oz (1/4 cup) sugar
1 egg, beaten
A few caraway seeds
Frozen bread dough may be used, or make your own. Soften the butter and mix with sugar, egg, and caraway seeds, then knead into the dough. Allow to rise in a warm place for approximately 2 hours.
Once the dough has risen, either divide it into tennis ball sized loaves or form it into a larger loaf and place on/in a floured baking pan. Allow to rise another 30 minutes. If you have made the smaller loaves, flatten them slightly to make “cakes” for individual servings.
Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for two hours. (Smaller cakes may require a shorter baking time.)
Invite in the neighbors and enjoy with sparkling cider or other festive drink!
Image in the Public domain –
From St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt