Weddings. Baby showers. Christmas.
These are the some of the family gatherings where miloste, a Bohemian fried pastry, graced the banquet tables and spreads. Don’t bother googling; “miloste” is a phonetic spelling. We have no idea what the “real” name for these treats is. Hell, we usually call them “those fried things with beer in them and powdered sugar on top.”
Grandma’s wedding photo: Mary Masin got hitched to John Vondrasek. They had a large family — five children, and Grandma always called them by their full names: Marian, Alice, Don (Donald), Rich (Richard), and Charlotte (aka Mom). Mom was a surprise. At 40 years old, Grandma went to the doctor complaining of a swollen tummy and feeling icky. Doctor Schultz promptly diagnosed her as having a tumor, and gave her medication to kill the tumor.
Mom demonstrating how to roll and cut slits in miloste dough.
The tumor survived, and a few months later came squalling into the world. Mom’s brothers and sisters have passed away, not to mention Grandma and her four husbands, so Mom’s sort of the matriarch now, which I think she digs.
Thanks to Grandma, I have loads of cousins, and last year we girls decided to get together before Christmas and learn how to bake kolaches. We had a blast and decided to try to make it a yearly tradition. This year we made miloste.
Some I’ve talked to said miloste sounded like elephant ears, or fattimund, but from what I can tell it’s not like either. It’s a pie-type pastry, with butter being the fat that’s cut into it, with eggs added and most of a bottle of stale beer. Rolled thin and gently twisted, it’s then dropped into hot oil. If the dough’s been handled with a light touch, the fried dough comes out light and airy, with visible bubbles in it. It’s then dusted with powdered sugar. The recipe’s at the end of the post.
more family background, because i know you’re dying for more
Grandma with 2 of her 3 sisters, Vera and Rose. Her other, and oldest, sister Agnes had passed away by the time of this photo. I believe this was taken at Todd (her grandson) and Becky’s wedding reception. I just know someone will correct me if I’m wrong.
Mom and Aunt Jan shared some stories with us younguns about baking with Grandma and her sisters. Agnes was gruff; Vera would tell you you were doing it wrong and show you how to do it right; Rose would be sweet as always, and Grandma would help you by taking over completely. Mom remembered mixing up dough for kolaches with them. The dough was in a big bowl, and Mom was stirring it up a bit too lackadaisically for Aunt Vera’s tastes.
“Here, you have to do it like this,” Aunt Vera admonished, taking the bowl and wooden spoon. “Big, long strokes.” Mom punctuated the story by making sweeping arm motions to show us how briskly Aunt Vera showed her to do it. We’d all heard this story before, but Saturday’s baking day added a new twist: Mom had seen a chef on Food Network talk about the right way to mix that kind of dough: with a wooden spoon, and with sure, long strokes in order to relax and stretch the gluten in the flour. Turns out those ladies knew what they were doing after all!
Uncle Don, rockin’ the ‘stache. I think this was at Les (Grandma’s grandson) and Cindy’s wedding, in the late? 70s. Grandma’s on the left, and Don’s with John, Shannon, and Aunt Jan. Shannon and Aunt Jan were at Mom’s Saturday!
Couldn’t resist adding in this one, for the cigarette, and for Shannon hopping around from a rock in her shoe.
Grandma liked doing the chicken dance.
This looks like Grandma’s fourth wedding, where she officially became Mary Masin-Vondrasek-Colom?-Hendrickson-Devota. How’s that for a hyphenated name? That’s her new husband Charlie to the left, and Uncle Rich to the right, looking pretty damn dapper. Was he her best man?
the return of the baking cousins: the reckoning
Time to get down to business! At 10 a.m. sharpish we descended upon Mom’s kitchen: Aunt Jan, her daughter Shannon, her daughter-in-law Kelly, my cousin Timmery and her son Jackson (he was allowed to girly baking day due to extreme youth), my sister Jennifer, and me.
Shannon cutting the eggs into the dough. Sounds weird, I know, but the recipe said to!
Beer levels after adding to half the dough, and then after adding to the second half. Mom told us how she brought a domestic beer to one of her aunts’ miloste-baking days once, and Aunt Rose gently pulled her aside, gravely chastising, “You know, dear, German beer works better.”
Mom showed us how to knead the dough. Jackson kept Jennifer from getting into trouble.
Now to let the dough rest 30 minutes. What could we do to take up 30 minutes?
Ooh, it’s lunch time!
Mom provided chicken salad and puff pastry shells (Pepperidge Farm, not as good as the ones I made in September), Aunt Jan brought salad, and Timmery made, oh crap, I forgot to find out how to spell this…ceponky? They’re awesome poppy seed dinner/sandwich rolls. Don’t they look like they came from a store? And she brought a veggie tray. Or maybe Jennifer brought the veggie tray. I’m sure one of them will be more than happy to correct me.
The 28th was Timmery’s birthday, so Mom put some candles on the apricot scones she’d made for dessert.
back to work, ladies!
Mom demonstrated the technique for rolling and prepping the miloste. Or, she tried as best she could, as we were sort of winging it. No one knew exactly what happened to the dough between the cutting of the slits and dropping it into the oil. I love the looks on Shannon’s face as she watches this. Like, “Neat…wow…wait, you expect me to do that???”
Aunt Jan and Mom remembered that Grandma would grab a few slits with her pinkies, a miracle happened, then it was dropped into the hot oil. It was our job to suss out that miracle.
Shannon was game, and rolled out a lot of miloste. That’s Aunt Jan and Kelly, center and right.
And she’s having fun doing it! I’m pretty sure.
Timmery rolled out quite a few too.
Jennifer mostly just hogged Jackson. I didn’t hog him. I swear.
Here’s a few examples of the twisting we tried. The top one wound up being closer to what we remembered them being like. Twists like the bottom came out too much like a ball.
fry them balls!
After all our jokes about Schwetty balls, it was time to drop the rolled miloste into the oil, a few at a time.
Fried and powdered-sugared miloste cooling on brown paper. Mom ripped open a paper grocery bag and laid it out on a towel.
And one example of the final result. They weren’t as light as Grandma made them, which means we probably handled the dough too much. But they tasted just as we remembered — flaky, crunchy, and very slightly sweet.
Cleanup time! Notice Mom doing all the work while we slack.
Like last year, we all had a great time getting together to bake. I wish we had room for more people, but it’s hard getting around in the kitchen just with who we had! It was loads of fun catching up, laughing together, and scratching our heads trying to figure out the recipe. In a way, it also kicked off holiday baking in general — now I know it’s time to make nutty crescents, Mexican wedding cakes, and other yummy stuff for Christmas.
Here comes the recipe, but before we go, an artsy picture of Jackson:
Miloste – Bohemian fried pastry
Unless you have a very large bowl, you will want to mix this up in 2 batches.
prep: 20 minutes, 30 minutes rest
total time: We spent about 4 hours, though the entire process could probably be done in under 3 hours
servings: makes about 50 miloste
temperature: deep fryer at 375 degrees
8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 pound butter, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 can or bottle of German beer
powdered sugar, for dusting
The night before, open the beer and let it sit out.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut chilled butter into approximate tablespoon size, and add to dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter as you would for pie crust: until pea-sized.
Add one egg, and cut it into the dough the same way you did the butter. Continue adding the eggs in this fashion until all four are incorporated into the dough. The dough will still be dry and not hold together. That’s all right — this is where the beer comes in. If you’ve ever made pie crust, this will remain a familiar process. You’re using beer in place of the usual ice water to add the needed moisture.
Sprinkle a few tablespoons to a quarter-cup of beer over the dough. Fluff with a fork to gently incorporate the beer. As with pie crust, your goal is to “work” the dough as little as possible, and add only as much liquid as necessary for the dough to hold together.
Continue adding beer in small increments, mixing it into the dough by fluffing it with the tines of a fork, until the dough holds together when squeezed. When we made this, the whole recipe used nearly all of one 12-ounce bottle of beer.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough — gently again, no need to be rough with it — until it’s smooth. Cover the dough with the bowl you mixed it in, or a towel, and let it sit for half an hour.
Near the end of the half hour, heat oil in a deep pan or deep fryer to 375 degrees.
After half an hour, divide the dough into quarters. You’re going to use one quarter at a time. Cover the remaining dough or wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.
Cut the dough into pieces the size of half an egg and roll into ball shapes — again, with a light touch. Try to work the dough as little as possible throughout the process.
Roll the balls of dough out into thin discs, as thin as possible. You should have a very smooth, pliable dough by now, like a nutty crescent dough. Okay, like 32 old ladies know what I mean when I say that. Sigh. Basically, the dough will do whatever you want and not bitch about it. You don’t need much flour, if any, while rolling — if the disc sticks to your surface, it will peel up without complaint. Just use as much flour as needed to keep it from sticking, because it is kind of a pain to have to pull it up, and that awkward stretching probably doesn’t make it happy.
Your discs will probably be 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Bigger or smaller should be fine, but I’d shoot for 4 to 6; it will be a good size to handle and deep fry. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the disc of dough, about half an inch apart. You will get 3 to 5 slits.
This is the grandma-magic part we never quite got down. I think the goal is to twist up the dough slightly to make it more attractive when fried. Mom says Grandma would cross her hands, slip each pinky under a strip, do some mysterious twist, and drop it into the oil. Do what you like; see the pictures in this post for examples. My main recommendation would be to avoid balling up the dough too much — it’s neater when it’s still mostly flat in shape with some twistiness to it.
So tuck a few of your slits across and/or into one another, and drop into the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown — about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oil to paper towels or brown paper.
When miloste are cool, sift generously with powdered sugar.