Monday, December 08, 2008

Ghost of Christmas Past

Nobody makes Poppyseed Rolls anymore. When I was a kid, Gramma made all kinds of cookies and pastries. Some of them were very odd, like the chocolate-chocolate chip cookies made with bacon fat, but oh-h-h-h, were they good. She was from England and that may explain it.

Grampa was from Hungary and although he came to America when he was 10 years old and promptly gave up Hungarian for English, he always liked the traditional sweets of the old world. Gramma often made a Poppyseed Roll for him and sometimes when we visited, she would have some. Always she would make a few rolls for Christmas.

Hungarian Poppyseed Roll (Makosh)

Extra-Rich Sweet Yeast Dough:
2 1/4-ounce packages (4-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast, or 2 .6-ounce cakes fresh yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F for dry yeast; 80°F to 85°F for fresh yeast), or 1/4 cup warm water and 1/4 cup warm milk, or 1/2 cup water mixed with 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened
4 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
About 4-1/4 cups flour

Egg Wash:
1 large egg yolk, beaten slightly
1 teaspoon water

3 cups (about 1 pound) poppy seeds (ground)
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 cup sugar or honey; or 1 cup honey and 1/3 cup light corn syrup
2-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon juice
pinch of salt

Make Yeast Dough:
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water (105°F to 110°F). Stir in one teaspoon sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the remaining water, sugar, butter (or margarine), eggs, and salt. Blend in 1-1/2 cups flour. Add enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make a workable dough.

On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking, until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly double in bulk, 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (To test if the dough is sufficiently risen, press two fingers 1" deep into the center; if the indentation remain, the dough is ready) Also, you can refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Punch down the dough. Fold over and press together several times (this redistributes the yeast and its food). Let stand for 10 minutes.

Make Filling and Assembly:
Grind the poppyseeds or have them ground at the grocery store. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. It should be thick and may take longer. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line several large baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them.

Divide the dough in half or thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into a very thin rectangle. (The thinner the dough, the thinner the cake layers.) Roll out each piece into a rectangle about 1/8" thick. Half will be about 15"x8" (thirds 10"x8"). Spread with the filling, leaving a 1/2" border along the edges. Starting from a long edge, roll up jelly roll style. Place on the prepared sheet. Baking without letting the cake rise produces thin alternating layers of pastry and filling. For slightly thicker cake layers, cover and let rise for about 40 minutes. Brush with egg wash.

Bake until lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool.
Warning: Do not eat any Poppyseed Roll 48 hours before a drug test. The results will show you to be a heroin addict.

Otherwise, eat as much as you want and enjoy.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


suek said...

>>Warning: Do not eat any Poppyseed Roll 48 hours before a drug test.>>

Heh. This was a factor on one of the crime shows on tv...I don't remember which one. JAG, maybe?

Also, re the bacon fat. I'm not sure when your Grandma learned to bake, but I was in Germany in the 60s, and my German neighbor and I were discussing various cooking this and thats. She mentioned that it was difficult to get good quality "schmier"...lard, and how expensive it was. At the time, the commissary was offering a 3lb can for a very low price. I bought some, thinking we could share. I opened the can and held it up for her to smell, expecting that to be the test for quality she'd use. Imagine my surprise when she dipped in her finger, scooped up a glop and ate it! She gave it a glowing report and we shared.
It seems that since butter was unavailable during WWII, and she - among others - had developed a taste for lard as a substitute. Just one more thing that made me aware of the blessings of living in the US even during the sacrifice of that dire war.

Indigo Red said...

Several yrs ago, a new hire was drug tested and he failed. He's an older man in his 60s and no one believed he was a drug addict so the company allowed him a second test. A few days before his 2nd test, I saw him at the morning break eating a bran muffin with a poppyseed top. He said he had one every morning and I started laughing. He wondered what was so funny so I told him about opium poppys and his muffin. Word got around the factory and we all had a great laugh about our elderly drug addict. He told the medicos about it and they callibrated for the muffins. He passed the test.

That's a great story, suek. I thought my Gramma was the only one to use bacon fat, but now that I think about it, lard was the most common and least expensive of cooking fats. It's replacement with bland shortenings is probably why cakes and cookies don't taste quite right today.

dcat said...

What you do is make a large amount and take it to work. :D

YUMMY Indigo!

Indigo Red said...

That would indeed be a large amount.

suek said...

Bacon fat and lard are not exactly the same...close, but not the same. You can buy lard so cheaply that it's not worth the bother to "wash" the salt out of the bacon grease, but you can do it. You fill a saucepan with 2-3 inches of water, add the grease, bring it to a boil, stir mightily, then let it sit till it cools. When it's fairly tepid, pour all into a container - tall and skinny as possible - and refrigerate. When it's cold, the fat comes off the top easily. Dump the water that remains. You might need to do this twice - bacon has a _lot_ of salt in it - and you can use it for cooking and baking.
Actually, I usually use the bacon grease as it is for frying and such, but it has too much salt for baking. Lard in my area is about 1.29 a pound, so I just buy it that way. It's also labeled "Manteca", and is kept in the non-refrigerated section of the grocery store.
I know. More than you needed to know....! That's ok. Knowledge is good - even dumb stuff!

Indigo Red said...

That is truly fascinating. I did not know that lard is made. Like most folks, I thought lard and bacon grease were the same. I learned something today.

I do have lard and use it, but I prefer the bacon fat for the flavor for most cooking. It's a good thing I don't have a homocysteine problem otherwise I would be dead from cholesteral already.

suek said...

Ummmm...that's not how lard is made, actually. It's just a means of using something that's sort of a throwaway. If you don't do something with bacon fat so you can use it, it gets rancid pretty quickly, and then can't really be used for anything except to feed the dogs.
To make lard, I'd expect that they trim the fat off the carcass - especially since folks today want as little fat as possible on their meats - probably grind it fine, and cook it at very low temperatures till the tissue structure breaks down the the fat runs out. You can do it yourself if you take pork cuts, cut off all the fat from the edges and interior, slice it as thinly as you can without including parts of your own self, then put it into a fry pan or heavy saucepan at low temperatures. It takes a while - 15 minutes or more - and the temperature should be low enough that you can walk away and leave it without it sizzling or spitting. If it's higher, it'll smoke and burn. (I do the same thing with chicken skin and chicken fat, by the way.) You pour off the fat that's now liquified into a container (I prefer glass) and store in the frig. Has good flavor for cooking onions, mushrooms, etc. What's left in the pan can be drained on paper towels, salted and snitched - it kind of like what used to be called cracklin's, though I think proper cracklin's were actually the skin of the pig, not just the fat.

Indigo Red said...

It's a shame most folks throw away all that good stuff you talk about. The fats really are not bad for the body, they're actually needed for good health and they just plain taste good. Cooking onions and mushrooms in vegetable oils is enough to make one quit onions and mushrooms. I have rendered skins and it's really very easy with a little patience. The results make alot of difference to the way foods are cooked and how they taste.

I was just reading that pork and pork fat were the main ingredients of American cooking until recently. Christian fundamentalist groups thought that eating large amounts of meat was sinful. One of the Fundies invented cereal to take the place of meat. I like my breakfast of oatmeal with pork sausages. I'm not religious.

suek said...

>>I'm not religious.>>

I'm reasonably religious - but the only limits the RC church ever put on us was eating meat on Fridays and limiting meat intake during lent. Guess we don't qualify as "fundamentalists". Even those limitations had more to do with exercising self control than with the foods themselves.
I also save excess fat from beef cuts - freeze it - to use on really lean beef when I make stew. I buy the larger packages and then cut it up and freeze it so I have it ready to use without a lot of time for preparation.
Because you're right...the fat is where most of the flavor is.
You're also right about the US using a lot of pork and pork fat until relatively recently. Pigs used to be bred for lard and were checked for readiness to slaughter by measuring the depth of fat at the shoulders - ready was when they measured 4 - four! - inches of back fat! Nowadays pigs are bred to produce a long lean carcass - no more backfat measures!

Indigo Red said...

I guess that's why there's a pork bellies futures market.

suek said...

"pork bellies" = future bacon!!

I guess that's why we are happy when our men "bring home the bacon"!