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A loaf of bread shares a welcoming language of its own. A statement of hospitality accompanies every slice. A gracious greeting travels with each ribbon-tied gift bread.

During the holiday season, hospitality expands with the rediscovery of treasured seasonal recipes. Family favorites slide from the oven, leaving a lingering aroma of spicy goodness.And lingering with the sweet smell is the memory of the friend or relative who shared the original recipe. Recall the neighborly delivery of a Christmas loaf; reminisce about the giver. What picture does the recollection evoke?

For years my mom repeated a seasonal ritual - blending an unlikely combination of pumpkin and chocolate chips for Harvest Loaf Cake. The loaves were drizzled with a spicy glaze, then found their way to neighbor's doorsteps.

As I further scan my recipe file, a bread-laden memory aligns itself with each place I lived. Every new home brought a treasured bread addition to my collection.

From Jane Hales in Binghamton, N.Y., I learned to tie Orange Bowknots. With amazement, I discovered I had the recipe all along - it was in my dependable Better Homes and Gardens gingham cookbook, but I needed Jane to reassure my beginning baking skills.

Plain pumpkin bread was Mickey Pulsipher's Indianapolis contribution. A simple round loaf, baked in a tall juice can, satisfied my children's perpetual request for "no nuts and raisins, Mom." I learned to bake four of five loaves for the kids, then stuff the last one with fruit and nuts - for me.

My Raleigh welcome was a slab of Southern hospitality called Cream Cheese Braids. A neighbor, Judy Hubbard, described this holiday breakfast indulgence as "the whole nine yards." It tasted like 100 yards to me, but when I found out it could be made the night before and freshly baked in the morning, the recipe quickly topped the list of favorite and easy.

Home-to-Utah bread was as predictable as mountain snow for Christmas. Weekly deliveries of a homemade wheat loaf appeared on my doorstep. Some six weeks and six loaves later I discovered the mysterious source, Carlie Hardy.

Door-to-door Utah deliveries must include the Christmas Eve tale of my predecessor at the Deseret News, Winnifred Jardine. Jardine's Christmas Tea Rings traveled more miles than an airline pilot.

"On Christmas Eve day we gathered to make the rings. I kept the kitchen going while the children and Stuart delivered the rings. We did 30 or 40; you have to be careful, this kind of thing quickly gets out of hand. Then when we should be celebrating, there was flour all over everything. I sent everyone to bed and cleaned up the kitchen. Sometimes it seemed crazy, but it's a wonderful memory," Jardine said.

Jardine went on to explain that the tea ring tradition started with her mother when they lived in Iowa.

"I remember my dad saying to my mom one baking night, `Sometimes I wish I were your neighbor instead of your husband.' "

Many recipes can be adapted to hectic holiday time schedules. Extended refrigeration periods slow the yeast-activation process, allowing greater control of the rising period.

Frozen bread doughs eliminate the mixing process and facilitate the final product.

Rhodes Bake-N-Serv, our local frozen breadmaker, is offering a free holiday recipe collection. The booklet can be obtained by writing Rhodes Bake-N-Serve, P.O. Box 25487, Salt Lake City, UT 84125 or by calling 1-800-876-7333.


Recipes listed:

Sour Cream Almond Bread

Chocolate Almond Zucchini Bread

Apricot Bread

Nutty Coconut Bread

Prune Bread

Julebrod or Scandinavian Christmas Bread

Braided Candy Cane or Wreath

Hawaiian Coconut Bread

"Old Fruit" Cake