Slovenian Roots Quest
Tangled roots and family secrets. A famous immigrant writer who died under mysterious circumstances. Accordions, polkas and potica. And now a new twist: My Year of Cooking Ethnically.
Sunday, January 1, 2023
Srečno novo leto! Happy New Year!
Saturday, December 24, 2022
Vesel božič iz New Yorka! Merry Christmas from New York! (And a potica update)
Greetings from chilly New York City, where we have gathered with our children to celebrate Christmas. Last year, thanks to Covid, we had to cancel the trip and isolate at home in California. So I am grateful to be here, despite the wind and rain and yesterday's 40 degree temperature drop. We even had a little snow.
I may not have brought enough warm clothing, but I had plenty of potica stowed in my luggage. Multiple loaves and two different kinds: the tried-and-true family recipe--and my latest experiment.
That new one is actually a double variant. It's a meet-up of dairy-free and the popular Artisan Bread in Five no-knead approach. I tried it for the first time last December, in preparation for the New York trip that never happened. It turned out quite well. Unfortunately. the person for whom it was intended--the girlfriend of the son who lives in New York--never tasted it.
I posted that recipe earlier this year, here, as No-Knead Artisan-Style Potica.
This time around, I decided to make one change, to get a little closer my family recipe. Instead of the coconut cream of last year, I used a plant-based sour cream. And I skipped the apricot jam I had added to the filling last year, as a sort of marker for identifying the dairy-free loaves. (Instead, I just shaped the loaves a little differently.)
I am happy to report that the latest variant was quite a hit with our sons--and the dairy-free girlfriend. My husband had already given his seal of approval, when we tried it at home. Everyone agreed that it was hard to tell the difference between the original family recipe and this one.
No-knead Artisan-Style Potica (dairy-free)
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Caraway Cheese Tart with Buckwheat Crust (a !0th Anniversary Update)
This original version of this dish was the featured entree for the Week Five Dinner of my 2012 year of Slovenian cooking.
It was based on a recipe in Woman's Glory: The Kitchen, the mid-century cookbook published by the Slovenian Union of America that inspired my year-long cooking adventure. At the time, I thought it would be just another American-style French quiche. But it turned out to be something different and more complex: Denser than the usual quiche, and with the flavor of Central Europe, thanks to the caraway seasoning.
For this 10th anniversary remake, I made a few changes, both planned and unplanned.
The biggest change: I made a buckwheat crust. I also made a little more of it this time and pre-baked it before filling.
With the filling, the changes were subtle, but they made the dish even tastier. Instead of the original onion and bacon, I used shallot and pancetta, because we had them on hand. Originally, I had substituted fat-free Greek yogurt for sour cream, which made the tart a little dense and chewy. This time, I tried light labne, a cultured Middle Eastern dairy product that is probably the equivalent of light sour cream.
The result: Even better than the first version, with even more of a Slovenian tang because of the buckwheat!
Caraway Cheese Tart with Buckwheat CrustFor Filling:
6 thin slices pancetta, chopped
4 tablespoons minced shallot (or onion)
6 tablespoons light labne (or sour cream)
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 teaspoon caraway seed, divided
1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
Easy Press-In Buckwheat Crust: In the bottom of a 10-inch pie or tart pan, mix together the all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour and salt. In a cup, beat the oil and and milk with a fork and stir the mixture into the flour. Mix with fingers into crumbs. Press into pan. Cover with foil or pie weights and pre-bake for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Let cool.
Saturday, August 27, 2022
Beli Kruh (aka white bread), a 10th Anniversary Update success
Back in March, I started to revisit my year of weekly Slovenian dinners. I have now reached the halfway point. Many of those dishes from 2012 were familiar, since they had become favorites over the past decade. Others had fallen by the wayside, so it was a chance to rediscover them.
Sometimes the most rewarding recipes were the ones that didn't quite work the first time. This bread recipe was one of them, probably because it had to meet an impossibly high standard: my memories of my grandmother's bread. I was determined to recreate it. She served it every time we visited, when it was still warm from the oven.
I remembered a high-rising homestyle loaf with a texture that was light and tender, but also hearty. My brother (also a baker) describes a somewhat coarse crumb. My husband wonders if it was cake-like. My grandmother never used recipes. I have no idea how she worked her magic. But I figured there might be a hint in my collection of vintage Slovenian American cookbooks.
The Progressive Slovene Women of America caught my eye with a recipe they called by two names: white bread or beli kruh (which I initially misunderstood as a reference to the bread's beauty rather than its color!).The ingredients were ordinary enough, but the method was more elaborate than similar recipes, because it called for an initial sponge and then three more risings.
The first time I made this recipe, the bread looked beautiful (see below) and the flavor and texture were pretty good. But it was nothing out of the ordinary. Not worth the extra time and effort. So I went on to try other recipes. Potato bread, after my mother recalled that her mother might have used potato water. A special braided bread similar to challah that was lovely, but not like my grandma's delectable everyday bread.
And then my 2022 Anniversary Update brought me back to the original bread recipe I had tried. And I saw the problem. I had used bread flour, which absorbs more liquid, rather than the standard all purpose flour that mid-century bakers would have used. And I had compounded the problem by either ignoring or misunderstanding the implications of "6 cups sifted flour." By measuring before (or without) sifting, I would have ended up with 20-30 percent more flour than the recipe called for. No wonder I had trouble kneading it all in!
So made the necessary adjustments and tried to make the bread again, following the recipe closely. And then I made it one more time, just to be sure I had it right.
Prepared correctly, this recipe turned into a winner! It is very close to the bread I remember savoring in my grandparents' small bungalow in Cleveland, all those decades ago. In the recipe that follows, you do not have to sift the flour. But I have tried it both ways, and I think sifting may improve the texture. So why not try it the old-fashioned way, at least once?
White Bread or Beli Kruh (adapted from The Progressive Slovene Women of America)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
113 g all purpose flour (= 1 cup sifted or about 3/4 cup unsifted)
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
678 g all purpose flour (= 6 cups sifted or about 4.5 cups unsifted)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup lukewarm water
First make the sponge: Combine the first five ingredients. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Monday, July 18, 2022
Šmoren (from Pots and Pans)