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Monday, December 13, 2010

Popular Czech Christmas Desserts

Several key sweet treats come to mind with Christmas. Czech baking is about as good as it gets when it comes to Christmas dessert trays or cookie platters. Several Czech sweets seem to be close cousins of some Christmas cookies, pastries, and breads of those sampled from German, Austrian, Polish, and Hungarian cookbooks.  They are all pretty darn good and I shall list those common Czech sweets one might find at a Czech Christmas table……at least in my family.
1.       Houska – There seems to be an ongoing debate on baking and Czech message boards about the Christmas bread that consists of braided sweet dough with dried fruits and slivered almonds. Some consider this bread a Houska while others call it Vanocka.  I cannot say yea or nay to what the actual name is. There are some that refer to smaller unsweetened table bread or roll as being a Houska while stating that Vanocka is the sweetened variety. My Czech grandparents and Teta referred to the sweet dough as Houska, so that is how I shall refer it. My houska recipe can be found here. Offering up a Houska to a neighbor or friend over the holidays will definitely tip your hand that you know Czech baking.
2.       Kolacky – I cannot say for certain that Kolacky are immediately identifiable with Christmas. Whether they are created in my parent’s kitchen or my own, we can always count on a platter of kolacky of raspberry, apricot, and especially poppy seed varieties at the Christmas Eve celebration. The children usually devour the raspberry and apricot leaving the adults only the poppy seed! My easy to follow kolacky recipe can be found here.
3.       Linz Tarts (or Linecka Kolecka) - This cookie expresses the holiday mood with the infamous cookie cutter shapes on the outside and cut out in the middle with a filling of raspberry or plum jam inside the middle shape. Some bakeries may or may not have the inside shape cutout and the cookie will resemble a sandwich cookie with the jam in the middle. If you are preparing Linz tarts for the holiday or cookie exchange, I recommend you go for style points and make the little interior shape cut out in the middle. A decent linz tart recipe can be found at this site. Just remember to be patient with the sticky dough allowing it be somewhat chilled and remember to use a little flour to prevent excessive stickiness.
4.       Vanilkove Rohlicky or Vanilla Crescents – Aside from the Kolacky, these tiny treats bring back fond memories at my Tetas house. The little crescents are no larger than a pinky finger and is delicious little cookie with the flavor of vanilla (of course) and almond. They are finally hit with a healthy dusting of confectioner’s sugar before serving. These treats can be found widespread across the internet. I usually stick with the Czechoslovak Cookbook recipe by Brizova. Check your library for this cookbook or better yet I have it listed on my site through the Amazon link on the right side of my web page. Yes, I do get a small commission for orders placed for this cook book listing, but I also highly recommend this cookbook for some traditional Czech recipes. This cookbook is essential to me for making a host of different sauces, dumplings, nut and fruit fillings, and learning about several meat and potato dishes.
5.       Checkerboard Cookies – Or as I like to call them, "Czecherboard" cookies. These cookies add some fun design with the cookie having miniature squares or checkerboard pattern of vanilla and chocolate linz cookie throughout. The recipes are numerous on the web. I do not have my own family recipe as I resort to the Czech cookbooks such as Brizova’s or even try this weblink for your checkerboard cookies.
There are other popular Czech treats served during Christmas such as bear paws, Moravian Christmas cookies, and Gingerbread Cookies (Pernik Na Figurky).  Other traditional desserts include a Cherry Bublanina and Walnut Cake.
Keep your holiday baking diverse this year. If your baking agenda includes the traditional fudge, cookie bars, and sugar cookies, why not add one more of the popular Czech Christmas desserts mentioned above this holiday season?

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