Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bobalki - a Slovak Xmas Eve Tradition

Growing up my family didn't have too many holiday traditions. Sometimes we had a Christmas tree, and sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we lit a menorah, and sometimes we didn't. But one thing you could count on was the Christmas eve meal: mushroom soup, fish, peas and onions, orange slices, walnuts, and bobalki. All paying homage to my mother's 100% Slovak heritage.

Honestly, bobalki was not something we really loved growing up. But a few years ago my mother realized that she had been skipping a weird step at the end, which ended up making all the difference and now bobalki is something we ask for even when it's not Christmas eve. For those who don't know, bobalki are little dough balls, that are not themselves very sweet, but are covered in honey and poppy seeds. Be forewarned that there are A LOT of poppy seeds, so if you're eating in mixed company, you may want to serve them with a side of floss. :o)

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year's eve and a fulfilling and healthy 2012!

Note: pouring boiling water over the dough balls in point #5 is the weird step often forgotten, but is vital to ensure the balls are not dry and dense.

1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp plus 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1 pkg dry, active yeast
3 cups flour

1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup honey

1. Boil 1 cup water, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, and salt. Cool until room temperature. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tbsp of sugar in 1/4 cup warm water.

2. Place flour in a large bowl and add water/sugar mixture and yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly and knead for about 10 minutes. Adding a little more flour to ensure the dough isn't sticking to your fingers. Cover for about an hour, until dough has doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Tear off pieces of dough and form them into 1/2 inch balls.

4. Place balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet, so they are touching each other. Heat oven to 375 F and cover the cookie sheet with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, wait about 30 minutes until balls have almost doubled. Bake 15-20 minutes until balls are light brown.

5. Set sheet on a cooling rack and let balls cool completely; pull balls apart. Place balls in a colander and pour a little boiling water over them—not so much that they become mush.

6. Grind poppy seeds and milk in a food processor. Add poppy seed mixture to honey and pour over the dough balls, stirring to ensure even coverage. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pecan Tassies & Pfeffernussen

It's been over a month since my last post. With good reason, because for the majority of that time I was without a working stove. But now I'm back and while the renovation is not fully completed yet, I have a kitchen that is in complete working order!

So in celebration, and in time for the holidays, here are two delicious cookie recipes that I served at our inaugural cocktail party! Both come from the inimitable Martha Stewart, who certainly comes in handy this time of year. :o) Enjoy!

Pecan Tassies from Martha Sewart
For the dough:
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground; set aside. In an electric mixer, combine mascarpone and butter on medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour, ground pecans, and salt; mix just until dough comes together.

2. Roll dough into sixteen 1-inch balls, and press into bottoms and up sides of cups of mini-muffin tins.

3. Whisk the egg, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, butter, and salt in a small bowl. Stir in pecans. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons filling into each muffin cup.

4. Bake pecan tassies until crust begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely in tins on wire rack before you unmold.

Pfeffernussen from Martha Stewart
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in an electric mixer beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack.