With my parents' big anniversary celebration just about a week away, my to-do list is growing exponentially. One of the biggies on there has been "bake cookies." I'm continuing the age-old custom of making these traditional Slovak cookies known as Rosky (RROSH-kee), which appear at every celebration on my mother's side of the family.
I have the fondest memories of eating these at my grandma's house as a very young child. She always had an endless supply for us. Now my mom makes them all the time, and I do so occasionally. I had to kick up production for this event, though. In the Eastern-European tradition, or maybe just the over-the-top, sweet-addicted family tradition, we are having, not just a cake table, but a dessert table with 3 kinds of cake and a (hopefully) endless supply of these cookies, for about 60 people. I imagine some other goodies will show up there too. Knowing my mom...
Unfortunately, this is not a kid-friendly operation. It's impossible for me to do it with "the Chipmunks" climbing all over the place trying to "help" me. So my sister, bless her, took the kids so I could get started, and the rest I had to do after they were in bed. It's a little tedious, but such an important tradition for us! Once the kids are a little older, it will be so nice to have them join in.
Roshky is a cream cheese dough rolled around fruit or nut filling. The dough is lots of butter, cream cheese and eggs, held together with just a little flour! I chose to use 3 fillings: poppy seed, which is very traditional, walnut, and date. The last two fillings I make up myself, but the poppy seed is conveniently sold in little cans in the baking goods aisle.
I had made the dough a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. It needs to stay cold, so I only take out a portion at a time and roll it out in powdered sugar.
I normally cut squares randomly and end up with cookies of all sizes. But since this is such a special event, I decided to measure this time. The "squares" are 2 inches wide and about 2 1/2 inches long.
Filling is the tricky part - not too much, or it leaks out and makes a mess. A small dab of poppy seed filling at one end...
pinch the seam,
and set it seam side down on the cookie sheet.
Repeat, 250 times!!
I wondered how many times my grandma felt the back of her neck ache like mine did. I always feel such a kinship with my ancestors when baking Rosky and other traditional dishes. It amazes me how complex and meticulous the recipes are. You have to wonder how they had time for so many small details, because the life in the "old country" was not an easy one! But the food was filled with love and attention. Here is an old photo of my Grandma, whom we called "Babi" - pronounced "Bobbie". She just left us this past April.
When I use poppy seed filling, I snip vents in the top of each cookie. I used to think my Grandma did it for looks, but now I realize it keeps all the filling from leaking out the ends.
After snipping, I slightly bend each cookie into a crescent.
Then into the oven at 350. My magic number this time was 17 minutes. They should have a hint of golden brown on the tops and some browning on the bottoms. You can see it on the nut cookies I started with.
On the big day, all the cookies will be dressed up with fresh powdered sugar and piled on to big platters. I plan to take pictures then, too! Hope you enjoyed your tour of my cookie factory. I'll post the recipe below.
Rosky (Cream Cheese Dough)
2 sticks (8 oz.) butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 egg yolks or 1 whole egg (I use a whole egg)
Blend the sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Work in the butter, followed by the cream cheese. Make a well in the center of the dough; drop the egg into the well. Work egg into dough. It will be very soft and sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Remove dough from refrigerator in sections (2 or 3 per recipe). Roll out on board sprinkled with powdered sugar.* Cut into rectangles. Place filling on one end and fold dough around filling, pinching seam on bottom. Place seam side down on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand about 5-10 minutes and remove to cooling rack. Store covered. Roll in powdered sugar before serving.
* Roll dough thick enough to handle. After that, it's a matter of taste how thick to make it.
Nut filling: About 2 cups finely chopped walnuts, 3 Tablespoons brown sugar and a Tablespoon or two of water to moisten. Mix all together.
Date filling: One 10 oz. package of dates, chopped, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, about 3/4 cup of water... cook gently over medium heat about 5-10 minutes and mash with a fork.