Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kolaches in Bikinis

A dang respectable klobasnik.
Last week, at my sister's beach house, I made a second attempt at kolaches and klobasniky. This time I used my grandmother's recipe, which came from her sister Bessie (Morkovsky) Kocian. It was a family affair with my sister and me and five children ages 2 to 14 all handling the dough.

After much procrastinating throughout the morning and everyone asking each other if they REALLY wanted to do it, we began close to lunchtime, deciding that we needed kolaches for svacina. My oldest son (12) and my sister's oldest son (14) took a break from burying each other in the sand to mix up the dough. The 2, 3, and 6 years olds simply wanted to play with it PlayDough-style (or eat it raw... eeeuuwww.) My pastry chef significant other only came in to the kitchen to approve the quality of the risen dough and then moved back to the couch and the flat screen TV, which I took as a compliment.

I'd brought leftover fillings and posipka from our first attempt (kept in the freezer) and mixed up a new batch of cream cheese filling with lemon (my 12-year-old's favorite). We still didn't have enough. There were several kinds of apples on the counter for snacking, so we peeled and chopped those. My sister added butter, cinnamon, a little apple juice and simmered it all until the apples softened. It made an absolutely delicious filling and one I could imagine any Texas Czech farm wife making from what she had growing on her property. We also used some of the dough to make klobasniky from a link of Janak's sausage (Hallettsville) we pulled out of the freezer.

There is something to be said for making kolaches in a bikini with a pina colada in your hand (my great grandmother was probably rolling over in her grave.) It seemed so easy... the recipe worked like a charm, my sister was an expert dough handler, and all the hands-on from the toddlers didn't seem to phase the puffy little pastries at all. The satisfaction of seeing teenage boys roll dough balls instead of staring at their iPods was incomparable.

Real  teenagers make kolaches.

And the smell! What a lovely experience to come in from the deck with your nose full of salty sea air and be hit with the yeasty, homey aroma of baking kolaches.  I ate two apple right off the pan. My 14-year old nephew ate 6 klobasniky that afternoon. We ate more for breakfast the next morning, took 6 to my mom, and 6 came home to freeze. If we could make kolaches from scratch a little tipsy with very little experience watching five kids while taking breaks to change diapers, I think anyone could do it. It was definitely the opposite of vacation convenience food, but made a great activity for restless people trying to stay out of the worst of the Texas sun from 1 to 3pm.

I've got two more dough recipes to test and then I'll decide which one will be "mine." This dough was preferable to me over the first recipe we tried... less dense, softer. And we managed to get a square shape for the pastries as 24 of them rose and crowded into each other while baking on the cookie sheet. I got a little better shaping the indentation in the center for the filling and I loaded on the posipka. I was proud of them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Morkovsky Reunion 2011

Two weekends ago, I traveled to Hallettsville with my partner and toddler for the annual reunion of the Morkovskys (my maternal grandmother's maiden name) at the KC Hall. I've always loved reunions, but the reasons have changed over time. As a child, reunions were about running wild in big halls with little parental oversight. As a young adult, they were about staying connected to first cousins and still seeing those great-aunts and uncles. Now they're about showing off your children (when you can catch them.)

All my great aunts and uncles on my mom's side have passed, so I attended the reunion to visit my aunts and uncles and grandmother. She is the only member of her generation still living (out off 11). She was the baby, born in 1915, so all my cousins come to see HER. Below is a photo of her watching a home movie of her own father taken in 1946 at a Morkovsky reunion in San Antonio. Amazing.

My brother and I had a collection of home movies digitized by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Our great uncles, Bishop John and Monsignor Alois Morkovsky, started making films in the mid-1930s of family, religious and Czech cultural events as well as their own travels. A highlight of this year's reunion was setting up a laptop, projector and screen in the hot, cavernous KC Hall kitchen to show films to cousins while they sat on steel work tables, coolers or folding chairs.

But, of course, the reunion is also about the food. This reunion had a great selection of vegetables and salads. The fruit platters were out in full force and so were the green beans and squash casseroles. And extremely heartening was the fact that, except for a couple of appetizers and desserts and barbecued chickens from Kolacny's, it seemed like everything was homemade. My favorites? Nina's broccoli salad (real mayo), the sausage, of course, and the buchta, which, for me, has sort of been the narwhal of Texas-Czech baked goods. Sure, you're told it exists, but has anyone you know ever actually seen one? Well, now I have and it was made by my first cousin (once removed), Dorothy.

A buchta is like a jelly-roll or a strudel made with kolach dough (photo below). Hers was filled with pecans, coconut, raisins and lots of cinnamon... perfect for svacina (afternoon snack) with a cup of weak Folger's (the specialty of Catholic church halls across the State.) I've heard many, many Texas-Czechs mention that their mother/aunt/grandmother used to make buchta in the same breath as kolaches. But in my family and professional life, I've never seen one, though kolaches are very popular. Why? I don't know.... that's why I'm doing this research and blog. If anyone knows someone who makes buchta regularly or a commercial bakery that sells them, I'd love to know.

Here's the run-down on the rest of our feast. (sb = store-bought) Want to be adopted?

Mains and sides: Macaroni and cheese x 2, Rice and cheese, Baked beans x 2, Potatoes with butter and onions, Au gratin potatoes x 2, Sweet potatoes, Squash casserole x 4, Creamed peas, Peas and carrots, Green bean casserole, Green beans with mushrooms, Green beans and potatoes, Green beans with bacon x 2, Corn off the cob, Corn casserole, Corn and okra with tomatoes, Bowtie pasta, Lasagna, Barbecued chicken from Kolacny’s in Hallettsville, Ribs, Sausage x 3, Fried chicken x 2, Baked chicken, Sliced brisket in sauce, Chopped beef, loaves of bread (sb).

Salads and appetizers: Cocktail wieners in barbecue sauce, Pepperoni and cheese cubes (sb), Crudités and ranch dressing (sb), Assorted fruit trays x 3, Watermelon x 2, Pickles x 3, Strawberry delight, Green delight (lime?), Broccoli salad x 2, Mixed fruit salad x 3, Potato salad, Macaroni salad, Deviled eggs, Green salad x 2, Kvasena (crock pickles).

Desserts: Cheese roll x 2 (1 sb), Klobasneks, Poppyseed roll x 3, Chocolate cookies, Pecan pie x 2, Apricot kolaches x 2, Cherry kolaches, Red velvet cake, German chocolate cake (sb), Carrot cake, Brownies x 2 (1 sb), Cake pops, Iced cookies for 4th of July, Buchta with raisins, pecans, and coconut, Apple pie.

Coffee, iced tea (sweet and unsweet), fruit punch, and Shiner Blonde.