Mother’s Day always makes me miss my maternal grandmother more than ever. She was a gem. She taught me to love everyone no matter what and that an open heart has no place for any kind of hate. She also loved lemons haha (A trait my mom, sister, and I both inherited)
Check below this heartfelt true story for the recipe I had to piece together. It’s very rich and feeds a lot, so share it with love.
My eyes widened. My senses filled with delight. The scent of lemon and sugar warmed my throat, made my stomach rumble and my mouth water.
“I picked up a Lemon Stollen for you girls.” Grandma smiled from the breakfast table, plates ready.
My grandmother was a terrible cook. She couldn’t bake to save her life. Although she was a mother to eight and grandmother to sixteen─I was number five in that group─she was better at loving us than filling our stomachs, but she could pick a good store-bought pastry.
The only things I remember making with my grandmother were instant Jello, microwave nachos, and toasted cheese. Family gatherings usually held store bought goodies or simple crock-pot dishes. It didn’t matter. My grandma always sparkled like a symbol of hope, joy, and encouragement to me. The treats she offered were an extension of that.
Maybe that’s why I never fully understood the saying: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I thought it meant: When life gives you something awesome, make it even better.” My grandma loved lemons. I have always loved them too. The same goes for my sister, most of my cousins, and nearly everyone from my mom’s side of the family.
My mother not only inherited my grandmother’s love of lemons, but also her lack of culinary design. She always undercooked everything. Her attempts at following recipes usually came with missing ingredients or additions that no one could stomach.
Somehow, miraculously, that gene skipped me, or maybe it was my desired to learn. A curiosity for cooking eventually that led me to sign up for a practical arts class in high school. It was exactly what everyone thinks of when they imagine home economics classes: awkward teens shoved in a room with ovens, pots and pans, and an old-fashioned teacher who cooked everything from scratch.
“You will use these recipe cards for the rest of your life.” Our instructor smirked at us on the first day. “I have students who come back years later to thank me.”
I glanced at the clean countertops and wondered if I could make something to be proud of. The recipes seemed easy enough. It was like art class. Instead of painting or molding, I discovered the freedom of mixing, kneading, pouring, and sampling my recipes. Even cleaning up once everything was in the oven offered a sense of accomplishment.
After months of learning, our final exam was a challenge. “You will hand craft your very own lattice pie,” my teacher announced.
Her example was flawless. The top of her pie was perfectly crisscrossed with synchronized squares of pie filling poking through as if to say, “You know I will melt in your mouth.”
We were given a week to study the recipe, test it, and ask for whatever help we needed. I couldn’t wait to get my hands sticky. Creaming the flour, sugar, and butter was like a dream. I adored crafting my own a crust worthy of flattening in my pan. I broke off a tiny piece and placed it on my tongue as I worked. It might as well have been sugar cookie dough. I sighed with delight and kept working.
The filling came from a can, but I was one of only two students who chose to make a cheery pie instead of apple. Cherries reminded me of lemons. They didn’t need to be super sweet, or peeled. They held their own unique flavor that tantalized my taste buds and soothed my throat.
The hardest part of making the pie was rolling out the dough for the lattices. I measured them with the grooves on my fingers and worked to cut even strips. When I laid the first ones on everything went well, but the second layer didn’t crisscross with mathematical precision like my teacher’s pie.
It didn’t matter. She adored the effort and said it was delicious. That pie earned me an A and gave me the drive to do more even after graduation.
I experimented with new recipes and found my hand in the kitchen. When I got married and became a mother, these skills dazzled my children. I could transform vegetables into favorite dishes, make healthy food taste good, and whip up a few treats for special occasions. My children loved baking from an early age. They loved helping in the kitchen and I happily involving them in every meal-making process.
I wanted them to learn how to do the things my mother and her mother couldn’t. Despite outperforming the women who came before me, I still felt a direct connection when making anything with lemons. I missed sharing Lemon Stolen especially.
I longed to share that specific treat with my kids. They had to know the joy of biting into the fluffy base then meeting the rich filling.
To keep my grandmother’s memory alive I spent countless hours scouring the internet trying to find recipes for Lemon Stollen, but everything I found didn’t look right. Most Lemon Stollens looked like a deformed fruit cake or awkward bread. What I knew it to be was a coffee-cake like breakfast dish.
“I want to try and make a Lemon Stollen,” I finally confessed to my sister.
“That would be so awesome.” She offered to help me search, and soon our mom was in hot pursuit as well. We each surfed the internet scouring websites for the perfect recipe.
“What we think is Lemon Stollen is actually called a Lemon Danish Twist,” my sister told me at the next family function.
“Weird.” I bunched up my face. “I feel like my whole life is a lie.”
We both laughed.
“You can find a bunch of recipes for it online, but I haven’t really looked at them yet,” my sister said.
I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer. As soon as the party was over I packed up the kids and waited for some down time. I crept to my computer after putting the kids to bed and began the hunt for my lemony childhood. Unfortunately the Lemon Danish Twist recipes I found were limited, and did not quite fit what I remembered of grandma’s favorite treat.
Thankfully my cooking had evolved. I no longer needed to go by-the-book. I liked to measure with my hands. I didn’t always need teaspoons or tablespoons. Sometimes a cup was nice, but not necessary.
Since my kids were babies I searched for grandma’s Lemon Stollen. I kept the past alive telling stories about it and what it meant to me. The time finally came when my eldest looked me in the eyes and asked, “Can we please just try to make our own Lemon Stollen recipe?”
The brand my grandma bought when I was a child stopped making them ages ago. The grocery store where I special ordered them took them off the menu when I got pregnant with my youngest. Apparently no one wanted it. My acquired taste was unique to me and my family.
I had run out of options. It was cook it or lose it. “Why not?” I grinned at her.
I printed off seven or eight similar recipes and set to work. First we mixed up the cake part. The simple flour, sugar, and butter base wasn’t hard to concoct. Then came the lemon filling, the most important and difficult part. I warmed my pan and stirred sugar and lemon juice with corn starch to make the gelatinous sunshine ingredient.
The crumble topping was last and more fun. With most of the baking behind me I mixed it up and topped everything flinging a few crumbs at the kids. They giggled and we slipped the strange lemony cake/bread into the oven.
I stepped back half afraid that I created a monster.
“Don’t worry mommy. I know I’ll love it.” My middle child placed her hand in mine.
Within minutes the kitchen filled with a familiar scent. Sugar and lemon drifted through the air. My heart warmed. I imagined grandma smiling at the table.
We waited unsure of how long to let it cook. I peeked in the oven and let my eyes and my nose lead the way. When the edges were golden brown and the entire house smelled like a bakery, I pulled out the new delectable. It was bigger than the ones grandma used to buy.
We all sat down with our plates steaming before us. The kitchen warmed to the memory of my childhood and I took the first bite. The mixture of fluffy cake and filling was almost exactly the same. It was so close that I was a kid again, swishing my feet at grandma’s table, filling my mouth with lemon stuffed bread.
“It’s perfect,” my eldest said.
The baby shoved his face in it.
My middle child hummed and started dancing a dance that told me she loved it.
I glanced at my kids eating what I once shared with my grandma. It brought me close to her again. She had been gone for more than a decade but her influence strengthened.
Most everyone has some dish, some food that reminds them of a special family member. Sharing those recipes keeps memories alive. I’ve never felt more connected to my family than when enjoying something that has been passed down through generations, even if it was originally store-bought. My grandma was a horrible cook, but her favorite food still brings us together.
Lemon Stolen Twist
2 cups flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup grated lemon peel
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered Sugar
2-4 tsp milk
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Then beat in eggs. Set aside. In a large cowl sift flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in lemon peel. Now mix in wet ingredients. Should be thick and bread-like dough. Twist and shape into a long rectangle on the cookie sheet, forming dips in the middle for the filling. Set aside.
On stovetop, pour all filling ingredients EXCEPT butter into a frying pan. Cook together on medium heat, stirring constantly until gelatinous. Remove from heat and stir in butter while still steaming.
Pour filling into dips/crevices in the middle of the pastry.
Now mix the topping in a medium or small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the filled pastry.
Bake for approximately 40 min. Or until dark golden brown on the edges.
Mix up the Icing and drizzle atop once cooled.