Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Apple Strudel/Jablkovy Zavin

Homemade 1-2-3-4 Cake to use for crumbs in apple strudel.
Though I've heard much joking over the years about "mixed marriages" - Germans and Czechs marrying each other - I haven't heard much about their traditional foods crossing or cross-polinating. Last summer, my 13-year-old son, 2 friends from Austin and I met my parents in Round Top to see the musical "The Heart of the Tin Trunk." The show had a sub-theme about Czechs and Germans having to get along once they moved onto the Texas frontier, no matter how much they hated each other in the old countries. There were two songs in the Broadway-style show that addressed the issue. One featured Czech and German female characters in a kitchen making strudel together, the point being that though the Germans called it strudel and the Czechs called it jablkovy zavin, it was the same pastry with the same ingredients... sugar, butter, cinnamon, apples, and dough. (If we love the same foods, surely we're not THAT bad.)

I always thought of strudel as Czech growing up. But when I mentioned to a food writer friend a list of Czech pastries I would offer if I ever had a bakery, she saw strudel on the list and said "I thought that was German." Wikipedia says "Strudel is most often associated with the Austrian cuisine, but is also a traditional pastry in the whole area formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire." which, of course, includes the Czech Republic.

I remember strudel always being on family celebratory tables... for Christmas, weddings, reunions, and even funerals, like at my grandmother's last weekend. It was a comforting sight to see one on the table when I walked into the Family Center of Sacred Heart Church.

Filling ingredients assembled - sliced apples, chopped pecans, cake crumbs, sugars, raisins, melted butter.
Ironically, my boys and I had made strudel just the weekend before. Below is the recipe we used, which is a variation of one I picked up at a long-forgotten Czech heritage event. I was familiar enough with stretching the dough from watching many family members do it and practicing with my mom several years in a row... a post-Thanksgiving tradition we tried to start (to freeze them for Christmas.) 

Apple Strudel

2 cups flour
½ cup warm water
1 tbl. Melted butter
½ tsp. salt

Mix water, egg, and melted butter. Add salt. Work the flour into the liquid mixture either by hand or in a stand mixer with a paddle. Knead the dough until its very elastic ad no longer sticky. Cover and keep in a warm place, letting the dough rest for at least an hour. In the meantime, prepare the filling.

Stretching the dough by hand. Whoops, I see a hole!
1 c. crumbs (like vanilla wafers, dry bread crumbs, stale cake crumbs)
¼ c. butter
4 large apples, peeled and sliced thin
¼ c. raisins
½ c. white sugar
½ c. light brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ c. chopped pecans
Optional ingredient – flaked coconut

Spread a cloth (tablecloth or sheet) over a large table and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Roll the dough evenly into a large square and place it in the center of the cloth. Begin pulling and stretching the dough away from the center, gently to prevent tearing, until it is evenly thin as paper and in as much of a square or rectangle shape as you can manage. Snip off the thick edges – this dough can be rolled thin and used to “patch” holes, if they occur.

Fun for all ages. (We trimmed the stretched dough into a rectangle using a pizza cutter.)
Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle the crumbs over ¾ of the surface. Try to leave at least an inch of uncovered dough around the edges. Spread apples, raisins, and nuts on the crumbs. Mix the two sugars together with the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the strudel. Using the cloth to lift and tilt the strudel, start rolling from the covered side toward the empty side, like a large jelly roll. Tuck the ends under so that no filling is exposed.

Lift the roll with hands or spatulas and gently place on a greased baking sheet. Brush the top with butter and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Brush with butter again and reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. Baste with melted butter again and sprinkle with white sugar (optional).

Makes 1 large strudel (12 to 16, 1” slices.)

More butter, please.
Yum, yummy, yum-yumminess, yum, yum.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Datu (1915-2012)

My maternal grandmother died Friday. She was a rock, a guiding hand, an angel, and an inspiration. Below are the text and photos from the program we created for the funeral service. And since this is a blog about food, below that is something about how our family nourished ourselves through several days of intense sadness, hard work to honor Datu, and as much visiting with and loving each other as we could muster.
- Our Datu -
October 28, 1915 – January 20, 2012

“All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. “
- Abraham Lincoln -

Anita, about 1922.
Anastasia “Anita” Kallus, was born on Oct. 28, 1915 to Alois J. and Marie (Raska) Morkovsky in Lavaca County, Texas.  She was the youngest of 10 children. Her first language was Czech and she spoke it with friends and relatives throughout her life. 

Anita graduated from Hallettsville High School in 1933 and began working as a seamstress. Sewing and needlework were necessities, but also a way of caring for her family and 
a creative outlet into her 90s.

She married George F. Kallus on July 6, 1937 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hallettsville.  They were the loves of each other’s lives. PawPaw was Datu's “Sugar” every day until he died in 1979. Together they created a home and family life that nourished four generations of people over the next 75 years.
Their first child, Mary Ann, was born in 1939.  Over the next 20 years, Anita gave birth to another 7 children: A.J., George,  Jane, Johnny, Betty, Joe and Bobby.  Their descendants include 30 grandchildren; 57 great-grandchildren and 9 great-great-grandchildren.

1978. My parents are sitting on the right side of the couch.
Anita's life was characterized by caring, guiding and protecting others… family, friends, and neighbors. She took comfort in nature, gardening, and her love of the Blessed Mother. She lived a life of faith, which gave her the strength to be both a servant and a leader.  She was – and is – the center of the family that she and Pawpaw started. For all of us whose lives she touched, her legacy is love.


Saturday  afternoon when I arrived at my grandmother's house in Hallettsville to see how I could help with preparations for the next 24 hours, there were already aunts, uncles and cousins there vacuuming, dusting, washing sheets, and mowing the lawn. My mother was at the kitchen table with address books, funeral program examples, cell phone, pen and paper out in front of her... the "secretary," my Aunt MaryAnn called her. Then a couple of people began bringing in boxes and boxes of klobasniky (pigs-in-a-blanket) from Kountry Bakery. They were supposed to be for the funeral reception on Sunday evening, but by Sunday morning, the family members stopping by or staying at my grandmother's house made quite a dent in them.

After the viewing and the rosary Saturday at Kubena Funeral Home, many of us returned to Datu's house to visit. After being at the funeral home since around 3pm, people were starving by 8:30. There were platters of fruit and ham and turkey sandwiches on croissants from the local Brookshire Brothers grocery store; all forms of chips and dips; Shiner beer and boxes of wine; chicken salad to spread on bread standing at the kitchen cabinet with potato salad and coleslaw made by my cousin Pat; a lasagna and a chicken and dumplings casserole dropped off by neighbors. My cousin Alyson put on a big pot of chicken and barley soup... no one had the heart to tell her that Aunt Pat and Uncle Joe were already bringing a big pot of chicken noodle soup. But both pots got eaten, of course.

Aunt Pat and Uncle Joe's chicken noodle soup post-Rosary.
The reception after the funeral was catered by the wonderful "church ladies" of Sacred Heart Catholic Church with the addition of klobasniky bought by the family. Drinks served were iced tea and coffee. Here's a rundown of what we had:
- ham sandwiches
- pimento cheese sandwiches
- chicken salad sandwiches
- ham and cheese sandwiches
- platters of fruit
- platters of cheese cubes
- chips and dips
- banana cake
- apple strudel 
- cheese roll 
- klobasniky
- cookies
- poppyseed roll
- hummingbird cake
- peach pies
- chocolate sheet cake
- German chocolate cake
- chocolate chip cookies

So many people attended the reception that we literally ran out of food. My Aunt Pat and Uncle Joe ran to Brookshire Brothers during the reception to buy loaves of bread, platters of sandwich meat and cheese, squeeze bottles of mayo and mustard, and bags of chips. People may not have left with full stomachs, but they certainly left with full hearts.