How would you like to be St. Ambrose? His feast day is December 7...the day after the feast day of the most famous Bishop in the world! You didn't know that?...I figured as much. But St. Ambrose IS just as special, and God thought so too.
Did your parents ever tell you that they knew you were special from the time you were a little baby? St. Ambrose's parents did! There is a legend that when our friend was just an infant in his cradle, a swarm of bees came by and landed on his little face while he was napping. Imagine his parent's anxiety! Instead of harming little Ambrose, the bees just sat there for a while, and when they left, they left him little droplets of honey on his face and tongue as a gift. This prompted his parents to believe that someday he would say something very, very special. Would you like some honey on your tongue? Here is a recipe for some honey cookies called Medovnicky. These are an eastern European type of honey bread that was made specifically for pilgrims as they journeyed back and forth from visiting holy sites. The honey kept them from spoiling and gave nutrition to travelers, and they taste delicious.
Medovniky for St. Ambrose Day
3 cups rye flour ( you can use white or whole wheat, if you like)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup of honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
zest of 1 lemon ( orange zest is great too!)
Combine everything to make a dough. Knead well, roll out, make cutouts and bake at 375 degrees about 6- 7 minutes.
Decorating these gingerbread-like cookies is sometimes more fun than baking them...or eating them!
To make icing:
1 egg white
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice ( or water, if you prefer)
Wisk the ingredients together, then spoon into a sturdy plastic bag ( freezer bags work just fine) and cut off one corner to pipe the icing onto your completely cooled medovniky.
To make these cookies even more special, cut out the cookies using a hexagonal cookie cutter to resemble a honey comb. If you don't happen to have a hexagonal cookie cutter, just cut a hexagon shape from a paper plate and use it as a template. Once they are frosted, using the icing recipe above, you can pipe some melted chocolate to edge them, then to glue on a yellow candy-covered chocolate to look like a bee. With the melted chocolate, and using the same plastic bag piping technique, draw some stripes onto your bee, then a head and some wings to complete the look. How cute they look all lined up on a platter! Just like a honeycomb!
St. Ambrose's Honey Lip Balm
Now, we can give some of our medovnicky away to our neighbors as a tribute to our saintly friend Ambrose, but just in case we find we've eaten them all ( it's so easy to do!) here is another idea. You can have honey on your lips, just like St. Ambrose, when you make this lip balm from honey and beeswax. It's just the thing when the cold December wind begins to blow!
6 parts (2 Tbsp) grated pure beeswax
6 parts (2 Tbsp) olive oil
1 part ( 1 tsp.) raw honey
You'll need a double boiler set up on the stove for melting the wax, just exactly as you would to melt chocolate. It has to be done slowly and at a very low temperature. Put a pot, with a few inches of water in it on the stove over medium heat and bring just to a low simmer. Place the wax shavings, the oil and the honey into a pint size glass jar and place the jar into the water. Every so often, swirl the jar around to aid in the melting process until all the wax is completely melted and everything is incorporated. Once it is completely melted, pour your mixture into some very small jars or other small containers. The lids from empty spice jars can be recycled for this purpose as they are the perfect size. Once the balm has hardened, it may be used as often as you like. Let it remind you to keep sweetness on your lips, just like our saintly friend!