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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Oodles of Noodles - and Lots of Kolaches

All of my mother's life she made the best cinnamon twists and noodles.  She often came to my house and made several batches of cinnamon twists and I would partially bake them, freeze trays of them, and then when I wanted freshly baked twists I would just pop them into the oven, bake them off, frost and enjoy.  I miss those still.  She also made the best egg noodles.  She would make batches, we dried  them, froze them, and they too were fresh for cooking.  Very delicious.
While I don't have anyone to make my twists, but my son, Matthew, has mastered the noodles.  He brought some for Thanksgiving and we popped them into some broth -- and once again I had my very favorite food.  They were wonderful.  I gave him the one noodle cutter, of my mother's,  that I had.  However, it was one that wasn't in the best condition.  He found one that worked better, or hand cuts them, I'm not sure which. But the memory of noodles comes from that old metal noodle cutter -- with that wooden handle.
A few days ago my sister found one -- just like Mom's and actually just like the one she had, from Mom.  So here is mine.  Mine has a red handle while hers has a green handle -- I like mine best.

So maybe now I have to learn to make my own rolled out noodles -- or maybe, for the holidays, next year I'll just ask Matt to make some batches of noodles -- freeze them and gift them to me.

My memories of my mother's noodle making sessions, makes me think of one of my favorite books -- now out-of-print based on a child's memories of kolaches being made during the author's childhood.    The twists my mother made was her best bakery -- but she made a great kolache as well.

My Day With Anka by Nan Ferring Nelson (HarperCollins, 1996) is actually based on the author's own childhood - a childhood spent in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a center of Czech immigration in earlier decades.  The book is described in a Kirkus review as, "Nelson's first book ... Karrie, a little girl who looks forward to her time with the family's nurturing, maternal housekeeper, Anka. Anka is a Czechoslovakian immigrant who bakes kolaches and other good things, cleans the house, and makes everything fun. In a day of making the house shine, Karrie learns humor, creativity, and tolerance for others with different backgrounds. Anka is a real charmer, bringing memories of her trip to America into everyday activities: The vacuum cleaner is a train to Prague, and the window-washing water is the Atlantic Ocean. The story is loving and respectful, but remains very much a tale of several decades ago; Farnsworth's acrylic on canvas illustrations are muted, warm, and comfortingly nostalgic.".  Bill Farnsworth created wonderful illustrations for the book.  In the book Nelson talks about the savory Czech Kolaches open faced and filled with delicious fruit filling.   Farnsworth was only able to find closed Kolaches popular in larger cities, so Nelson's father who still lived in Cedar Rapids went to a local bakery and shipped a dozen or more kolaches to the publishing party in New York.  A painting of those kolaches ended up on the jacket flap of the book.  They look just like the kolaches often sold in Cedar Rapids -- and made during Nelson's childhood and mine as well. 

Here's a great recipe for authentic Czech Kolaches:
  1. Dissolve:
    2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
    1 tablespoon sugar in warm milk [2 cups warm milk (110° to 115°)].
    Let Stand for 10 minutes 
  2. While the yeast mixture is standing, mix in a large bowl:
    2 cups flour
    1/2 cup sugar less the 1 tablespoon used with yeast
    4 egg yolks
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup butter, softened
  3. Stir in the yeast mixture and an additional 3 3/4 cups to 4 1/2 cups flour as needed - mix until smooth and a stiff dough is formed.
  4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. 
  5. Add additional flour, if necessary. 
  6. Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to grease top. 
  7. Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. 
  8.  Punch dough down and allow to rise again. 
  9. Roll out on floured surface to 1/2-in. thickness. 
  10. Cut with large glass or 2-1/2-in. cutter. 
  11. Place on greased baking sheets; let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. 
  12. Firmly press indentation in center and fill each roll with a heaping tablespoon of filling. 
  13. Brush dough with egg white. 
  14.  Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until rolls are light golden brown. Yield: about 28 rolls. 
You may used canned filling - prune, poppy seed, cherry, lemon, or my favorite apricot filling.  But my preference is to make my own from scratch.  Here is one recipe for poppy seed filling -- and the apricot filling.

Poppyseed filling
  • 1 cup poppy seed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup chopped dates
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts
  • Dash of cinnamon

    Combine the filling ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until it thickens, stirring often. Set filling aside to cool.
Fruit Kolache filling
  • 1/2 pound of dried fruit such as apricots or prunes, raisins, cherries, whatever you wish.
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Lemon zest
Soak the dried fruit in water for a few hours or overnight.
When fruit is re-hydrated, cook on low for 15 minutes, adding sugar to taste, cinnamon and lemon zest. Mash with a potato masher until you have a puree.

Find a copy of My Day With Anka, bake some kolaches -- read and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Sharron for such a warm, tasty blog entry. It's chilly here today and just reading about noodles and kolaches warms me up. I may have to go and bake something sweet.