Plums, Poppy Seeds and Praha!
It is always wonderful to experience the rich connection of food and culture from the many places Hevreh Ensemble has visited.
In September 2010, the group traveled to the Czech Republic and Poland for our first European tour. We were invited by the Jewish Community of Prague to present a concert at the stunningly beautiful Spanish Synagogue. Our concert was scheduled for a Sunday evening and the day before the concert we were invited to attend a Havdalah Service ( the end of the Sabbath). We set out to find the location on foot and discovered that the narrow streets of Prague were completely blocked by a huge bicycle festival with many of the streets roped off. Themes from Smetana’s Moldau were blaring from loudspeakers. We were enjoying the almost surreal scene, but it seemed that it might not be possible to get from point A to point B! There was a large presence of Czech policeman patrolling the area. Suddenly, in spite of the heavy security, Jeff saw his opportunity and ducked under a rope- we had no choice but to follow him and run! Needless to say we found the correct address! The members of the Jewish Community were very warm and welcoming and they conducted a lovely service. We felt an immediate and deep connection. After our long journey to Prague, we felt that this was the perfect beginning to our tour. After the service there was an Oneg Shabbat where refreshments were served. I remember so clearly tasting a delicious plum poppy seed cake. The next day browsing through bookstores, I found the recipe in a Czech Cookbook. After we returned home, the cookbook joined its place with my rather large collection of cookbooks. This past summer, I was looking through my collection. I came upon the Czech Cookbook and memories of Prague, the Havdalah service and the delicious cake came flooding back to me. Now seven years later, I have tried to recreate this confection. I plan to take it to a memorial service for a dear friend’s father, Charles Schwab.
PLUM POPPY SEED CAKE
Freely Adapted from Traditional Czech Cuisine from the Czech Chef’s Association- www.akc.cz
2 cups flour
5 ounces butter melted butter
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. Yeast
1 tsp. Salt
1 ½ cups warm Milk
¾ cup sugar mix with 1 tsp. Vanilla and ½ cup poppy seeds
12-14 Italian Plums halved and pitted
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees
Butter a large heavy baking sheet
1. Proof yeast with a pinch of sugar and 2 tablespoons of the Warm milk until bubbly ( about 10 minutes)
2. Sift flour with salt
3. In a large bowl mix flour and salt with melted butter, sugar, yeast mixture, egg yolks and remaining warm milk. You will have a very soft dough.
4. Let rise covered in a warm place for aprox. 1 hour
5. Pat dough onto baking sheet and place pitted and halved plums cut side down on dough
6. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar mixture
7. Dot with butter
Bake for aprox. 30-35 minutes until a toothpick come out clean, juices from fruit are bubbling and cake is lightly browned. Let cool completely and cut into squares.
published by Judith Dansker