Friday, February 24, 2012

Meteņi

When the days start getting longer and spring is just around the corner, Latvians celebrate Meteņi. Seven weeks before Easter, it is celebrated the day before Catholic Ash Wednesday. In other countries this day is called  Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday. The coming of spring is associated with old fertility rituals to promote and enrich the new growing season, and one of these rituals is sledding. During meteņi the higher the hill and the faster the sled, the higher and faster your crops will grow. Lauris and Mikus have already commenced with the growing, no sledding necessary; yesterday came the moment I put away a good portion of Mikus's 0-3 month clothes and sorted through Lauris's old clothes for all the 3-6 month outfits.

Baby boot camp: Mikus doing his daily pushups

We celebrated Meteņi with the traditional foods, Latvian pancakes and Meteņa maizītes, or as called in my family, štopkūkas, and a few guests to help eat them (instead of going sledding). The ladies came over with Lauris’s best buddies, and in no time the living room was transformed into a crèche, with toys spread evenly over the floor like a carpet, the decibel reading at levels just under “earplugs needed”, and unbelievably, only one ice-pack required over the course of the afternoon.

The three amigos reunited

So back to the štopkūkas*... Our adventure with whipped cream continued as we bought several varieties of cream and did some research. A comment left on the Bizet day post mirrored what my friend Evdoxia had advised, to use a powder with the cream to help it whip better, while another friend recommended buying cream over a 30% fat content (whipping cream in the US I believe is 36%). So we searched our local stores but didn’t find the powder, and we now have at least five different types of cream in the refrigerator. Our luck turned when Evdoxia showed up Thursday with a bottle of the needed cream (crème fluide with a fat content of 30%) and a box of the Chantifix (Vahiné brand in this case), and we were able to finish the štopkūkas without using the back-up bottle of onctuesuse (Reddi-wip in the US) I had found. 


This recipe is my mother’s, and I’ve noted the minor modifications we made to utilize it here in France.

Ingredients for Latvian Meteņu maizītes:
            ¾ cups milk
            ¼ cup sugar
            1 tsp. salt
            ¼ cup butter (unsalted)
            1 tsp. lemon zest
            ¼ cup warm water
            1/3 of a 2 ounce cake of fresh yeast (we used 1 envelope of dry yeast)
            1 egg + egg for brushing the tops
            3 ½ cups sifted flour (we used only about 3 as the flour is finer)
            1-2 tbsp. chopped or sliced almonds
            1 cup whipping cream (we used 20 cl crème fluide  + 1 packet Chantifix)
            3 tbsp. powdered sugar + more for final decoration
            vanilla is optional
           
1. Preheat oven to 400º.
2. Heat milk to almost boiling, then add sugar, salt, butter and lemon zest. Stir until sugar has melted and then set aside to cool.
3. Proof the yeast in the warm water with a little sugar.
4. Beat the egg, and once the milk mixture has cooled add the egg and the yeast. Slowly, and mixing the entire time, add the flour until it becomes too stiff to mix, then knead with hands. Be careful not to add too much flour.
5. Once the dough is smooth, place in a greased bowl with a towel covering it and let rise in a warm spot until doubled. Lightly knead, then let rise another half an hour.
6. Divide the dough into 12-15 pieces. Stretch each piece into a square, then fold corners under to form a sort of ball before placing on a greased cookie sheet. Brush lightly with egg yolk, sprinkle with almonds and let rise another thirty minutes.
7. Cook in preheated oven 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
8. Whip cream with powdered sugar and vanilla.
9. When the little breads have cooled, cut the very top off with a sharp knife and scoop out the insides. Fill with whipped cream, place the top back on and decorate with powdered sugar.

Labu apetīti!

Un daudz laimes dzimšanas dienā manai mīļai māšelei Annai Pannai!!! Ieēdīšu štopkūku tev par godu!

* My French friend Marion informed me that there is something similar in look (but is in fact a pastry, more than a bread) to the štopkūka here in France, the choux à la crème.

17 comments:

  1. I'm glad you finally found the cream that worked! Those look delicious!

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    1. Thanks Barbara, now if I could find the time for all my other dessert recipes that require whipped cream!

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  2. It was such a fun day - I was flashback-ing to circa 1985 or so, when our house, or one of our friends' houses was like this about once a week...! Štopkūkas are ALSO traditionally eaten on my brother's (Liene's onkulis Guntis) birthday - Feb. 18th - we got to see the festivities at Liene's grandmother's house via her i-pad and skype, and I believe the noise level there could challenge ours here....and Guntis wasn't even there!

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    1. Must've been Liene causing all the ruckus, since I had just been born ;)

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  3. I don't know why I didn't grow up eating those. I didn't even realize Latvians had such a thing. But now that you've provided a recipe, I must try them. When I make homemade whipped cream, I use heavy cream and powdered sugar. That way it helps stiffen the whipped cream and sweetens it at the same time. Plus, if I have extra it stays for quite some time in the fridge for later use.

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    1. Liene, I think the cream here is different, because it just won't whip, even with the powdered sugar (and I usually add a splash of vanilla). Hence the Chantifix. Who knows why, maybe the pasteurization process?

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  4. I learn so much from you. Mikus is getting so big and the three amigos looked happy to be reunited.
    I love the choux with creme. I'll see if I can get Ma Fille to try this recipe.
    aidan x

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    1. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

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  5. Yum, štopkūkas! Paldies par sveicienu, Lienīt! Izskatās, ka labi izdevās!

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  6. Looks delicious! I still don't understand the cream differences - I always have trouble anytime I'm making anything with it!!!

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    1. I get weirded out every time the consistency of the cream in my coffee is more jello than milk...

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  7. Thank you Liene, Paldies! for posting this recipe. My mamma has been reminiscing about eating Štopkūkas in Riga when she was a child and I was going to try and make them following the 1932 recipe by Marija Feldmanis...then I found your recipe and fabulous photo.
    We are now sitting here with cream moustaches above great big grins. Delicious!

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    1. I'm interested to know how the 1932 recipe differs... Had heard of the cookbook series but never actually seen one, do you have one at home? Glad to hear they turned out!

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  8. Basically rose water and cardamom instead of lemon, a tad more butter and crumble topping. (Ma says that rose water is the traditional taste, but she loves the lemon) Here's the recipe from (Praktiskā Veģetārā Virtuve by Marija Feldmanis) :

    1 glāze piena
    ¼ paciņas rauga
    100g cukura
    2 o;as
    milti
    10 graudiņi kardamona
    ¼ glāzes rožu ūdens
    100g sviesta
    Pienu sasilda, pieliek raugu, piesijā miltus un izjauc; noliek lai uzrūgst. Sviestu izmazgā (I'm not sure what this means...a misprint perhaps?), pieber cukuru un saputo, piesit olu.
    Tad pieliek kardamonu, rožu ūdeni un visu labi samaisa. Kad mīkla uzrūgsi, veido 200g 10 kūciņas. Liek atkal uzrūgt, tad nosmērē ar olu un pārkaisa drumstaliņam.(Drumstaliņas sastāv no sviesta, cukura un miltiem) Cep karstā krāsnī. Gatavām kūciņām nogriež virsiņas un pilda ar putu krējumu sajauktu ar mandelēm. Tad uzliek vāciņus un nokaisa ar pūdera cukuru.

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    Replies
    1. I'm filing this away for a future experiment. Rose water and washed butter indeed!

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