About half a year ago, Karl and I won the golden ticket (sort of) and were assigned a date to tour the Steinway Factory in Astoria/Queens! After months of waiting, our date finally arrived. In the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, we crept out of bed, hopped in the car, and headed south for New York.
Karl drove the entire way there, while I, the worst copilot ever, snoozed from state to state. My brilliant pianist is the Charlie Bucket of this Willy Wonka story. He had been dreaming of visiting the factory for so long – I just came for the bagels and pizza. Karl began playing the piano when he was just a tiny tot, and recently, he created his own piano action model from scratch with caveman-like tools. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time and effort was spent to creating this model, but he can! He wrote a blog post about it, and it’s posted here!!
The model and the post are both incredibly amazing and beautiful. I am as proud as can be!
Our tour group was made up of mostly elderly couples, so we fit right in. But ironically, we were the stragglers of the group because we couldn’t pull ourselves away from what we were seeing. Remember that scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when Grandpa Joe and Charlie sneak sips of the Fizzy Lifting Drinks and almost get caught in the sharp ceiling fan? Well that was pretty much me and Karl the entire time – causing trouble!
In the middle of the tour, everyone was given a souvenir piano hammer. I thought, could this be a test? If I return this back to our tour guide at the end, will he give me the entire Steinway Factory??
Sadly, the answer was no.
Now speaking of old and classic masterpieces, Mama U shared Karl’s great grandmother’s coffee braid recipe with me a while ago. It is a sweet bread with an almond cinnamon filling and a simple glaze. The recipe is so fun and rustic. Mashed potato is added to the dough, which replaces some of the flour – a technique that adjusts nutritional benefits in bread. This sweet bread often makes an appearance at Uhlig Thanksgivings, but I busted out the recipe for a special occasion at work.
After several attempts at slightly modifying Grandma Great’s recipe, I finally have the perfect iteration for the blog!
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup mashed potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup warm milk
- 1 packet (2¼ teaspoons) yeast
- 6 tablespoons warm water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 7 ounce almond paste
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup half and half
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the mashed potato.
- Pour the warm water into a small bowl, and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Add the yeast mixture and warm milk to the butter, sugar, and eggs mixture. Mix until just incorporated.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to wet mixture, and mix until just incorporated (switch to your hook attachment for your electric mixer if you have one available).
- Lightly grease a bowl with a little canola oil, and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and place in a warm spot to rise for 1½ hours.
- While the dough is rising, mix together all the ingredients for the filling. Cover with plastic wrap, then set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle a little bit of flour on a clean work surface. Divide the dough in half, then slice each of the halves into thirds. You should end up with 6 pieces of dough. Pat or roll each into long rectangles (about 4''x8''). Spread the almond paste mixture on each rectangle. Starting with the short ends, roll the dough into logs. Stretch a bit to make a ‘rope’.
- Take those 3 rope pieces, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then braid. Place the remaining 3 rope pieces right next to the braided loaf, and braid.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel, and let it rise again for 30 minutes.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until light brown.
- In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the glaze, except the pecans, with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour over the warm loaves, then top with chopped pecans (optional)