My dad considered the poppyseed bread a major perk of joining my mom's family, and for many years he was the keeper of this tradition (mostly by making sure my grandma made it every year). Then for about a decade everyone fell off the wagon. No poppyseed bread in sight. Then a couple of years ago I realized that there was something missing from the family holidays and I began the enforcing. Mainly by making it myself, which I suppose is not really enforcement.
For those of you looking to have a cozy time around the tree tomorrow morning with your family, I bequeath the recipe to you:
Poppyseed Christmas Bread
Recipe on page 541 of "The Gourmet Cookbook", Vol 2, amended by Naomi Urban
Original recipe makes 2 loaves, but we doubled it to make 4
2 packets dry yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour
1 1/3 cups poppyseeds
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup raisins
Dissolve yeast in milk with sugar. Let stand in a warm place until the mixture bubbles. In a bowl combine butter, sugar, salt and the rind of the 2 lemons. Then add alternately flour and the yeast mixture. Knead the dough well on a floured board, adding a little more flour if necessary to make a dough that is soft but not at all sticky. Turn the dough into a buttered bowl, cover it with a cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk (about 2 hours).
Meanwhile, combine poppyseeds, sugar, milk and raisins, and the grated rind of the two lemons. Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly, until the mixture is of spreading consistency.
Divide the dough in 4 equal parts, punch down, and roll out each part into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick. Spread the rectangles with the poppyseed filling and roll like a jelly roll. Place the rolls on an oiled baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Let them rise for 2 hours, brush them again with beaten egg, and bake in a moderately slow oven (325 degrees) for about 45 minutes, or until loaves are lightly browned.