By: Julia Lopo ’23
-Photo credit: Einfach Backen (website)
When December approaches and the snow begins to gather on the sidewalks, footprints slowly brush away the thin layer of powder covering the pavements. The trees dance with the wind as well as the snowflakes as they glide down from the sky and onto my hands, nose, and mouth. I open my mouth wide and stick my tongue out in hopes of catching a snowflake dissolve on my tongue, but it tastes like nothing; I barely sense it as it lands in my mouth. I walk through the door and stomp up the five flights of stairs to my apartment. I open the door and immediately glance at my reflection in the mirror in the entry arch. My lips, nose, and hands are reddened by the cold. I rip the knit hat off my head and unravel the scarf from my neck as I smell an aroma coming from the kitchen. I take a deep breath, and my heart begins to warm up to a scent of nutty vanilla, sweetness and melted chocolate. I walk into the kitchen and there is my mom. She has the big wooden board out for making cookies and the flour and powdered sugar frost the front of her apron as well as spread around the air like the snow that I was trying to grasp. I feel no need to ask her what she is making as it is a tradition to make this Czech pastry every approaching Christmas; I am merely upset that she started without me. I tell her to wait a few more minutes so that I can get into my Christmas pajamas and I can grab the white tiger toy I had been gifted for my birthday that year just a few days beforehand. My pajamas are red with white snowflakes; I open my drawer and find my red socks with a three-dimensional Christmas penguin that sits right on the top of my foot. I hurry to the kitchen and start grabbing every ingredient off the shelves and the refrigerator.
My mom takes out the food mixer and grinds the walnuts into a thick powder that resembles the snow and dirt which accumulates along the sides of the roads. She then takes out the big glass boll that is only for baking and adds the flower which trickles from the packaging like fine snowflakes of the first snow. Just the egg yolks are next, then the sugar and room-temperature butter. She mixes the ground walnuts and mixes, mixes, and mixes the dough until it is solid. I take a sip of my hot cocoa and spread flour on the wooden board and all on the surface of my hands. I clap my hands in my mom’s face and the flower spreads all over the kitchen floor and her hair. She briefly gives me a lesson about cleaning up my mess but I cannot help myself but laugh; the flour on her hair looks like powdery white flakes which coat her hair during heavy snowfall. We roll the dough into a large cylinder on the wooden board and put it back into the bowl to let it solidify in the fridge. I run through my apartment into the living room where my dad is reading the newspaper and watching the news. I grab the remote and change it to a Christmas movie, Polar Express, I sit and watch the animated characters until my mother calls me into the kitchen to finish baking.
The dough comes out of the fridge it looks hard and cold. I take it out of the boll carefully and use a string to cut slices out of the cylinder. Then I roll each slice into a thinner roll and again cut each roll further into smaller pieces. I shape each small peace into a half-moon shape and repeat that over and over with each little roll. When all the cookies are shaped I line them up on a tray and set the temperature of the oven to one-hundred-and-seventy degrees Celsius. I wait for the oven to get warm and I press my hands on the glass of the oven to simultaneously warm up my hands. I grab the tray carefully and slip it in the oven for twelve minutes. I watch the cookies slowly bake and turn darker. The aroma of walnuts and vanilla refills the house; it feels like Christmas. The oven dings and I snap out of my hypnosis of watching the cookies bake. I grasp the oven mitt and slide the cookies out of the oven. My mom warns me that I have to dunk the cookies in powdered sugar while they are still hot to help it stick better to the surface of the cookie. So, occasionally burning my fingers I coat each crescent-shaped cookie with powdered sugar and lay them down in a serving bowl.
This time is highly anticipated by my sister and father, they can finally taste the white sugar-frosted crescent cookies. They taste just the way they smell: nutty, vanilla-flavored, sweet, and crunchy. They reach in for one before dinner, one after, then one before going to bed as a late-night snack, and one for breakfast the next day until they are all gone. The more the cookies disappear from the bowl the more and more snow covers the streets until it is finally a white Christmas.
Vanilkove Rohliky Recipe
- ▢ 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
- ▢ 1 and ½ stick (170 g) unsalted butter
- ▢ ¼ cup (50 g) coarse sugar
- ▢ 1 cup (100 g) walnuts shelled
- ▢1 egg yolk
- Grate the walnuts and put them in a bowl.
- Add the flour, egg yolk, sugar and butter cut into pieces.
- Work into a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for an hour.
- Divide the dough into four pieces, roll each into a strand about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Cut the strand into small, equal-sized pieces.
- Roll the pieces of dough into crescent shapes and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 340 °f (170 °C) for 12 minutes.
- Roll the crescents while still warm in vanilla sugar
Kupská, Petra. “Vanilkové Rohlíčky Recipe – Czech Crescent Cookies.” Cook like Czechs, 27 Dec. 2020, www.cooklikeczechs.com/vanilkove-rohlicky-czech-vanilla-crescents/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2022.