Friday, November 30, 2012

Precious Poppy Seeds

Do you like poppy seeds?  It seems that people either love them or hate them, with not much in between.  I grew up with poppy seeds as a recurring theme since earliest childhood.  My whole family knew and eagerly awaited the desserts my grandmothers made. My grandparents were from east central Europe, and poppy seeds were a large part of desserts of that culture.  

Bobalky: remembering Dad and Grandma with love
Yesterday I made Bobalky.  For those who don't know, you have to love poppy seeds to love Bobalky. It is a traditional Christmas-time dessert that my paternal grandmother made each year. In effect, it is bread made into tiny balls, soaked first in water to enhance the ability to soak up the honey that goes in, and all the ground poppy seeds; the "icing on the cake," so to speak.  For anyone not of the family, we usually get turned up noses, upon seeing this for the first time.  For our family, it is just plain delicious.  I know it isn't Christmas yet, but I was making bread anyway, so I used a part of one loaf to measure and be able to put the recipe down on paper - possibly for the first time in our family's history. I wanted it to be available, should anyone want.

Soaking the little balls of bread
My Mom used a shortcut with "Solo Poppy Seed Filling". Unfortunately, the filling is already sweetened, so adding honey makes it sweeter still. Honey is an essential flavor in this dessert. I cannot really say how much of the poppy seed filling is needed to make Bobalky that way. The recipe is truly simple. The only problem is that it requires ground poppy seeds. Poppy seeds are very hard.  It is not terribly easy to grind them unless you have a poppy seed grinder. In Slovak areas of the country, such as eastern Pennsylvania, ground poppy seeds are easy to find in the grocery stores. Other places?  Not so much. Thus, having to rely on commercial poppy seed fillings, with the poppy seed already ground.

Happily, I own a poppy seed grinder. I ground up a small amount yesterday to make my sample and write down the recipe. Did you know that 1/4 cup of poppy seeds only weigh 3/4 of an ounce?  Amazing. There are about a million seeds in one pound! I will be grinding about a million seeds very soon, when I make my Kolach Rolls for Christmas.  Those are from my maternal grandmother's side of the family, and the other poppy seed Christmas treat. I will write more about the Kolach when I make it, but for now, I wanted to share my memory of having Bobalky each year, and carrying on treasured family traditions, with love.


10 ounces frozen bread dough, thawed
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) ground poppy seeds
1/3 - 1/2 cup honey

Once the dough is thawed, begin separating out sections and rolling into a 1/2 inch thick log. Cut the log into 1/2-inch segments and set them on a greased baking sheet to rise. Allow about 1-inch of space between the pieces, for rising. Set them aside in a warm place to rise and once doubled, bake them in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden.
Immediately turn the little balls into a large colander and set the colander into a large bowl. Run hot water over the balls, tossing repeatedly with hands or a silicone spatula. Very gently, squeeze the balls just until you can feel the air starting to leave them. This ensures they will absorb enough water. They should be very soft. Dump the wet bread balls into a bowl and add in the ground poppy seeds and the honey, to taste. Toss until combined. Enjoy! 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.