I've been thinking about bread in general and specific terms. Wondering how to tell the broad bread story, and how each of us who bakes fits into that story. Bread is generic and my bread is specific. Life is generic and my life is specific.
Is baking remembering or invention? When I make Viennese Crescents, I am stepping back to a kitchen in Delmar where my boyfriend's mother taught me her family recipe. I am also walking through every Christmas since then, adding what I know of ingredients and what I feel for the people who are filling my life.
Baking is memory, personal and collective. Baking is a tactile engagement with emotions and the current moment, as my friend Ellie Markovich explores nearly daily. I invite you to join me in being with her virtually, next Saturday, December 10, when she will be making Pryaniki with the Maine Grain Alliance.
These, her husband's childhood cookies are made with rye, the traditional grain of Estonia, where he is from. When she first sent me some, I was floored. Ellie's food really carries her love, but these held more than the usual level of devotion. Reading what she wrote about the process of developing the recipe says why.
"I am from Brazil, and have no familiarity with his foods, but feeding him has been a terrific bridge in our life. For this cookie, Dmitri helped me research, translate and taste test as we adapted the recipe to use local wholemeal rye. Sometimes I fill it with guava paste, which feels very authentic to our merging."
Ellie often ferments this recipe, which is her inclination, and also, an echo of its history. Please read more of her ideas about this food.
"Known in Russian cuisine as gingerbread cookies, these cookies are made in many Slavic countries. They have a symbolic goal of sweetening the holidays and the new year. Making a recipe that relates to cultures that are fractured by wars feels risky, but I think it’s important to celebrate the foods that mean so much to many people around the world."
MGA is giving me a ticket to give to you, dear readers. Please drop a comment indicating you'd like to attend. I will be drawing a name Friday morning 12/2, so you will still have a week to plan and register if you don't win.
In the meantime, here is the current recipe I'm using for Viennese Crescents, which I actually make into balls these days because the higher nut content doesn't seem to like being shaped into crescent moons. The original recipe I used was from Fannie Farmer.
2 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups whole grain flour, especially spelt or rye
2 cups chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix everything together until nicely blended. Roll into balls and bake in a preheated 325°F oven on ungreased cookie sheets for about 18-20 minutes, rotating pans & swapping racks halfway through. When slightly cooled, sift powdered sugar on top.
I would love to attend! I am Brazilian so the guava paste (goiabada, for us) has drawn me in already :))
Ooh yes, please! These cookies look and sound lovely. It would be a real treat to learn how to make them from Ellie. :)