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Re: [Slovak-World] Fw: Slovak Cooking Newsletter: Pittsburgh Festival, Cooking for Christmas Bazaar, and Christmas cookie recipes

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  • William C. Wormuth
    Ahoj Lubos, Again I am super impressed with your presenting our Slovak in the form of our traditional foods. I wish that I lived closer to Dc so that I could
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 25, 2010
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      Ahoj Lubos,

      Again I am super impressed with your presenting our Slovak in the form of our traditional foods.

      I wish that I lived closer to Dc so that I could partner with you in your cooking demonstrations.

      I am on a "cooking vacation" because my housemate, Dr. Miroslav Vytrisal, MD, from Rimavska Sobota has his mom here until January.  she came back with me in October.

      Klara cooks the old fashioned way and the house is alive with the familiar smells.

      I would suggest that for cooking large amounts, you consider buying supplies like nadivka, from a bakery wholesale business.

      Thanks again for your service to our people.

      Z Bohom,


      --- On Wed, 11/24/10, Lubos Brieda <lbrieda@...> wrote:

      From: Lubos Brieda <lbrieda@...>
      Subject: [Slovak-World] Fw: Slovak Cooking Newsletter: Pittsburgh Festival, Cooking for Christmas Bazaar, and Christmas cookie recipes
      To: slovak-world@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 2:36 PM


      Hi folks, hopefully you don't mind that I am forwarding the latest update from

      my cooking site. This past Sunday my mom came over (she is back in the US) and

      helped out with baking of Christmas cookies. We ended up making 3 different

      kinds, little jam filled hearts, some striped kind, and also sugar rings. I also

      wrote up a little piece about the Pitt festival that Martin helped organize.

      -- Lubos Brieda --

      Slovak recipes: www.slovakcooking.com

      Hikes and travel: www.iamlubos.com

      ----- Forwarded Message ----

      From: Slovak Cooking <lubos@...>

      To: lbrieda@...

      Sent: Wed, November 24, 2010 2:15:24 PM

      Subject: Slovak Cooking Newsletter: Pittsburgh Festival, Cooking for Christmas

      Bazaar, and Christmas cookie recipes

      Slovak Cooking Newsletter: Pittsburgh Festival, Cooking for Christmas Bazaar,

      and Christmas cookie recipes

      Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.

      Christmas Cookies Part 3: Rings (Ven�eky)

      Nov 24, 2010 01:00 pm | lubos

      And here is the final recipe from my pre-Christmas cookie baking with my mom

      this past weekend. If you haven’t checked out the previous two, they are

      heart-shaped jam-filled shortbread cookies, and two colored zebra cookies.

      Both of those are really delicious. But nowhere as delicious as these little

      sugar rings or wreaths (ven�eky). These are my favorites!

      We ended up using half the amount listed below. The recipe comes from the same

      Czech collection we used in making the zebra cookies.

      Ingredients: 250g flour, 250g margarine, 100g ground hazelnuts or almonds, bit

      of salt, half a spoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of orange zest and juice, 1 egg, 5

      spoons of white wine

      Prep Time: about 2 hours plus 15 minutes for baking.

      Start by adding the flour. Then add the margarine and the ground nuts. I used

      almonds instead of hazelnuts. I don’t know if there is a mistake in the original

      recipe, or if the margarine was too melted, but the recommended amount of

      margarine resulted in the dough being too sticky to work with. We had to add

      more flour. So when you are making these cookies, use less margarine to begin

      with and add more as needed.

      Then add a hint of salt and the grated orange zest.

      And a little wine (víno) for good taste. Form into a ball, wrap in foil, and let

      cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

      Then roll the dough out, and use grooved cookie cutters to cut out the rings. My

      mom picked up this set of 5 cutters in Williams & Sonoma for 16 dollars. Cut out

      the big circle, lift off the the dough from the mat (use a knife if stuck), and

      then cut out the middle section. Bake on baking paper for about 15 minutes at

      350F, until they brown and the margarine stops sizzling.

      Coating in sugar

      While the cookies are baking, mix the powdered sugar with vanilla sugar and

      ground cinnamon. Coat the cookies in this mixture while they are still hot. I

      also had some left over chocolate from the making the marble cookies, so I

      dipped few in chocolate as well.

      And that’s it, super easy! Enjoy.

      Recipe #100!

      And just few more photos of the cookies we baked to tease you. They were

      delicious! Veselé Vianoce (Merry Christmas).

      By the way, this is recipe #100. The site started about year and a half ago with

      me knowing how to make only a handful of Slovak dishes. I think it worked out

      quite well so far…

      Don’t forget to check out Parts 1 and 2, jam-filled hearts and two-color cookie


      Please donate and get your free recipe book. And don't forget to sign up for

      email newsletter.

      comments | read more

      Christmas Cookies Part 2: Striped Combs (Dvojfarebné Hrebienky)

      Nov 24, 2010 12:29 pm | lubos

      Here is the second type of Christmas cookies that we baked along with the

      jam-filled hearts. This particular recipe comes from a Czech collection of

      Christmas cookie recipes. My family did not make anything like this, but this

      recipe looked interesting so we decided to give it a shot.

      We ended up using 1/2 of the ingredients listed below.

      Ingredients: 300g flour, 180g butter or margarine, 90g powdered sugar, tiny bit

      of salt, half a spoon of lemon zest, 3 yolks, half a bag of vanilla sugar, 1

      spoon cocoa, jam for filling

      Prep Time: About 2 hours, plus 15 minutes for baking

      Start by sifting the flour and add the butter.

      Then add the powdered sugar and the lemon zest. This came from quarter of a

      lemon, grated using a box grater.

      Then add the yolks and half bag of Dr. Oetker (or similar) vanilla sugar. You

      can find these in German or Russian gourmet stores. Or just use a dash of

      vanilla extract.

      Knead everything together until you get smooth dough. Then form it into a loaf

      and cut off one fifth. Mix one spoonful of cocoa into this smaller section to

      turn it brown.

      Roll into balls, and let refrigerate for 30 minutes to solidify the butter. Then

      carefully roll the dough out on a mat dusted with flour. Roll out the yellow

      dough only slightly, you will roll it out again later. Make the brown dough

      about 2 mm thick.

      Making the striped dough

      Here is where the fun begins. Cut stripes out of the brown dough and assemble

      them on top of the yellow dough. Try to leave about the same spacing between the

      stripes as the brown stripes are thick. Push these down, and then use the

      rolling pin to fuse them into the yellow dough. This part is bit tricky. The

      stripes kept getting stuck to the pin. Mom helped out by pulling off the pieces

      that stuck. Try to get someone to help out, it really helps having that second

      person around for this step.

      Mix the remaining dough into a ball and roll out again. These guys will turn

      into marble cookies, since the two colors will mix together. Again, cut them out

      using the cookie cutter. If you don’t have this comb (as in rooster) shape, use

      whatever you can find handy. Bake the cookies on a baking paper for some 15

      minutes at 350F.

      Filling the cookies

      After they cool off, fill the zebra cookies with apricot jam.

      The marble cookies go well with Nutella. You can also dip their ends in

      chocolate. To make the chocolate spread, melt one cube of baking chocolate with

      1/3 the chocolate amount in butter in the microwave.

      And that’s it. Enjoy!

      Don’t forget to check out Parts 1 and 3, jam-filled hearts and sugar rings.

      Please donate and get your free recipe book. And don't forget to sign up for

      email newsletter.

      comments | read more

      Christmas Cookies Part 1: Hearts (Srdie�ka)

      Nov 24, 2010 11:58 am | lubos

      Christmas in Slovakia just wouldn’t be the same without a table full of many

      kinds of beautifully decorated Christmas cookies. Baking of Christmas cookies

      starts a week or even two before the holiday. Each day, one or two kinds are

      made, and by the time Christmas Eve comes knocking on the door, the plate is

      full of various shapes, colors, and tastes. Just like shown on the left. Those

      are Christmas cookies baked by my grandma for the last year’s holiday.

      I have already shown you how to make two popular kinds, vanilla rolls (or bear

      paws) and rum balls. But since my mom is back in the States, I figured I should

      learn how to make few other kinds. We baked them this past Sunday. In all, we

      ended up making 3 different kinds (plus few other Slovak specialties). It’s hard

      work! We started before lunch, and were not finished until after dinner time.

      Here is part 1, for little hearts, srdie�ka.

      This particular recipe comes from “Viano�né Recepty� (Christmas recipes) inset

      that came with a magazine Chvíľka pre Teba (a moment for you). These hearts are

      type of baked goods called krehké pe�ivo, which translates as fragile baked

      goods. If I am not mistaken, the term in English is shortbread cookies. The

      dough is made by mixing flour with butter (or margarine) without adding any

      water. The result is a crumbly texture that is dense, unlike the airy and puffy

      texture of pastry.

      But enough said, let’s get baking! These cookies are actually quite easy to

      make. The ingredients below are from the recipe, we ended up using half the


      Ingredients: 500g (4 cups) flour, 250g (2 cups) powdered sugar, 6g (1.5tsp)

      baking powder, 200g vegetable fat (margarine), 2 eggs, jam (red currant or

      strawberry), powdered sugar

      Prep Time: about 2 hours, plus 15 minutes for baking

      Ingredients for baking Slovak Christmas cookies.

      Start by sifting the flour. Sifting will make the flour more fluffy and less

      dense, and improve the texture of the cookies. Add to a mixing bowl along with

      the sugar. By the way, even though I listed the volumes in the ingredients, its

      better to use a kitchen scale to actually weigh the ingredients.

      Then add the baking powder and margarine.

      Add the eggs and that’s it. Then just knead the dough until you get smooth

      texture. Form into a ball, wrap in foil, and place in the fridge for about 30

      minutes to let cool down (this will re-solidify the margarine).

      Cutting out the shapes

      Then carefully roll the dough out on a floured mat, and use cookie cutters to

      cut out shapes – hearts ideally, since that is the name of this cookie. When

      cutting the shapes, it helps to give the cutter a little twist as you push down,

      if you get lucky, the cut out dough will come out with the cutter. After you cut

      out as many shapes as possible, take the remaining dough, form it into a ball,

      and roll out again. Continue until all the dough is used up.

      You next need to cut out central circles in half of the cookies. If you have

      dedicated circular cutters, great! If not, look around the house, you may find

      something that will work. Such as this lid to a salt shaker. Place on a baking

      paper and bake for about 12 minutes at 350F, until the tops start getting

      slightly brown.

      But you don’t have to make just hearts. We also made few Christmas trees and

      some circles. Small drinking glass or a lid to a spice jar works well for

      cutting the circles.


      Spread jam or preservers on the solid halves after the cookies cool off. The

      recipe called for strawberry jam but we ended up using red currants. Red

      currants have a tangy, slightly sour taste that nicely balances the sweet

      cookies. Top with the perforated half.

      Then sprinkle with powdered sugar and eat. Or save till Christmas if you can


      Don’t forget to check out Parts 2 and 3, striped zebra cookies and sugar rings.

      Please donate and get your free recipe book. And don't forget to sign up for

      email newsletter.

      comments | read more

      Cooking for Czech and Slovak Christmas Bazaar

      Nov 23, 2010 05:38 pm | lubos

      The Friday after coming back from the Pittsburgh Slovak Festival, I got my hands

      full again. This time, with cooking for the Czech and Slovak Christmas Bazaar.

      The bazaar was put together by the Czech and Slovak Society for Arts and

      Sciences, SVU, in collaboration with the Czech and Slovak embassies, and took

      place Saturday, November 12th, at the Unitarian Congregation Hall in Bethesda,


      SVU is a cultural society established in in 1958 in Washington D.C. At that

      time, the socialist crack down on free expression in Czechoslovakia was

      strengthening, and the society was organized to give a voice to the Czechs and

      Slovaks, mainly those living abroad. Nowadays, the society has over 3000 members

      scattered through out the world. Many of the members are notable researchers,

      scientists, performers, or artists. Members even include the Czech president

      Václav Havel and the famous Slovak composer Eugen Suchoň.

      This bazaar is a place to pick up few Christmas trinkets. But it’s mainly a

      place to come feast on delicious traditional Czech and Slovak dishes. The Czech

      and Slovak Embassies typically prepare their respective share of specialties.

      However, this year the Slovak Embassy chef was busy with the visit of the Slovak

      Prime Minister Iveta Radi�ová. So the folks asked if I could help out.

      I figured why not. And since cooking for 100 is no easy work, I had folks from

      the Washington Slovak Meetup come out and help. Tonya Harmon, from Pauline’s

      Cookbook, and her husband Nick, hosted us in their humongous kitchen.

      So what was the menu? We prepared the sauerkraut soup for 100, potato dumplings

      with bryndza and with pork cracklings for 80, with sauerkraut for another 20,

      big baking sheet worth of farmer’s cheese cake, and a couple more sheets full of

      filled buchty.

      We started with a batch of kapustnica. In the meantime, the other folks got

      their lesson in a very important Slovak cooking skill: peeling potatoes. All

      30lbs of them. While all this was happening, Tonya managed to somehow cook

      dinner for us, without any of us noticing. She topped the dinner with a really

      delicious treat made out of chestnut mousse.

      This is what the dough for potato dumplings look like. To make halušky, you can

      get a little perforated spatula-like contraption called haluškár. Or you can

      toss them the traditional way, using a cutting board and a butter knife. My mom

      taught the folks how to do this. My friend Sandra, who is originally from

      Colombia, was absolutely amazing. My bet is on Sandra if she ever gets in a

      halušky tossing contest with my grandma. I bet she could win!

      While the dumplings were getting tossed, Nick and I went about griding poppy

      seeds and nuts for the baked buns. Here I am grinding the walnuts the way my

      grandma taught me. We also tried using the coffee grinder for the seeds. The

      results were not good. The right image shows our little experiment. The top row

      shows seeds ground in my old-fashioned grinder on fine and coarse setting, while

      the second row are the seeds from the coffee grinder. In my opinion, the finely

      ground seeds from the seed grinder tasted the best. The pressure action of the

      spinning wheel squeezes out the oils and turns the seeds into paste. The seeds

      from the coffee grinder were too dry. They tasted like dust.

      Of course, all this work makes one thirsty. This yellowish liquor is called

      Becherovka, and it’s the traditional alcoholic drink of the Czech Republic. Go

      to the Prague airport, and you’ll find stores selling nothing but Becherovka. It

      is a type of liquor called bitters. It is made with herbal components, and it’s

      these herbs that give bitters their characteristic bitter taste. Jägermeister is

      an example of these types of drink. Becherovka is not very common in Slovakia,

      but another Czech bitters, Fernet Stock is extremely popular.

      The sweet dough puffed up nicely in the mean-time, and Renata and I went about

      filling the buns. We made all different kinds. There was one pan full of

      farmer’s cheese, my favorite. But we also filled them plum butter, apricot jam,

      poppy seeds, and ground walnuts.

      We cooked well into the night. It was after midnight that I finally got home. I

      finished making the pork cracklings in the morning, and then headed to Bethesda.

      The Czech chefs brought a ton of food! They had beef goulash with dumplings,

      chicken schnitzels with potato salad and Prague-style hot dogs with sauerkraut.

      Plus a some fruit topped desserts. We put all the desserts out on the desserts

      table (including few nut rolls donated by Andrej’s Potica), and started heating

      up the dishes. The schnitzels and halušky were barely lukewarm when the line

      started forming. It was not until two and a half hours and some 400 customers

      later that the line finally subsided. Phew! All the food went, save few rings

      of hot dogs (párky)

      The beef goulash cooked by the Czech embassy. Also a photo with the two ladies

      from the Czech embassy who helped hand the food out. I, my mom, and the Czech

      chefs, filled the plates and handed them to the girls to give to the customers.

      In the front is a bottle of Trader Joe’s kefir that we were serving to go with

      the halušky instead of the traditional zákysanka.

      About 20 folks from the Washington Slovak Meetup also showed up. Those cookies

      were baked by one of the Meetup members, Danka Plevková. She is an amazing baker

      and runs a bake shop so if you are looking for Slovak cookies, make sure to

      contact her.

      Were you at the bazaar? What did you think of the food? Please leave your

      comment and let me know. And also let me know if you are interested in a Slovak

      cooking lesson here in the Washington, D.C. area. I am hoping to bring Slovak

      food to America, one cooking lesson at a time…

      Please donate and get your free recipe book. And don't forget to sign up for

      email newsletter.

      comments | read more

      Pitt Slovak Heritage Festival

      Nov 23, 2010 02:20 pm | lubos

      Turns out, the Cathedral of Learning truly is a cathedral. Albeit built in the

      early 1930s, this building would not be out of place among the Gothic cathedrals

      of Prague. Or, as the place for Harry Potter and his friends to attend lectures

      on the secret world of magic potions and sorcery.

      This 42-story building is the tallest academic building in the western

      hemisphere. Walk in, and you’ll find yourself in the massive “Commons Room�,

      3-stories tall study area built in the Gothic style. Vaulted ceilings, hanging

      chandeliers, and narrow twisting stone stairs add to the decor. Surrounding this

      architectural masterpiece are the 27 Nationality Rooms, classrooms beautifully

      decorated by students in the motives depicting the ethnic groups that helped

      build the city of Pittsburgh. In the Czechoslovak room students sit on wooden

      benches carved out of larch (smrekovec, conifer common in the Tatra mountains),

      and write on a blackboard above which is inscribed the motto of the Czechoslovak

      Republic (and the anthem of the Velvet Revolution): Pravda Víťazí, The Truth


      And 14 stories above ground is the home of University of Pittsburgh’s Slovak

      Studies Program. Besides teaching students about Slovak culture and language,

      Dr. Martin Votruba, Professor of Slovak Studies at UPitt, also helps organize

      the annual Slovak Heritage Festival.

      This year marked the 20th anniversary since few students in the Slovak program

      suggested to the faculty of Slavic Studies that they should organize a festival.

      In the 20 years since, the festival has grown to be one of the major

      celebrations of Slovak culture, traditions and heritage in the United States.

      That’s why I was very happy to be given a chance to participate in it, by

      offering a cooking lesson in preparing few traditional Slovak dishes.

      But let’s rewind a bit. The festival took place Sunday, November 7th, just three

      days after Helene Cincebeaux’s book christening at the Slovak Embassy in

      Washington, D.C. Saturday around lunch time I got in my car and took off for the

      five hour journey to Pittsburgh, my first ever. On the way, I passed through the

      beautiful Cumberland, MD, and then endured about an hour of light blizzard as I

      crossed the Appalachians on the way to Morgantown, WV. From there it was another

      hour and half north to the Township of Moon by the Pitt Airport, place where

      Helene was holding a reunion party for past participants in her Treasures Tours.

      The after-party in the hotel room. Not even in the US can you find Slovaks

      partying with out some home-made slivovitz (slivovica, typical Slovak plum


      The next morning I headed to downtown Pittsburgh to the festival. Dr. Votruba

      took me upstairs, to the 12th floor, where the kitchen that I would be using for

      my demo was located. I brought up the ingredients, set up few things, and came

      back down to finish setting up my table.

      I had just few minutes left before the start of the festivities to walk around

      the school grounds and snap a photo. The greens behind the cathedral reminded me

      of the “Drill Field� at my Alma Mater, Virginia Tech. The festival then came

      into full swing.

      University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

      Slovak festival taking place in Cathedral of Learning’s Commons Room.

      The festival opened at 1pm with Ben Sorensen on the fujara, the traditional

      Slovak shepherd long pipe. Pitt Carpathian Ensemble came next, and was followed

      by Slavjane, who also performed in Chicago. They were followed by presentation

      from the Pittsburgh Area Slovaks, PAS, and then by Helene Cincebeaux and her

      friend Jozef Ivaška. Lisa Alzo also talked on the theme “Sojourn in Slovakia�,

      John Righetti gave a talk about “Slovaks and Rusyns: Differences and

      Similarities.�, and Marcela Michalková talked about “Ve�erní�ek, Treasures Lost

      and Found�. These night time cartoons came on at 7pm and were the last thing I

      as a kid got to watch before being ushered to bed. Pittsburgh Junior Slovakians

      and Pittsburgh Slovakians closed the festival.

      But I didn’t have time to see any of these performances. Many folks stopped by

      my booth to check out the various trinkets I brought in: Slovak cookbooks, meat

      and poppy seed grinders, �rpák (wooden mug for drinking fermented milk), ježko v

      klietke (hedgehog in a cage, famous puzzle based on Czech adventure books by

      Jaroslav Foglar), or to sign up for the Slovak cooking newsletter. And then at 2

      I headed upstairs. My plan was to prepare the kitchen and wait for few people to

      trickle in for the 2:15 lesson.

      It was not the case.

      I got off the elevator to a line stretching to the end of the hallway. There

      must have been at least 50 people waiting. Yikes!!

      This was definitely a much much larger turnout than Martin or I anticipated. And

      the kitchen could not hold any more than 20 folks. But we proceeded anyway. I

      started by preparing kapustnica, the traditional winter sauerkraut soup. Once

      the soup was cooking, I showed folks how to prepare leavened dough according to

      my grandma’s “secret� recipe. Many people left after the soup making was done,

      so the second half of the lesson was much more hands-on and personal.

      Here we are preparing and rolling out the leavened dough.

      We then filled the buchty with sweet farmer’s cheese, and also prepared bobalky

      and tvarožník.

      They turned out beautiful. I hope they tasted good too. Nothing was left by the

      time I made it back downstairs after cleaning up the kitchen.

      And few more pictures from the festival, including these beautiful Christmas

      tree decorations (ornamenty) that were for sale.

      And a photo with Dr. Votruba at my booth, the man who organized this great

      festival. Also a scenic shot from the cathedral.

      And finally few videos. I had a great time at the festival and definitely plan

      to come back next year. See you then!

      Ben and Dr. Q playing the fujara at Helene’s party, and traditional Slovak

      dancing at the festival. Ben is an American who learned to speak (and sing)

      Slovak. He can sing Slovak songs better than I!

      Please donate and get your free recipe book. And don't forget to sign up for

      email newsletter.

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