Cookies and Bars · Czech Heritage and Dishes · Holidays · New Favorite

Slovak Honey Cookies

Czech and Slovak heritage is of great interest to me, given my Father’s family roots.  Late 2020, I participated in ‘Czech & Slovak Christmas’ offered through Global Slovakia Academy.  It was a wonderful class, offering education of the Slovak advent and holidays, celebrations and food.

The Slovak Honey Cookies are traditional Christmas treats and I had to try them.  They are very similar to our traditional Gingerbread cookies, using honey instead of Molasses.  They are absolutely delicious and a new favorite for the holidays.

SLOVAK HONEY COOKIES

3 cups (400 g) plain flour
1 cup (140 g) icing sugar
4 tbsp (60 g) butter softened
3 eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 tsp of gingerbread spice mix
3 tbsp clear honey
  • Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Line a baking tray with paper.
  • Sift together the flour, icing sugar, soda bicarbonate and spices.
  • Add butter and honey to the dry ingredients along with the eggs, and mix well to form a soft dough.
  • Wrap in a cling film and leave overnight in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of half a centimeter.
  • Cut out with your desired cookie cutter and place well apart on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Decorate with icing if you wish.

ICING

1 egg white
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice.

  • Whisk the ingredients together until stiff peaks form.
  • Add more sugar if needed and have patience.
  • Spoon your icing into a sandwich bag, twist the bag tightly until the icing wedges into one corner, and then poke or cut a tiny hole into the corner. Make sure your cookies are completely cool before beginning to decorate.
GINGERBREAD SPICE MIX

10g ground cinnamon
4g whole cloves
3g fresh ground nutmeg
3g cardamom pods
3g star anise

  • Crush the cardamom pods, star anise and cloves using a pestle and mortar. Ground in a coffee grinder and add to the ground cinnamon.
Czech Heritage and Dishes · Holidays

Old Czech Prayer for the New Year

Old traditions, stories and folk lore are precious to me, especially when it comes to my Czech heritage.  While this Prayer is from another time, it brings to mind the challenges of the time, not that much different than today.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy 2019!

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WE EXTEND TO YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

May the next year be more fruitful, more peaceful, more full of good health and better than any you’ve known in the past.

May you have all the earthly good which is possible to come from the hand of God.

And in the life hereafter, we wish you the glory of heaven.

And while on this earth, may we be tolerant of each other.

And on the lighter side,

We wish also that all your cows would be fat,

That the milk they give be heavy with cream,

And that your cheeses be as large as a table,

May your yard be full of chickens and geese,

In the springtime may you carry seed in small bags to your fields,

And in the autumn harvest may you require wagons upon wagons to bring in your harvest.

 

Czech Heritage and Dishes · Family · My Roots

Mushroom and Barley Soup…a Czech winter delight!

My Czech heritage is fascinating to me.  My Mother gave me The Czech Book Recipes and Traditions in 1982 and it has become a treasure.  The Mushroom and Barley Soup is a favorite of mine.  You can add meat, or if vegetarian, leave it out.  It’s a hearty, healthy winter soup that makes me even more curious about the Smaha Czech heritage.  Požívat! (enjoy)

MUSHROOM AND BARLEY SOUP
Houbová Polévka as Kroupama

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washing, trimmed and sliced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups chicken broth or beef broth
1/2 cup pearled medium barley
1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken, turkey or beef

  • In a 3-quart saucepan melt butter, add mushrooms, onion, celery, carrot. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring often about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in flour, then the broth.
  • Add barley, cover and simmer until barley is cooked through, about 1 hour.

  • Add cooked diced meat, salt and pepper. For a creamier soup, stir in about 1 cup milk.

Adapted from The Czech Book, Recipes and Traditions, Copyright 1981

Czech Heritage and Dishes · Family Favorites · My Roots

Kolache … Bohemian Heritage and Christmas Tradition

KOLACHE … Cherry is my favorite!

Kolaches originated in the Slovak countries and our Smaha family brought this Bohemian tradition to America when they immigrated to Iowa in the late 1800s. This tradition has been passed down in our family for many generations.  Kolaches are wonderful any time of the year but especially wonderful at Christmas.  My family tradition is to have them Christmas morning while we are opening gifts and sipping coffee or hot chocolate.

Christmas Morning and Kolaches 1987

This picture was taken in Christmas morning 1987 with my Mother, Mother-In-Law, and oldest daughter, Megan.  Let the Kolache feast begin!

My all-time favorite Kolache is cherry.  This season I was fortunate to buy a large container of fresh frozen tart cherries that I’ve been saving for Kolache filling this Christmas.  Other years, I have used canned cherry pie filling. I have made Kolaches from old-fashioned sweet dough recipes but a new favorite is the sweet dough recipe for the bread machine.  In a pinch, I have used frozen bread dough, even though not sweet, is very good.

Traditional Kolache come in many flavors including the timeless Bohemian prune or poppy-seed fillings.  My Mother’s Kolaches were fabulous and we waited with excitement while they baked, poised to snatch one as soon as they came out of the oven.

Everyone’s Kolaches are a tad different.  My Mother didn’t add the crumb topping to her Kolaches but a wonderful farm neighbor, Nellie, made Prune  Kolaches with crumb topping in her old wood stove.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had Kolaches from a wood cooking stove.  My Aunt Lora, baked Kolaches that she pinched closed at the top and sprinkled with sugar.  Equally wonderful.

Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas and many cherished family traditions.

SWEET BREAD DOUGH (FOR BREAD MACHINE)

1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 cup less 1 T. water

  • All ingredients should be at room temperature. Add the ingredients in the order listed above.
  • Run the machine through the dough cycle. Remove and work on floured board to desired loaf, rolls, etc.

CHERRY FILLING

1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup juice from cherries
3 cups pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

  • Combine 3/4 cup sugar with cornstarch.  Stir in cherry juice.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture thickens and bubbles; cook 1 minute longer.  Add remaining sugar, cherries, butter and food coloring and cook until thickened. Mixture will be very thick.  Let stand while preparing bread dough for Kolaches.

PREPARING THE KOLACHES:

Pinch a piece of dough about the size of a walnut (or ping pong ball) and place on a greased baking pan.  Cover with wax paper then a towel and let rise until double in size.  When risen, push centers of balls down and fill with cherry filling (or filling of choice).  Let rise again and bake at 400 degrees.

KOLACHE CRUMB TOPPING  (Optional)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using margarine)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together (use a pastry blender)  until crumbly and use as a topping for Kolaches or coffee cakes.

 

Family Favorites · My Roots

Best Pumpkin Pie in the WORLD!

Pumpkin Pie Starts Here

How many GOOD pumpkin pies have you tasted in your life?  If you are like me, very few. Our family has the good-fortune of having the best pumpkin pie recipe in the history of the world…or so we think.  This recipe was handed down from my great-grandmother and, perhaps, even further back. They made their crust from scratch but I must confess, I like the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust just fine.

Growing up, I loved all of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, but Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream was the highlight of the day.   My Mother would make multiple Pumpkin Pies because everyone wanted more than one piece.  It is fitting that today one of the pies was baked in my Mother’s pie pan.

Once you taste this pie, you will never go back to a commercially prepared pie.  It is so easy…so delicious.  Try it out this Thanksgiving and your family will sing your praises. I would love to hear feedback on your experience with our family recipe!

The Best Ever Pumpkin Pie

BEST PUMPKIN PIE

1 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch ginger
pinch salt
1 cup pumpkin
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
pie crust (I use refrigerated crusts)

  • Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon and ginger until well mixed.
  • Add pumpkin and beat well. Add 2 beaten eggs and beat until very smooth. Add milk and mix well.
  • Put prepared pie crust into pie pan.  Finish the edges.  In this case, I have used a fork to finish the edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Put prepared pie crust into pie pan.  Finish the edges.  In this case, I have used a fork to finish the edges.
  • Pour in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees until knife inserted in center comes out clean (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
Pumpkin Pie Ready for the Oven
  • Cool pie.  Slice and serve with whipped cream.  Refrigerate remaining slices of pie (if you have any).