Did….did you guys see something?
Bacon Week: March 24th – 28th.
n00bcakes may have been silent…but Bacon Week is always here.
A few years ago (3, in fact!) I took it upon myself to re-create my Grandma’s kolache recipe. For details you can read the post itself; get some edumacation!
But one thing conspicuously missing from that post was how the kolache itself actually turned out. The answer? Enhhhh…. >.>
So this week I made it a point to pull out Grandma’s recipe again and figure out what I’d done wrong so many years ago. Turns out I’m super glad I did. Because oh-baby, I did it right.
Since my first pretty mediocre attempt at Grandma’s recipe 3 years ago I’ve been wanting to make another attempt. I’ve actually made kolache since then, but the recipe was for povitica and courtesy of the Daring Bakers. Povitica bears a striking resemblance to what my Grandma has always called “kolache”, and since I found the recipe easier to deal with (and since at the time of execution a year later I was a much more experienced baker) it became my default kolache recipe.
Curious about the differences between kolache and povitica, I did a little poking around. I already knew that commonly kolache is known to be a sweet bread or pastry with fruit on top; I’d previously described it as “more like a pizza or bun with fruit dumped on top”. To be fair, there’s also plenty of examples where the fruit or poppy seed is folded up into the pastry rather than simply added on top.
Povitica, on the other hand, actually re-directs directly to “Nut roll” in Wikipedia, which I thought was interesting. The povitica entry very accurately describes (both with words and images) what I’ve been eating for years at Grandma’s house: a sweet yeasted dough rolled out thinly and rolled into a log with a sweet filling. Add to that the fact that the actual title of the recipe I copied from my Grandma says “Nut Roll”, and that I’ve also heard Grandma call it a “nut roll” leads me to believe there’s a bit of variation in definitions here. That or I’ve been lied to for 28 years. We’ll go with the former.
But let’s end the history lesson and talk about how I ROCKED this recipe this time around! Yes, let’s do that.
While I didn’t talk about it 3 years ago (except to vaguely say that the dough turned out a little “heterogeneous”), the basic issue with the dough was that it was brittle. At the time I didn’t know what I’d done wrong; I’d followed the directions to a T. A consultation with my Grandma at the time revealed what I’m sure now was the truth – I didn’t treat the yeast correctly. The dough was crumbly, stiff, and difficult to roll smoothly into a log.
At the time I made the povitica a year after that first attempt at kolache, the Daring Bakers had trained me well in the use of yeast; I’m now very comfortable using it in my baking (and I’m not even sure why it was scary in the first place!). To the best of my recollection, at the time of my first kolache experiment I didn’t take care to mix the yeast with warm milk. Instead I put it in milk out of the refrigerator; I had no idea that the warmth was key to triggering the yeast’s reaction.
This time around, though, I gave my yeast time tender love’n'care (is that gross?). It rose and rolled out beautifully, and I was incredibly pleased.
Since it’d been 3 years it took me several tries to get my rolling technique down. I had enough dough to make 3 rolls, so I had 3 tries to get it just right. The dough is supposed to be in a rectangle-like shape in order to facilitate the best long shape possible. For anyone interested in making kolache who is also a noob like me, I suggest this:
From there there was a liberal application of poppy seeds (for dem swirls) and rolling into a log. Pretty easy, assuming I rolled out the dough correctly (2 our of 3 ain’t bad!). What came out at the end were 3 gloriously familiar kolache rolls. Still not perfect (OH NO I guess I have to make more to practice!!), but close enough to assure myself that (1) my baking skills have clearly improved and (2) I’ll be able to make kolache based on my Grandma’s genuine recipe now, which was pretty important to me.
So Grandma’s recipe take 2 – success! And worth every delicious bite.
This is a half recipe, makes 3 loaves.
I made it back to Atlanta Monday night via a long bus ride (13 hours!), and woke up the next morning to a chilly and damp Tuesday. And what’s better for dinner on a cold rainy day than stew?
…and what’s better than stew, than stew and dumplings?
That’s right – I can’t think of anything either.
Whenever I make stew I always grab for my copy of Jaimie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver. It’s built to teach people to make easy, delicious meals and encourage them to eat better and be healthier as opposed to picking up easy junk food (a sin we’re all at fault for). Food Revolution has a great recipe for basic stew and includes 4 variations, each using a different meat/herb/alcohol combination. I always go for beef, beer, and bay leaves, and this time was no different. I’d actually considered heading to the store to pick up some wine and rosemary to shake things up a bit, but I decided to go with my tried’n'true…especially since someone had left beer in our fridge, meaning I wouldn’t have to venture out into the cold dreariness.
As a new little personal challenge I decided to add dumplings, a suggestion also from Food Revolution. The only problem was that it called for self-rising flour, not what I typically keep in my pantry (we’re more of an all-purpose household). That being said, I knew there was a way to make the self-rising flour out of my AP, and a quick Google search gave me the answers I sought. Bring on the stew, I said to myself!
One of the things I love about stew is how soothing it is to make. There’s a lot of chopping and stirring, and while you wait for it to cook down, its lovely savory aroma permeates your whole kitchen and, if you’re lucky, your entire home. It’s warm and comforting, and for a makes everything alright for awhile. It always surprises me when I see that this stew recipe doesn’t call for garlic, only salt, pepper, and bay leaves. And, of course, beer. I was a little concerned that the beer from our fridge wouldn’t mesh well with stew – it was a special holiday flavor – but it ended up being great.
So…thanks to whoever left this behind!
Anyway, the self-rising flour and dumplings were a breeze to make; I don’t see any reason why I would keep a bag of SR flour around when I always have AP, baking powder, and salt (the only 3 ingredients required to make SR). These dumplings required you to cut cold butter into flour, not unlike a pie crust, and while many of you know my dislike for pie crusts and the cutting of butter, these were easy enough that even my clumsy hands couldn’t screw them up too badly. Let’s take a look!
I know this stew looks a touch dry, but trust me when I say it wasn’t. A few of the dumplings were admittedly a bit dry inside, but dousing them in the lovely stew gravy made everything alright. In fact, it made everything perfect.
These dumplings turned out so well that I’m pretty sure I’ll be making them a requirement in all of my future stew excursions. The gluteny-savoriness they added was delicious, and perfect for sopping up any remaining bits of sauce left in my bowl.
I hope you make some stew’n'dumplins, and I hope you share it with friends. And I hope you get it all over your face.
Dumpling recipe from Jamie’s Food Revolution (it’s a great cookbook, I highly recommend it).
Sift/whisk all 3 ingredients together. YOU’RE DONE!