czech Tag

There are a few differences between the Christmas season in Central Europe and how most families celebrate in the USA. The major one would be that the presents are brought by the baby Jesus, and not by Santa.  During the dark Orwellian times, the fashion from the Soviet Union was to bring in “Ded Maroz” (Father Frost), which was the comrades’ version of Santa. It did not work for many reasons, one being that December 6 in Central Europe is Saint Nicholas day, when kids eat themselves sick on candies brought by Saint Nick. For kids it was very hard to understand why would a man in red suit and beard coma back at Christmas and bring toys. Why he wouldn’t he drop off the candies and toys all at once? We needed another character.  So the concept of baby Jesus survived.

 

Bear Paws Molds

One thing we did after St. Nicholas (Mikulas) day was to start baking Christmas cookies. My mum used to make 4 batches of 6-7 different types of cookies. Emperor’s Crumbs will bring you my top three, starting with “Bear Paws” today. It has always been the tradition that everyone pitches in to make the cookies; while filling the molds with bear paw dough,  my brothers and I had to sing. This way my mum was sure that we were not eating the dough (which is pretty good, maybe even better than the cookies!).

Here is our family recipe and a video tutorial as well. The video stars my mum, who has been making these cookies for more than 60 years now. Some of the molds we used have been in our family for almost 200 years.

Bear Paws – Medvedie Tlapky

This is a rich, soft dough that can be handled quite a bit without getting tough – so it’s perfect for working with kids (also, no raw eggs to worry about if someone happens to nibble the dough). While we are lucky enough to have vintage molds, we got equally good results from a brand new cookie pan like this one. Traditionally, these cookies are allowed to sit and soften for a week or more before they’re considered ready to eat, but we’ve never had a problem gobbling them up as soon as they’re cool enough to touch.
Ingredients

Makes one good batch for a big family and more.

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup +2 tbs softened butter, in small pieces

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F/190° C. If your cookie molds are unseasoned or not non-stick, lightly oil them.
  • In a food processor, grind the walnuts until they form a crumbly paste.
  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  • With the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, or with your fingers, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until a smooth dough comes together.
  • Form the dough into a ball and gently knead it a few times.
  • Pinch off a small quantity of dough and press a thin layer into your cookie mold. It should just cover the bottom and sides of the mold.
  • If you are using individual molds, place  them on a baking sheet; bake for 8-10 minutes, watching carefully that the edges of the cookies don’t burn.
  • Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes before gently sliding them out of the forms.

I had a great day in Sonoma tasting some wine. I specifically went to try out the Cline cellars, since I was very excited about trying their wine; I had it for the first time on the way to California on the BA flight. I love the idea of grapes grown on 100 year-old vines. The yield is low but very mature and sophisticated. I am a big fan of Cline and their Ancient Wines line. With a little luck you can get these wines from under $10, which is my comfortable price limit for a bottle of wine. After the tasting at their cellars, I could not come home empty handed, and I decided to share this gem with my family. Since good wine must be accompanied by good food, I decided to make a Czech classic: roasted duck with red cabbage and Czech dumplings.
ec-duck-in-the-owen
This Czech meal consist of three separate segments. You have to roast the duck, make the cabbage and the dumplings. It is a bit more labor intensive, but again remember that a good wine must be accompanied by a good meal.  I’ll post them as separate segments because the cabbage and the dumplings are often used with other meals and later I might refer to these recipes.

Czech Roasted Duck with Caraway Seeds
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Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. firm apples,such as Braeburns
  2. pears, any variety
  3. red wine
  4. salt
  5. water
  6. duck legs
  7. caraway seeds
Instructions
  1. Slice the apple and pear and lay them directly on the roasting pan. Add few cups of red wine or water. The liquid should barely cover the fruit.
  2. Salt the duck legs on both side, place the legs on the fruit bed and sprinkle them generously with caraway seeds.
  3. Preheat the oven to 340F, cover the roasting pan with foil and bake until the meat is soft (2 -2.5 hours).
  4. When the meat can be easily pierced with a fork, remove the foil and broil until the skin is nice and crispy.
Notes
  1. For this recipe I used duck legs. For bigger parties or hungry individuals, you can count on 2 legs per person, for a lighter meal go with 1 duck leg per person. You can use other parts of the duck if you wish. The amount of apples and pears depends on the amount of duck you are going to roast. I use fruit in order to achieve light fruity tones and preventing the meat from drying out.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
Caramelised Red Cabbage
While the duck roasts you can do the red cabbage. This is a special cabbage used with few Czech recipes and you can use the leftovers in many good ways, as a side dish, in sandwiches.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 medium red cabbage (1.5-2pounds)
  2. 1 big onion
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. 3tbs vegetable oil
  5. 1/3 cup sugar
  6. 1 orange
  7. 3 cups of red wine
  8. 1tsp caraway seeds
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons, removing the hard bits and nibbling on them while you salt the cabbage and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Chop the onions.
  3. Heat the oil in large pot and add the onions together with the bay leaf. When onions become translucent, add the sugar and caramelize it.
  4. Add the caraway seeds and 10 seconds later add the red wine and the juice of one orange.
  5. Bring the mixture to boil and add the cabbage. Cook the cabbage on medium temperature until soft.
  6. When cabbage is soft add the vinegar and season with extra salt (1/2tsp maybe).
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
Czech Steamed Dumplings - Knedlíky
The Czech knedliky or “steamed bread” is a real Czech classic. It is served with variety of foods, especially with sauce. This is a simple knedliky recipe; unfortunatelly they are great only on the first day. After that they lose their freshness rapidly, so try to use them right away. You will need a steamer to make these (obviously), one with a flat bottom is the best.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1tsp sugar
  2. 1tsp yeast
  3. 3½ cups flour
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1/3 cup sugar
  6. 1 cup of milk
  7. ½ cup lukewarm water
Instructions
  1. Make a sponge: mix the lukewarm water, sugar and yeast and leave until bubbly, about ten minutes.
  2. Mix the flour with salt, add the sponge, eggs, and 2/3 cup of milk (if necessary keep adding more milk).
  3. Let it raise for 30 min, then punch it down.
  4. Let it raise again until doubled.
  5. Prepare the steamer: put a few inches of water in a large pot, and lightly oil the steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil.
  6. Shape little oval loafs and put them in the steamer basket. Steam them for 10-12 minutes until they are resilient and have a firm outer skin.
  7. Let them cool and cut them into slices just before you serve them.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/