Enter the End of Christmas Season

I completed the last of my Christmas tasks, baking Kruschiki, and sending two bags full to my brother-in-law, Ken, layered in plastic bags between padding. There is, as with most things family, a story behind this largess.

Every Christmas, for years, Cliff would tell me the story of the box (a large box, but his memory is from childhood so it probably wasn’t as big as his arms can reach now) of the Kruschiki his Polish grandmother, Bushi Marie, would make at Christmas and send down the two blocks to Cliff and Ken’s house in Cousin Eddie’s arms. Kruschiki, as I could learn from his telling, was bow-ties, crunchy, and covered in powdered sugar.

As near as I could tell, this was sort of like Indian fry bread (me being from Kansas and more familiar with Native American ways of doing things than the Baltimore Polish way), but the fry bread I knew was covered in honey.

And then my mother-in-law, the latest, not the one who made mayonnaise cake and banana bread, moved from the house on Chester Street, where she’d lived all her life, and into a senior co-op and I got her family recipes. Among them was the recipe for Kruschiki, hand written by her mother-in-law and calling for 12 pounds of flour.

Along with Cliff’s grandmother’s recipe, there was also one she’d written out with considerably less flour. recipeAs you can see, it has a few more instructions. But what did “roll out very thin” mean? Like pie crust? Well, I pondered that for a few years.

And then, finally, like all things, last year, I turned to Google search and found Martha Stewart in the kitchen with her Polish mother, making Kruschiki, and filming it for our edification. The recipe was also, in Martha Stewart form, precise: put butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, salt, and flavorings in a large mixer. Martha, while Polish, did not use a half-cup of rum and another half cup of bourbon. She advises a tablespoon along with orange and lemon zest, and 3 cups of flour, which is considerably less than the 14 pounds Cliff’s grandmother used and even less than my mother-in-law used – or at least wrote down because Cliff doesn’t remember his mother making any.

The other precise Martha Stewart tips was roll the dough out to 1/16th of an inch. Do you have any idea how thin 1/16th of an inch is? Look on a ruler. 1/4 of 1/4th inch, like parchment paper. Roughly. In other words, thinner than pie crust. And the precise measurements of cutting strips, after rolling out dough, of 5″ by 1 1/4th. (That’s one and one fourth, not 11. Regardless how it looks.) Then cut a strip in the middle, trim the ends off at an angle, and pull the ends through the middle. Ergo. Bow ties.

And then they fry, very quickly, in very hot oil, after which they are drained on paper, and covered in powdered sugar. It’s a process, as they say. Cliff cooks and drains and dusts with powdered sugar as I roll out and cut and tie. Or loop.

kruschikiIt took Cliff an hour to clean the kitchen after all that and remove all traces of powered sugar and oil from floor and counter tops. It took him that long this year too, while I packaged the Kruschiki and carried them to the post office to mail to Ken.

Ken tells me it’s the best Kruschiki he’s had since his grandmother made it. “Well, I said, that’s because I have your grandmother’s recipe, and your mother’s – along with Martha Stewart.”

Very likely, I’m about up to my ears in Christmas traditions, but once again, I came through. Ken’s treats are off to him; my son in Florida has his banana bread and cookies, and thankfully they’re about gone from our share.

Now we wait for Epiphany when Christmas goes back into boxes to be stored on basement shelves, and the tree goes to the backyard to be hung with suet for the birds. Next spring, we’ll hack off the branches and cut up the trunk for firewood.

And then, before we know it or are ready for it, 2017 will turn and we’ll be doing it again.

Maybe by then, Cliff will have forgotten how much work it is to clean up after me in the kitchen during the holidays and be ready for another go-round. I expect you could bet on it.

 

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “Enter the End of Christmas Season

  1. Loved reading . Italians do almost the same. Without the whiskey! I made the Italian pizza fretta….like Indian fry bread. Blessings!
    Phil

    1. I made them on Christmas eve, as is our custom. I celebrated Christmas in Colorado with friends. Lovely. Bit of course, missed the East coast.
      The recipie from Cliff’s mom brought back wonderful memories of my time spent in Baltimore – forever in my heart. ~Phil

    2. Thanks so much Phil. I did cook up a storm, as one could say, over the holidays, and am now sort of re-centering in my less over-the-top life….:) although one could argue, I expect, that much of the way I live life is over the top!

  2. Lovely read as always. 2016 wasn’t at all Christmas to me, I didn’t get a Christmas tree expecting to be away over the holiday (which I was – along with my house mate) but I’d spent Christmas eve at home alone and went off to church and lunch with family. It was such a different experience. This year I’ll be sure to get a tree even if I won’t be home, waking up to Christmas decorations, the scent of biscuits, and carols playing, makes the world of difference. Happy New Year Janet!

    1. Thank you Robyn! We had quite a Christmas season, lights, cookies, etc etc. And now, this weekend, it’s all been put to bed for the next time. Sad to see it go into storage, but good to have a simple house – well, as simple as our house ever is with all the art and paintings and photos we have on all walls! I didn’t make biscuits this year, but I sure did a lot of baking none the less. Happy New Year to you, my dear. It must be a rather different kind of celebration in your part of the world, less snow, for one thing! And yes, I remember I still owe you a letter. I will, I will…..

  3. For us, the Christmas season continues to Epiphany too and I will bake the Galette des Rois with its little porcelain figure carefully hidden inside today. Here, the season starts on the 6th of December, with St Nicolas, so we have been celebrating (and eating all sorts of traditional delicacies) for more or less for a whole month now. We will have to stop now or pay the price. Although, as a last fling, I certainly wouldn’t have minded trying some of those bow ties if I had any to hand!

    1. And here we are at Epiphany. Goodness. It all zipped right along. My husband, who does these things, is planning our Epiphany evening. And then, sadly, over the weekend we will take down and store the lights and colors and santas for another year. It always seems to dark once the lights are all down….
      My brother-in-law, to whom I sent two packages of bow ties, texted me a running commentary which was funny: the kruschiki has arrived! the kruschiki has arrived! Followed about an hour later with a text saying he’d already eaten the first bag full. They do not last long…. Blessings at Epiphany, my friend. My gift is being in touch with you. J.

  4. Wonderful story of the evolution of your family’s recipe – plus Martha Stewart. The result sounds delicious. I get a clear sense of the importance of the memory of baking it to you and your brother. Best wishes for 2017. ā¤

    1. Thank you! I like my brother a lot. It’s the only family Cliff has now, so Ken’s pretty important. It was touching to see him pack up his brother’s cookies; he picked out the best one and left the ones that crumbled or didn’t turn out so pretty in his bag. Ken said I should have written that he says I’m Queen of Kruschiki.

  5. I just don’t think I would have the patience for the bow ties, but on the other hand, I drag out the cookie press for Spritz every year, and I do make another cookie that requires drifts of powdered sugar. In the end, isn’t it the extravagance that matters? Splurging on gifts, making intricate cookies, or spending extra time with people all is part of the fun — especially when it’s done for love.

    Here’s to another year of love and stretching, Janet. Like you, I stretch my decorations and my music out until Epiphany. Why not? It’s a little more light in the darkness.

    1. Well, I’ve never had the patience for Spritz and cookie press….lol. So there it is.

      I’m feeling pretty good about this New Year, hope you are too. Life is settling down into a quiet bemused regular-ness and that’s useful. All except for putting it away again for another year after Epiphany. And then the house seems really dark! At least we’ll keep the candles going through the darkest days.

  6. Twelve pounds of flour!!! Yikes! Good for you, Janet. I’ve made homemade ravioli for the last number of Easters and Christmases, but this year it would have just been too hectic, so I did other, easier things and we all not only survived, but enjoyed ourselves and ate well, too. šŸ™‚ Fortunately, when I make pasta, the machine rolls the dough out paper-thin.

    Wishing you and yours all the best in 2017. I will also have my decorations up until at least Epiphany. I have been known to take them down at close to the end of January.

    janet

    1. Wow! I have a pasta roller somewhere at the back of a cupboard. Thanks for the idea. That would make it sooooo much easier and I bet it would work as this is a really eggy dough. And I don’t eat pasta so have never used it. I get the guys Trader Joe’s noodles. Lol.
      And yes, the whole fall was hectic. That’s why I didn’t get this done until yesterday! A happy new year treat, we’ll call it.
      And Happy New Year to you too. We’ll hope it’s a good one…. as the song goes.

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