Friday, December 14, 2018

Holiday Baking 2018

Hey All!!

Long time no post, I know! It's been a month and I have been so caught up in holiday fun and, of course, holiday shipping. :)

OK, if anyone would like the recipe for any of these, just leave me that request in the comments below and I will post them for you. ;)

But I HAVE been baking like CRAZY and wanted to share some of the results with you...

It began in November with St Martin's Day croissants.

St. Martin's day falls on November 11th and is still well-celebrated worldwide. There are many wonderful traditions across the globe that vary from one country to the next and I won't even attempt to cover anything here except for the croissants.

I found these in a book about the old traditions of the season and that led to finding out about Poznan, the Polish village known best for the croissants that they produce for this day. The town has a museum dedicated to the history of the croissants. . . and there is a legal protection on the recipe. Only croissants that fit the size, wight and ingredients can call themselves the official St Martin's croissant. Maybe most amazing of all is that the people of Poznan (with a city population of just over 500,000)  manage to eat a lot of them – as in 700,000 of them on St Martin’s Day alone!

Mine were a little less extravagant (the dough for the "official" ones requires 81 layers of dough!) and smaller to allow for us to keep them fresher.  Apricot jam and a ground almond filling are wonderful together in these.

St Martin's Day croissants

Next were Catern cakes, made for St Catherine's day, November 25th.

Again, celebrations take place the world over but this excerpt from the French description of the day there, made me smile.

On St Catherine's Day, it is customary for unmarried women to pray for husbands, and to honour women who have reached 25 years of age but have not married—called "Catherinettes". Catherinettes send postcards to each other, and friends of the Catherinettes make hats for them—traditionally using the colours yellow (faith) and green (wisdom), often outrageous—and crown them for the day. Pilgrimage is made to St Catherine's statue, and she is asked to intercede in finding husbands for the unmarried lest they "don St. Catherine's bonnet" and become spinsters. The Catherinettes are supposed to wear the hat all day long, and they are usually feted with a meal among friends. Because of this hat-wearing custom, French milliners have big parades to show off their wares on this day.

And these are Cattern cakes:

There is nothing like this cookie/cake.

First, the dough incorporates caraway seed and currants and, second, the dough, when rolled out, is so soft and crumbly that it takes patience to actually get a good roll from them, let alone slice them and get them on the tray. But they come out so well and they'll hold for a week, only getting better and stronger in flavor as they sit!

Then December came. . .

When I was a child, one of my favorite holiday events was the annual bake-good fest that my great Aunts (five of them!) and my grandmother embarked upon. Basically, for the first three weeks of December, our house was inundated in many classic Slovak, Hungarian, Russian and Polish baked goods.

Two of my great aunts, Help and Agnes, who lived together, would call my mother and say "Come pick them up Doll!" Sh'ed corral me and off we'd go, just a few blocks, but the anticipation was off the hook! Walking into their house and seeing the dining room table (which sat 8) completely covered with trays and plates filled with all the traditional goodies!

We'd pack up the few tins we brought and hand them the box of nut roll and poppyseed roll that my grandmother made.

It has been years since I tasted those treats and though, after they passed, some of their daughters and grandkids tried to keep up the traditions, many of the recipes have been lost.

Strangely enough, though I bake very regularly, I never tried finding any of them myself.

This year I decided to give it a try. Thus far I've focused on three in particular, trying to perfect them as I've gone along.

These are Kolaches (spelling varies on ALL of these over different cookbooks) Kiffle and Potitca.

First, both the Kiffle and Kolaches use the same basic dough which is equal parts cream cheese and unsalted butter, flour and salt.

These are the Kolaches

There is NO sugar in the dough but, once the dough has sat in the fridge for at least a few hours, you roll it out on the counter into a dusting of sugar. This caramelizes on the bottom when they cook and is just the right amount of sweetness. The dough which seems like puff pastry when you remove the cookies, puffed and flaky, cools to. a cookie consistency and there is nothing like it in my own recipe box.

The filling is just dried apricots, rehydrated and then cooked down with sugar and water until the reduced liquid is thick like a syrup and then it is all pureed.

And The Kiffle is just rolled instead of pinched and uses a sweetened ground walnut filling with scalded milk, butter and sugar.

These are amazing. The walnut filling almost crystalizes. Both the Kolaches and Kiffle can be made with poppyseed, apricot, nut, cherry or prune filling. These are the two I remember the best though.

And finally, today, I made the Potica. It's essentially a nut roll but with thinner flakier layers and, in many homes, instead of long rolls it was made into bundt shaped cakes, the rolls stacked on top of each other before baking! I was not brave enough to try that but maybe for the new year?

This is Potica: Mine was more like traditional nut roll than I was hoping for  and came up a little short in the layer department and I'll try again but, hey, it was DELICIOUS! :)

So, that is where I am in my holiday bake-fest. When we made the Kolaches and Kiffle, we decided there was no need to look any further this year. We are making a few dozen every other day and giving them away and eating wayyyyy too many ourselves!

I hope you are enjoying the season wherever you are. I'll be around to drop in soon again!

Thank you and happy solstice/holidays until the next time!