Sunday, July 6, 2014

American Slovenian Nut Horns for Graduation Day; On To Slovenia!

This is the second installment of my cookie "show-and-tell" for my Slovenian language class in late May.

I was the only beginner when I joined the ongoing language class at San Francisco's Slovenian Hall in January. Five months later, I was still playing catch-up. I knew the end-of-term presentation would be a challenge, because some of it had to be done in Slovenian. I felt like a third grader as I tried to use simple, halting language to tell a complicated story: how my maternal heritage was almost erased and then recovered. A few ethnic cookies on the side might help.

The first cookie, buckwheat thumbprints, was something I had made once before. For my second offering, I decided to try something new: American Slovenian nut horns, a fitting choice, considering the source, a 1970s cookbook compiled by a Slovenian class in Willard, Wisconsin.

Kuharice iz Willarda (Cooking from Willard) offered two virtually identical recipes for American Slovenian nut horns. It was a familiar cookie/pastry hybrid, with a rich dough wrapped around a nut filling. I had seen similar recipes, sometimes referred to as "rogljički" in European sources. The American touch in this version seemed to be cottage cheese in the dough rather than cream cheese or sour cream.

The recipe reminded me of rugelach, a Jewish favorite I had made many times. In fact, I consulted some of those recipes, which offered more detailed suggestions for shaping.

The recipe below follows the original Willard version, with my modifications noted. Cinnamon in the filling is well within Slovenian tradition.  The chocolate chips?  Probably more at home in the American Jewish kitchen.

To find out how the recipe and the presentation turned out, read on!

American Slovenian Nut Horns (rogljički)

1 c. butter
1 c. small curd cottage cheese
2-1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt (I omitted)

1 c. ground walnuts
1 c. sugar
milk to moisten
cinnamon to taste, if desired (my addition)

(Another filling option: A sprinkle of chocolate chips!)

For filling: Grind nuts. (Use an old-fashioned hand grinder, if possible!) Mix with sugar, cinnamon if using, and enough milk to moisten. (I ended up with a thick paste.)

For pastry: Cream butter and cottage cheese. Add flour (mixed with salt if using) and combine with pasty cutter or cut in with knives. Knead lightly until smooth.

To shape: Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a circle and cut into 12 wedges.  Put 1 teaspoon of filling at end of each wedge and roll up. (Filling goes on wide end of wedge. Roll from wide end to the point!) Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Makes 24 nut horns.

Another approach to filling and shaping, from a Jewish rugelach recipe: Divide dough into three portions and roll each into a circle.  Before cutting, spread or pat on the filling over the entire surface, except for a small circle in the middle.  (This uncovered circle in the middle will keep the filling from oozing out after shaping.) Cut each circle into 16 wedges. Roll up, shape and bake as above.  Makes 48 smaller nut horns.

The result?  Delicious!

I had my doubts about the cottage cheese, but the pastry turned out light and crisp. The simple walnut filling was wonderful, thanks to the old school hand grinder and the touch of cinnamon.  I might even try it with the family potica recipe. The chocolate chips were fine for variety's sake, but I preferred the original plain walnut filling.

My Jewish husband could see the resemblance to rugelach, but he thought these Slovenian nut horns  had a distinctive quality of their own.

Both cookies, the buckwheat thumbprints and the nut horns, were well-received in my Slovenian class. I did get some ribbing from a couple of the men, when our teacher Mia announced at the start of class that I had brought cookies to share, during the break later in the evening.

"Oh...cookies!  Well, now we already know we'll like your presentation!"

We all laughed.  I started to relax.

Time to begin.  The title slide flashed on the screen.

"My Slovenian Roots: Lost And Found."

Another slide.  My family tree.  I took a deep breath and said the words in Slovenian: Družinsko drevo.

And the next slide, with photos of poticas I had made over the years.

I read the caption in Slovenian.  Kako je moja dediščina preživela: POTICA!

How my heritage survived.  Potica.

It's the truth.  Potica was the one thread that linked the generations, past to present. Everything else, including the Slovenian language, was erased in my mother's family.

Lost and found again.

I will be taking a short break from this blog for a very good reason: I will be in Slovenia for most of the coming month.   Look for more recipes and stories in August.  

Nasvidenje!  See you soon!