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Christmas desserts with an Eastern European twist

Christmas does not only come with its own menu and loads of desserts made based on traditional recipes in our country. A few trays of the following desserts have been made in the neighboring countries over the past days for sure, as all of them are must-have dishes on the Christmas table. 

photo: Pinterest

Potica – traditional Slovenian Christmas pastry

  • For the dough:
  • 500 g flour
  • 5 g dried yeast (or 10 g fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 270 ml milk (lukewarm)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 65 g butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • For the filling:
  • 300 g walnut
  • 60 g honey
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 75 g heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • half teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Prepare a 24 cm Bundt cake pan or a loaf pan and grease it with butter thoroughly. Mix the lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes for the yeast to grow. Mix the flour, the yeast mixture and the egg yolks in a big bowl. Knead for a minute, then add melted butter and salt. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is nice, soft and elastic. Cover the bowl, and set aside for about 50-60 minutes until it doubles in size.

Put the walnuts in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds at a time until the walnuts are fine, then set it aside. In a small pan mix and heat up heavy cream, honey, sugar, butter, rum, lemon zest and ground cinnamon. Bring to a boil and then pour it onto the ground walnut. Mix it well then set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with the two tablespoons sugar. Finally fold the egg whites into the room temperature walnut mixture and stir to combine carefully. 

Generously dust your working area with flour, then roll the dough into a 40 cm x 35 cm rectangle, with 0.5 cm thickness. Spread the walnut filling in an even layer over the dough, and leave a small surface empty at the edges. Starting at the shorter edge nearest you, tightly roll up into a tight log. Lay the roll into the prepared pan. It’s important that the seam is looking upward. Make sure that the ends of the log are tightly pressed together to prevent the filling from spreading out while baking.

Cover the pan and leave it at a warm spot for 45-55 minutes. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Gently brush the potica with lukewarm milk, then poke holes all over the top of it all the way through to prevent air bubbles from forming. Put it into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes at 180°C. Then lower the heat to 160 °C and continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Leave the potica to cool, then remove it from the pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. 


photo: Unsplash

Maslenski – “snowy” shortcakes filled with jam

  • For the dough:
  • 300 g flour 
  • 200 g cold butter 
  • 100 g powdered sugar 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • a pinch of salt
  • For assembling the cookies:
  • your favorite jam
  • powdered sugar

Mix the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make sure the dough is exposed to as little hand warmth as possible. Wrap the dough into foil and put it into the fridge for half an hour. Dust your working area with flour and roll the dough out to 2 mm thick, then cut out an even number of rounds with a biscuit cutter. Cut out the centers of half of these with a smaller cutter in any shape you like (a heart, for example). These will be on top.

Bake the rounds in 12-14 minutes at 180°C. Once they have cooled down, “glue” a simple and a cut-out cookie together with fruit jam and dust them with powdered sugar. It will be the best on the second or the third day.


Photo: Pinterest

Vánočka – crumbly Czech Christmas loaf

  • For the dough:
  • 300 ml milk 
  • 150 g margarine
  • 140 g sugar (or less, to taste)
  • 50 g active dried yeast
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 700 g flour
  • 80 g raisins (golden or dark)
  • 100 g chopped walnut
  • 100 g almonds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice 
  • a pinch of salt
  • On top:
  • 1 large egg 
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Stir the sugar into the milk along with the yeast. Leave it to bubble and froth. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, salt and lemon juice, then add the melted margarine and the egg yolks. Once the yeast is ready (it should be bubbly and frothy), add it to the bowl. Stir to combine well and leave it to rise for approx. 30 minutes. Add the walnuts, the almonds and the raisins, then let it rise for another 10 minutes. 

Dust your working area with flour and roll the dough out. Cut it into two, and then cut both halves into further nine pieces. Roll each piece into strands of equal length. Braid the 4 strongest strands together to make the bottom braid. Braid 3 strands together to create the middle braid and twist 2 strands together to make the top braid.  

Grease a pan with butter and transfer the braid consisting of 4 strands into it, then make a dent in the middle of the braid, and then place the braids consisting of 3 and 2 strands on top of it, one after the other. Make sure these braids cover the edges of the loaf.  

Then leave it to rise for 30 minutes. 

Brush the entire braid with egg wash and sprinkle the sliced almonds on top. Bake it at 160°C for 30-40 minutes.


photo: Pinterest

Pączki – the perfect Polish filled donut

  • For the dough:
  • 50 dkg flour
  • 2 dl milk
  • 0.5 dl whipping cream
  • 6 dkg butter
  • 6 dkg sugar
  • 10 g dried yeast
  • 2 smaller eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cl vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • For the filling:
  • vanilla cream, jam or Nutella

Sift the flour through a sieve into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar, the yeast and the salt. Heat the milk and the cream in a pan, add the butter and stir until lukewarm. Then add the egg, the egg yolks and the vanilla and stir to combine. Mix the ingredients in a mixing bowl with hand or with a stand mixer while you slowly add the liquid. The result should be a slack yet flexible dough. Cover the dough with a clean tablecloth and let it rise for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll to 1/2-inch thick and cut rounds with a medium biscuit cutter. Let the dough rise until you heat up the oil, then start frying the donuts on medium heat. The donuts fry quickly so keep an eye on the temperature. They will rise quickly due to the yeast, but if they don’t receive proper heat treatment, their insides may remain raw. The result will be a nice, cocoa brown donut. Finally use a pastry bag to fill them with vanilla cream, jam or Nutella.

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