Veselé Vianoce a Šťastný Nový Rok
In Slovak, that means “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” (pronounced “Ve-se-le Vee-a-no-tse ah Schast-nee No-vee Rok”) .
I must admit, I love how Central Europe celebrates Christmas, and am thankful for Zuzana for showing me a lot about the holidays in her native Slovakia. The Criskindle Markets, the food, hand-maid ornaments and decoration, families getting together, etc. While many traditions are similar to American traditions, the Central Europe region has their own great flavor in how they do the holidays.
This Christmas, Zuzana made an amazing treat for us to celebrate the season. I can best describe it as a mixture of poppy seed with prunes, honey, walnuts, and small balls of baked dough. Sounds strange to the non-Slovak, but I must admit it’s delicious.
The dish is called Makové Pupáčky (Mah-ko-ve Pu-pah-chkee), which kind of translates to “Christmas Poppy Seed Bakies”. The tradition is to make the dish on Christmas Eve, then serve some after the family and guests share what is called “Oplatky” (Oh-plot-kee). Oplatky are thin crispy wafers that many Central Europeans eat on Christmas Eve. The Slovaks would eat these wafers with honey, walnuts, and fresh garlic. It sounds strange, but it’s a sharing of the symbolic body of Jesus Christ. The Makové Pupá?ky is then eaten after as a sweet appetizer before a dinner of fried carp, potato salad, and sauerkraut soup.
Zuzana’s Makové Pupáčky was quite delicious and I’ve been enjoying it even now days after Christmas Eve. I would suggest that when you make this dish that you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or more before serving. The flavors meld together nicely and the dish becomes even tastier with time. So be sure to allow time for the Makové Pupáčky to sit in the fridge before serving.
Here’s how Zuzana made the dish:
Makové Pupáčky (Christmas Poppy Seed Bakies)
For the Bakies:
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 cups of flour
- 1 yeast cube (approximately 1 square inch in size)
- 2 tbsp of canola oil
For the Rest:
- 4 cups of water
- 3 tbsp of honey
- 2 cups of ground poppy seed
- 1 package (6 oz) of prunes, chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup of walnuts
- 2 tbsp of vanilla sugar
Making the Bakies
- In a small saucepan, warm up the milk on medium-low heat.
- Add the sugar and salt to the milk and stir until dissolved.
- In a large mixing bowl, place the flour in and make a round “valley” in the center of the pile.
- Pour the milk/sugar combination into this valley. Do not stir anything yet.
- Break up the yeast cube into the liquid part of this mixture. Do not stir anything, but wait until you see the liquid start to bubble from the yeast. This should take a few minutes.
- Add the canola oil to the liquid, then gently fold the flour into the bubbling liquid.
- Stir the mixture thoroughly until you end up with a ball of soft dough. If your mixture is coming off too sticky, then add a little more canola oil and keep mixing.
- Sprinkle a light layer of flour over the ball of dough. Cover the entire bowl with a towel and set in a warm and dry place. Let the dough sit for 30-45 minutes and allow it to rise.
- Preheat oven to 350º. Place some parchment paper on a few cookie sheets.
- On a board or dry surface, sprinkle some flour and have a rolling pin ready as well as a small bowl of canola oil with a brush.
- Grab a handful of dough and place on your floured surface. Roll the dough into a long “noodle” approximately 1/2″ in diameter.
- From this “noodle”, take a piece about 1/2″ long and form into a small cookie shape. Place it on the cookie sheet.
- Fill your cookie sheet(s) with these dough cookies and brush them with a light coating of canola oil.
- Bake these dough cookies for 15-20 minutes or until they turn golden brown.
- Remove from oven and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside.
Putting it All Together
- In a medium-size saucepan, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil.
- Stir the honey into the boiling water.
- In a large mixing bowl, place the bakes in and pour the honey/water mixture on top. Allow them to soak for a few minutes.
- Stir in the poppy seed, prunes, walnuts, and vanilla sugar.
- Mix the combination until the bakies are coated with poppy seed and other ingredients.
- Carefully add honey, stir, and taste. Repeat until the final mixture is to your desired sweetness.
- Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for 1-2 hours.
When mixing the dough, the goal is to see bubbles forming between the dough and the surface of the bowl. If you don’t seem them, then don’t worry. The end goal though is a soft ball of dough that’s not as firm as your typical bread dough.
When making the rest, the amounts Zuzana and I put in the ingredients are approximations. You need to be mixing and regularly tasting the mixture to make sure it’s as sweet as you like.
When you soak the bakies in the honey/water mixture, they are supposed to get softer. They will float on the water at first, but soak up liquid like a sponge. The goal is the bakies to have a softer consistency with a little bit of the water/honey combination left at the bottom of the bowl. If the bakies soak up all the liquid, then add another cup of tap water.
If your final mixture contains too much liquid, then either add more poppy seed to thicken it, or pour off the excess liquid.
Be sure to let the final mixture sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so. This allows the different flavors to meld together and makes the dish taste perfect. In fact, the more this sits in the refrigerator, the better it tastes. So leftovers will be even better.
Rather than adding more honey to sweeten the mixture, some Slovaks will add a few tablespoons of prune jam. You can find prune jam in some gourmet grocery stores and almost any Eastern-European style grocery store.
May your holidays be bright and your New Year a good one. Šťastný Nový Rok!