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.


  1. They look quite delicious - I hope everyone enjoyed them! In my 'recipe', I cook the poppyseed with milk & honey on the stovetop; I also add some cut-up prune to give it a different taste. If it starts to dry out, I just add more milk &/or honey. If you want to be a purist, you can grind the poppyseed with a handgrinder (I have an extra one....) :-)

  2. Jil, this is epic...and epicurean! I found your site trying to find the "proper" spelling of bobalki (and discovered there are MANY). My great aunt, who just passed away a few days ago well into her 80s, was the bobalki legend in our family. I'd swear though that she put walnuts and honey in the recipe, not poppyseed. Could just be a strange variation in our Zoldak family. :-) Your whole Christmas Eve description is a chapter straight out of my childhood. Good luck with your studies!


    1. our family didn't like poppy seed when we were kids so my grandmother made Bolbaki with ground walnuts, butter and sugar. We have this every Christmas and always thought it was Hungarian.

  3. We have always had bubolki at our holiday feasts but ours is different-more of a cheese and butter stuffing. I think it's regional like haluski (some use potatoes, cabbage or other variations). I can't wait to try this!

  4. This brought back many good memories of my chilhood. Our failyalways had Xmas Eve dinner at my grandparents home.We started with the blessed oplatki from our church with a bit of garlic and honey on it to symbolize the bitter and sweetness of life. Prayers were always said in Slovak and we always remembered those who had passed on.I always felt sad for my grandmother who cried at this part. The men in the family always made a toast with a small glass of hard whiskey. Poppyseed Bobalki, Potato and sauerkraut filled Pagache followed. Finally, Nut and poppyseed strudels or strips as we called them. It was something we always looked forward to during the Christmas season.

  5. My great grandma used to make bobalkis but they were stuffed with either poppyseed filling or a prune filling. Then tossed in the honey-poppyseed mixture just before serving. I am having a hard time finding a European bakery that makes them, or even a recipe for them. This sounds very close.