Sweet Easter Bread (Mazanec)

Spring is in the air now, I suppose; the flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining (occasionally – this is still the Pacific Northwest, after all), and everyone becomes marginally more cheerful as the dreariness of winter wears away. The weather is actually cooperating this Easter – the kids won’t have to put on rain boots and wade through the downpour looking for eggs, which already feels like a major Easter miracle to me! I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have small kids anymore, so the egg hunts and such are not on the agenda, but I can’t seem to get into the Easter mood this year. I think it was easier in a way while they were little munchkins, and Easter used to unfold in a very predictable fashion: Dress them in their very best outfits. Somehow, get to church on time and try to wrangle them through the service when all they think about is candy that will follow. Take them to an egg hunt; settle inevitable brotherly quarrels about who saw which chocolate egg first and help them to fairly divide the loot. Suffer in silence as you see their brand new white dress shirt (or your couch!) getting chocolate smears all over, and then try to keep them from climbing the walls and tearing the house down, when they get all crazy from the candy overdose. True Easter bliss 🙂 It wasn’t easy and I remember the relief I felt when it was all over and I was secretly munching on one of their Cadbury Eggs in the evening, but now I have to confess I kind of miss it.

I tried to make myself feel more Easter-y by making the house look somewhat more presentable and coloring some eggs, but that was kind of a debacle in itself – I wanted to ditch the chemical colorings and go with Mother Nature this year, but no matter if I colored with spinach juice, beet juice, cabbage juice or turmeric, the eggs all emerged the same murky hue, as if I bathed them in the muddy pond behind our house. (The only natural coloring that never disappoints are onion peels!) Next year, I’m back to acid green and Barbie pink from a box, I think.

At least the baking part was a success 😉 This sweet Easter bread is a classic Easter dessert baked back home on Easter Saturday. It is a buttery yeast bread, enriched with eggs and raisins. Traditionally it is slashed in the form of cross on top in remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross, and sprinkled with sliced almonds. I wanted to play with it a bit more, so I added decorations made from simple dough made by mixing flour with some egg white and water. I also soaked the raisins in rum to plump them up, and added a spoonful of honey to the dough for better browning. With some butter and a touch of jam it’ll be a splendid breakfast tomorrow.

Happy Easter, everybody! Bake your heart out, soak up the sun if you’re lucky enough to have it, and eat all the chocolate you can!

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Sweet Easter bread (Mazanec)

 Dough:
  • 450 g (1 lb.) bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup (100 g, 3.5 oz.) white sugar; + 1 teaspoon to sweeten the milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100 g (scant 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 cup (250 ml, 8 oz.) lukewarm milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast
  • ½ cup raisins, soaked in 1/2 cup rum + 1/2 cup water, and drained
  • sliced almonds (optional)
 Decorative white dough:
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) plain all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white
  • milk as needed to make a pliable dough

+ 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water – for egg wash

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Method:
  1. To make the dough, combine milk, dry yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for 10 – 15 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients except raisins in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a hook. When the yeast is nice and foamy, add it to the bowl. Start kneading the dough, adding a bit of milk or flour if the dough seems to be too dry or too wet. You should aim for smooth and elastic dough, that’s somewhat firm, but not stiff. Add in the raisins and mix them in well.
  3. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 45 min. – 1 hour. Line a big baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside for now.
  4. Make the decorations, if desired: In the food processor with an S-blade, mix the flour and the egg white. Add in as much milk until the dough forms a firm ball.
  5. On a floured surface, roll the decorative dough to about 1 – 2 mm thickness. With Easter cutters, cut out decorations as desired. Cover them and set aside.
  6. When the dough has risen, punch it down and form a nice round ball. Transfer the ball onto the lined baking sheet, cover, and let it rise the second time for about 20 – 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
  7. When ready to bake, coat the entire bread generously with egg wash. Gently place the decorations where you want them; but don’t press down too much. The egg wash should help to keep the decorations in place. You can coat the decorations with egg wash, or leave them dry for better contrast. If you’re not using the decorations, slash the dough in the form of cross and sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
  8. Bake the bread for about 35 – 40 minutes, until nicely risen and golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing. Serve with butter, jam, and honey.
Note:

I doubled the recipe and also made sweet yeast nests with colored eggs inside. To make those, form the dough into ropes about 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick and 14 inches (about 30 cm) long, and then braid two ropes together and join the ends to make a round “nest”. Let the nests rise a second time, and place a colored egg in the middle of each one, pressing down lightly. Brush the  nests with some egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar, and bake at 350 °F (175 °C) for about 20 – 25 min. (You don’t have to boil the eggs beforehand; they cook while the nests are baking in the oven.)

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Slovak Cod Fish Salad with Homemade Crescent Rolls

There are three things I can’t imagine my domestic goddess career without: Vitamix blender, a big enough food processor, and a strong stand mixer. In my book, they’re like the holy trinity of kitchen gadgets and I have an undying love for each one of them. Having said that, last Monday was a sad, sad day: My beloved KitchenAid, a trusty companion and mighty helper quite unexpectedly bit the dust. I put it on my Christmas list some ten years ago and it proved to be a true workhorse: it never let me down, managed to keep up with my crazy pace of one loaf plus some muffins (or rolls, or pasta) a day and did everything I asked for without a single glitch.

But then the fateful Monday came: out of the blue it breathed its last and left me to my destiny – with sticky hands, counters covered in flour and a sourdough starter bubbling away by the fireplace, ready to make some bread. Mr. Photographer took one glance at my sad puppy face and bless his heart, didn’t hesitate one second. He knows too well that a PMS-stricken woman that can’t calm her all-over-the-place emotions by much needed baking is nothing but bad news and presents a potential threat for the entire family, so he told me to promptly go order a new one and pay for express shipping. What can I say – I married a wise man 🙂

Thirty six hours later (not that I was counting!) my late KitchenAid’s red-colored cousin arrived to my doorstep and I’ve been a happy camper ever since. And this weekend the cheerful newcomer helped me to bring forth some homemade happiness: Slovak crescent rolls to accompany a traditional cod fish salad. Cod fish salad, with finely chopped onions, crunchy carrots, and loads of mayo, most often wolfed down with crispy crescents is a Slovak man’s food, and any guy back home could easily live on it for months on end, especially if he has some cold beer to wash it down with. The homemade version is million times better than the salad sold at delis and grocery stores, of course, and the crescents – crispy from the outside and soft and chewy on the inside – are a must; they round up the whole meal very nicely. The salad needs to be made a day before, so the flavors have time to marry… and the crescents are best fresh, straight from the oven 🙂 Please give this simple meal a try when you’ll be feeling adventurous and will want to branch out a little from the usual tuna salad sandwich!

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Slovak Cod Fish Salad with Homemade Crescent Rolls

(crescent recipe adapted from http://www.bonvivani.sk; recipe makes about 1 kg (2 lbs.) cod salad and 8 big crescent rolls)

Cod Salad:
  • 1 kg (2 lbs.) fresh cod fillet
  • 3 l (qt.) water
  • 250 ml (8 oz., 1 cup) + 5 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 big carrots
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • approximately 250 g (1/2 lb) good quality mayonnaise, homemade or store-bought
  • 3 tablespoons mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
Crispy Crescents:
  • 450 g (1 lb.) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 250 ml (8 oz., 1 cup) milk, lukewarm
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 egg yolks mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • coarse salt & caraway seeds, for sprinkling
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Method:
  1. For the cod salad: Place 3 l (qt.) water with 1 cup vinegar into a deeper saucepan; add the bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes add in the cod fillets and continue to simmer for 10 additional minutes.
  2. While the fish is cooking, peel the carrots. Set aside.
  3. With a slotted spoon, take out the cooked fish from the water; set aside to cool. Place two whole carrots into the same vinegar water, and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, until still crunchy.
  4. Grate/finely chop the carrots into a big bowl. With a fork, tear the cooled fish meat into small pieces and add it to the carrots together with finely chopped onion.
  5. The quantities of the remaining ingredients are approximate; add as much mayo as to make a moist salad, and salt/pepper/vinegar to taste. Cover and let the salad rest in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  6. For the crescents, combine yeast with lukewarm milk and 1 teaspoon sugar; set aside for 10 minutes to let the yeast “bloom”.  Place flour, oil, honey, and salt into a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a hook.
  7. When the yeast mixture looks nice and bubbly, pour it to the ingredients in the bowl. Mix/knead the dough until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes. If the dough looks too dry, add in couple tablespoons milk/water – 1 tablespoon at a time; if it’s too wet, sprinkle in some additional flour. (Mine was a little dry and I added in about a tablespoon of sour cream that needed to be used up).
  8. Transfer the dough into a well oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 50 – 60 minutes. Line two baking pans with parchment paper.
  9. When the dough has risen, punch it down and transfer it to a big wooden block (I didn’t even have to flour the board, the dough was very easy to work with.) Divide the dough into smaller balls, depending on how many/how big crescents you’d like to make – I  weighed it and divided it into 130 g (4.5 oz.) portions.
  10. Working with one portion at a time and keeping the rest of the dough balls covered, roll out each ball into an oval. Don’t roll out all the way, and keep one end of the oval thicker. Starting from the thicker end, start rolling the oval into a crescent, pulling the opposite end away to elongate the oval as much as possible without tearing it. Roll the crescents fairly thin (about 3 cm, a little over 1 inch and 15 cm, 6 inches long) – they will rise substantially during their second rise and while in the oven; making them longer and thinner is better. Place the crescent onto the parchment lined pan and continue making the crescents the same way.
  11. Cover the crescents with a clean dishtowel and let them rise the second time for about 15 minutes while preheating the oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Brush the crescents with egg wash and sprinkle them with coarse salt and seeds. Bake for about 15 – 17 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the crescents to a cooling rack to cool (and try not to eat them all while they’re still hot and crackly 🙂

 

Bi-colored Sweet Yeast Crescents

Mr. Photographer and I are about as opposite as they come. He’s a night owl; I have trouble to keep my eyes open after 11 pm. He’s very artsy; I’m anything but. He’s a math whiz; I hate math’s guts, and to this day suffer with occasional nightmares about derivations and descriptive geometry. He’s annoyingly level-headed; I way too often let my emotions get the best of me. I enjoy playing with words and stringing them together; he still sometimes struggles with grammar rules I don’t ever need to think about. He’s an extrovert who’d go out every night of the week if he could; I’m an introvert who’d rather snuggle up next to the fireplace with a good book. He loves knick-knacks that stir up memories and rakes up tons of little somethings from everywhere he goes; growing up with two sisters in one room has made me into a minimalist who prefers to have bare minimum on her shelves. I say that way the room can breathe (and I don’t have to dust more than necessary!); he says it lacks character and is devoid of life.

Yet by some twist of fate we somehow ended up together. They say opposites attract, and it might be true. It seemed we complemented each other so beautifully – I still remember him teaching me some crazy math concepts before a test I was dreading, and a couple years later me proofreading his thesis in computer science for him. The text might’ve just as well been in Chinese, as I had no clue what I was reading about, but I made sure all the hundred pages of it were grammatically flawless. Awesome, right? I have gaps, you have gaps, and together we’ll patch them and make it work. But from where I sit now I have to confess that over the years our many differences have repeatedly caused noticeable friction between us as well, and not just in matters pertaining to decorating style 🙂

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. After all, marriage is just an union of two imperfect people, and as such it takes a lot of tending and is a never-ending work in progress. The marriage experts have a lot to say about how to keep it alive and happy, and assert that the key to a happy relationship is to learn to live with the differences, and not just merely tolerate them, but to be able to enjoy them. We’re working on that 🙂 Without revealing too much, there are definitely differences we enjoy more than others!

Similarly, this week’s bi-colored crescents are a result of the unexpected union of polar opposites. I was kind of missing playing with yeast dough, plus we have about four jars of different jams in the fridge to use up. On the other hand I wanted to keep things simple this weekend, and that’s how these little yin-yang crescents were born! It’s just a simple yeast dough divided in half, with one part colored with cocoa. Thanks to the butter the dough is soft and very easy to work with, and after rising the crescents come together in a snap – you just roll light-colored and dark-colored dough, place them on top of each other, cut out a circle, which you then cut into eight small triangles. Working with one triangle at a time, stretch the dough to elongate it, sprinkle the triangle with some cinnamon sugar, and roll a crescent. Let the rolls rise a bit second time and bake. After baking I brushed the hot crescents with thick sugary syrup to make them nice and shiny, but you could also give them a coat of egg wash before baking, or brush them with melted butter when you take them out of the oven – the butter will keep them nice and soft. Like I said – nothing complicated, just tried and true soft yeast dough and some playing with contrasting colors. I can’t decide if I like the light ones or the dark ones better, and I love the contrasting color peeking out at the edges. The crescents will be awesome for breakfast with either jam or honey; I’m secretly hoping they’ll buy these yin- and yang parents some extra sleep on Sunday!

I’ll say it again: I don’t think there is such thing as a perfect marriage, but if there were, this would be it, at least in the culinary world: Opposites that coexist in a perfect harmony; surprisingly simple, and very delicious together!

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Bi-colored Sweet Yeast Crescents

(recipe makes 16 small crescents; 8 of each color)

Sweet Yeast Dough:
  • 175 ml (scant 6 oz.) whole milk, lukewarm
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 375 g (13 oz.) bread flour
  • pinch salt
  • 100 ml (3.3 oz.) melted butter (or mild tasting oil)
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 leveled tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons milk
Filling:
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
Sugar Glaze:
  • 75 g (2.6 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 50 ml (1.5 oz.) water

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Method:
  1. First, make the yeast dough: Combine the 175 ml (scant 6 oz.) lukewarm milk with yeast and pinch of sugar; let stand for 10 – 15 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Meanwhile, place all the remaining ingredients for the dough into a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a hook. When the yeast is nice and bubbly, add it to the bowl. Knead the dough on a low – medium speed until it’s soft, smooth, and elastic. If the dough seems too dry, add in couple of tablespoons milk one tablespoon at a time; if it’s too wet, gradually add some more flour. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, and then divide it in half. Put one half aside, covered; to the other half of the dough in the mixer bowl add 3 tablespoons cocoa and 3 tablespoons milk. Re-knead until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic.
  3. Transfer both light and dark dough into two well-oiled bowls, cover, and let them rise in a warm spot until they double in volume – about 1 hour.
  4. Forming the crescents: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide each ball of dough in half (you’ll have two light and two dark doughs). Take one dough ball of each color and keep the remaining two covered. First roll out the light dough into a rough square about 3 mm thick. Do the same with the dark dough. Place the two squares on top of each other with the dark side facing up and using a plate cut out a circle; discard the rest of the dough.
  5. With a sharp knife cut the bi-colored circle into eight triangles. Stretch each triangle a bit to elongate it, sprinkle it with a little bit of cinnamon sugar and starting from the wide side roll it up into a crescent. Place the crescent on a baking sheet with the tip down. Continue making the crescents; when you’re done, you should have eight crescents on the sheet.
  6. Take the remaining light and dark balls of dough; roll them out, and place them on top of each other, this time with light side facing up. Again, trace a plate using a knife and discard the remainder of the dough.
  7. Cut the circle into eights; place a bit of cinnamon sugar on each triangle, and roll it up into a crescent. Place the crescent onto the second parchment lined sheet. When you’re finished, you should have eight light colored and eight dark crescents, eight pieces on each pan. (Leave them enough room to expand; they will get bigger during baking.) Cover the crescents with a clean dishtowel and let them rise the second time in a warm spot for about 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
  8. Bake the crescents for about 10 – 12 minutes until they are baked trough and are nice golden brown.
  9. While the crescents are baking, prepare the sugar syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar with water and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick syrup forms. (Watch the syrup closely, so that the water doesn’t evaporate and the sugar won’t turn into caramel.)
  10. Brush the hot crescents with sugar syrup upon taking them out of the oven and let them cool slightly before serving.

Mirabelle Ginger Jam

I just learned that August 2nd is the International Friendship Day. I had no idea such holiday even existed, but if anything is worth celebrating, it is certainly friendship – a wonderful relation and strong bond between people that multiplies the good in life and divides life’s sorrows. They say there is nothing better than a friend unless it’s a friend with chocolate, but I think a friend who gives you summer fruit to make cakes and jam from must be a very close second.

You see, I was a lucky recipient of a paper bag full of Mirabelle golden plums last week, and I can’t tell you how happy the gift of those fragrant sweet beauties has made me. Things have been kind of crazy around here lately, and when a friend of mine called if I wanted to go plum picking with her, I had to tell her there was no way I’d be able to fit fruit picking in. But it was hard to say no, because in my mind I was already imagining all the juicy tarts, succulent cakes, and sweet compotes I could make. And I suspect said friend must be a pretty good mind reader, because she went and picked the plums for me. If that’s not true friendship, I don’t know what is 🙂

Mirabelles are small and smooth plums with golden yellow flesh that is full of flavor. The riper they are the sweeter they will be. They also are very juicy and quite hard to pit – after pitting the first three it was clear I could forget the cakes and tarts with nicely arranged fruit on top. I ended up cutting the flesh around the pit, but a lot of it still stuck to the pit. When I was done, there was this huge bowl full of fruit skins, scraps of dark yellow flesh and sweet juice, and a slight change of plans was needed to be made: When life gives you mushy fruit, make jam.

There is nothing complicated in jam making – you basically cook up fruit with sugar and optional pectin, and keep it boiling for about 15 minutes or so, until the jam is thick enough to your liking. I like thinner jam to spread on toasts and to top yogurt, and thicker consistency to fill dumplings with. All you have to do is wash and sterilize some glass jars and then dump the fruit with sugar/pectin into a deep pot and get stirring, as jam likes to stick. I love everything about jam making: Who needs aromatherapy candles and meditation sessions, when you can simply stand over a pot full of wonderful fruity aromas with a wooden spoon, let your thoughts wander where they want, and you even get jars of homemade jam out of it as a bonus?! To test if the jam is done, put a small saucer in the fridge beforehand, and after about ten minutes you can start testing if the jam has set. Drizzle small amount of jam on the plate, return it to the fridge for couple of minutes, and then take it out and tilt it slightly. If the jam doesn’t run and your finger leaves a tiny crack on the surface of the jam, it is ready. Ladle it into the preheated jars, firmly screw on the tops, and process the jam in a water bath (or, if you made only a small batch, you can skip the water bath and keep the jam in the refrigerator).

Since the plums were so sweet, I decided to cut the sweetness with lime juice, and spice it up with some fresh ginger, just because I think plums and ginger are a match made in heaven. I didn’t expect the jam to turn this dark and thought it would be more yellow in color. As it is, it doesn’t look much different than my apricot jam. But it s finger-licking delicious: sweet and little bit citrusy, with just a hint of ginger spiciness.  Perfect accompaniment for all your toast-y and pancake-y needs!

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Mirabelle Ginger Jam

(recipe makes about ten 8 oz./250 ml jars)

  • 2 kg (4 lbs.) Mirabelle golden plums, pitted
  • 1 ½ kg (3 lbs.) white sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (7 teaspoons) freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

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Method:
  1. First, wash the glass jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse and place them on a big shallow baking sheet. Place the jars into a cold oven and set the temp to 325 °F (162 °C). (place the jars on a baking sheet in a cold oven, turn the temp to 325 °F/162 °C, and when the oven reaches the preset temp, the jars are sterilized and ready to be filled with hot jam.
  2. Chop the plums, or, if you like smooth jam, run plums with their skins and juices through the food processor or a blender. Transfer the mixture into a big deep pot. Place a small saucer into the refrigerator, so it will be ready when you start testing if the jam has set.
  3.  Add sugar, lime juice, lemon zest, and ginger (adjust the ginger quantity to your taste; I was a little worried the ginger would be overpowering, but it’s just right, only a slight hint). Bring to a rolling boil, lower the temp, and cook on a medium heat, stirring almost constantly for about 10 minutes. Keep skimming the foam gathering on the surface.
  4. After the first 10 minutes start testing the consistency. Remove the saucer from the fridge, drizzle a little bit of jam on it, and return it to the refrigerator for couple of minutes. The jam is ready if it doesn’t run (it can slowly ooze), and when you touch it with your finger, it leaves a tiny crack on the surface. If it’s still too runny, keep cooking and testing every 5 minutes.
  5. Ladle the hot jam into prepared jars (the jars still need to be warm/hot. If you ladle a hot jam into cold glass, the jars can break). Screw on the tops firmly.
  6. Process the jam in a water bath: Place the filled jars into a big shallow pan. Fill the pan with water so the jars are covered with at least 2 inches (5 cm) of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water and let them cool. Properly processed jam should keep in a cold dark place for a year or longer.

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Slovak Honey Crescent Rolls (Lúpačky/Makovky)

If there truly was reincarnation and I could choose what I’d be born as in the next life, I’d love to be Sleeping Beauty. No question about that. The beauty part might come in handy, but that’s not my main motivation at all. Honestly, being able to sleep for hundred years straight sounds like heaven to me. You see, I love my sleep. The problem is, the older wiser I get, my sleep doesn’t love me back as it used to. I usually don’t get to go to bed before midnight, and more often than not I’m wide awake at 4 a.m., listening to Mr. Photographer sleeping soundly, and running through the list of things I need to do the next day: Drive the kid to school in the morning. Be the first in line at the department of [whatever] and get them to stamp the form that son’s school requested. Take the filled-out form to said school. Come home and start the laundry. Get a move on that darn translation assignment that’s going so slowly.  Call a handyman about the kitchen faucet that’s been dripping for weeks.

The thing is, once I start doing that, there is no coming back. The wheels in my head start turning, and I’m not able to go back to sleep no matter what I do or how many darned sheep I count. (Last night I got to 555. Then I got up, went downstairs and cleaned the kitchen.) I’d do anything for somebody to fix my internal clock. It’s abso-freaking-lutely out of whack – I’m most productive in the middle of the night, and then dream of going back to sleep around 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately I can’t really afford to do that, because by that time I’m usually already behind the wheel, trying to transport somebody or something from point A to point B. Unless… it’s the WEEKEND.

Enter lúpačky  (LOO-patch-ki, plural) – soft sweet rolls served with butter, honey and jam, which are a rather typical breakfast food in Slovakia. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials depicting happy families, sitting at the breakfast table, smiling sweetly at each other and having meaningful conversations first thing in the morning. Well, Slovak happy family would be cramming down lúpačky smothered in butter, and drowning them in coffee or milk. I admit I hate such deceptive advertisements with the heat of a thousand suns, as they do nothing but make me feel like a horrible mother. That’s not how it works in our family at all. No one is an early riser at our house. Meaningful conversation?  Yeah, right. The first half an hour after we get up we try really hard to keep our mouth shut, lest we say something we’d later deeply regret. To tell the truth, I learned to make lúpačky for entirely selfish reasons – to buy myself an extra hour of blessed sleep on the weekend. Being constantly sleep-deprived, I openly and shamelessly tell my men on Friday night: “There are fresh lúpačky on the counter. Jam and honey is in the pantry. Make yourself some hot cocoa and don’t you dare to wake me before 9 a.m. tomorrow.”

There, I said it. Go ahead and judge me. Or let out a sigh of relief that you’re not the only one. We can sit on the couch for horrible mothers together. I’ll even make some coffee and bring freshly baked lúpačky. As long as we can eat in quiet and you won’t want me to smile at you and have a pleasant interaction before 9 a.m., we should be good.

Lupacky miska

Slovak Honey Crescent Rolls (Lúpačky/Makovky)

(adapted from http://www.bonvivani.sk)

Dough:
  • ¾ – 1 cup lukewarm milk, divided
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
  • 450 g (16 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 tablespoons mild tasting oil (or butter)
  • 1 egg yolk

+ 1 egg, beaten – for egg wash
poppy seeds for sprinkling

1 crescent detail

Method:
  1. Combine ½ cup milk with 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast. Set aside for about 15 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Place all the other ingredients except milk in a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast mixture looks foamy, add it to the bowl. With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the milk until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little more milk and/or 1 more egg yolk. Knead the dough on a low speed for about 10 – 15 minutes, until it is soft, smooth, and elastic.
  3. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour, until doubled.
  4. Line two big baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Punch the dough down and divide it into 12 equal portions. Keeping the other dough portions covered, roll each one into an oval. Stretching the oval with one hand, roll it into a slightly curved crescent. (Keep the crescent fairly thin; it will rise substantially in the oven, and you want to keep the nice crescent form.)
  6. Place the crescent rolls onto prepared baking pans, 6 per pan, to leave them plenty of room to rise. Cover and let them rise a second time while you preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
  7. After about 35 minutes of rising, brush the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until nice golden brown.

I also whipped up a quick orange marmalade that goes with the crescent rolls beautifully. If you have a couple of oranges on hand, you can have it ready when the hot rolls come out of the oven!

Quick and Easy Orange Marmalade
  • 2 navel oranges, organic
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
Method:
  1. Zest the oranges and set 2 tablespoons of zest aside.
  2. Process the oranges in a food processor fitted with an S-blade. Place the orange mixture into a pan. Add all the other ingredients, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 15 minutes, until the marmalade is thick to your liking.
  3. Place into a clean jar and store in the refrigerator.

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