Right in between cookies and basic bread is the entire universe of sweet dough. It is inevitable I would land in the middle of my two bakery extremes someday. Well, it finally happened this month. The month of April 2020. I’ve been flirting around with cinnamon raisin bread, sweet white bread, and cinnamon rolls. Why has it taken me so long? I don’t know, have no idea, not a clue. Fear maybe, fear that I could never make anything as delicious as the coffee cakes made by the German, Hungarian and Polish immigrants in the old neighborhood. Italian pastries are a whole other subject. (which I’ll save when I want to bring out some of my fond gangster memories). Now, these little sweet rolls were always the right thing to take along to any get-together. Back in our little neighborhood, mornings meant “Coffee klatsches” which comes from German Kaffeeklatsch, meaning “coffee chat.” Chatting was serious back then and the best way to get all the news and gossip just like small villages back in Europe. For about six years after Ken and I married, we lived in a three flat building, in a primarily Polish, German, and Italian neighborhood off Lawrence Ave, between Central and Austin, just southwest of Jefferson Park in Chicago, so there was a lot of Dis, Dat, and Dose kinda Klatschings going on daily, so all the great little bakeries were kept very, very busy.
The other day after my first attempts at creating sweet rolls, the bakery space was a wreck. I had made bread, cookies, and cinnamon rolls. I hadn’t a clue about how long the cinnamon roll making process actually took. Pans were everywhere, sinks were full. So Ken, in all seriousness say’s ” I have to teach you a thing or two about cleaning up a bakery”. No lie, he really said that. So I asked him what made him such an expert? He said he has years of experience. What? Really? And you are telling me this now, after decades of marriage? Well, apparently, as a kid, he did work and clean up at a neighborhood bakery called the Golden Doughnut, which was two doors down from the Pharmacy (above which we had our first apartment which I LOVED), next door to the Polish deli, and just down the street from his family’s funeral home. For years, Ken the undertakers son, and the bakers son would help each other out with the family chores. Ken cleaned the bakery, and the bakers kid helped clean the fleet of hearses, flower cars and limousines at the funeral home.
That section of Lawrence avenue was a wonderful mix of ethic small businesses, and is still my favorite model of a great place to live. The other and much larger bakery we frequented was further away but worth the trip was Thompson’s bakery on Irving park road in Chicago. Just walking into that thick, damp, yeasty, warm, sweet air was truly blissful. I intended to try different flavors at each visit, but I usually bought Cherry, cheese, and apple after looking over everything in the shop. I’m loving the sweet yeasty smells right now, its bringing back all those memories and it’s a beautiful thing, messes or not.
Pics of my progress so far, without the cleanup disaster, or the ugly bun disaster either.
Parchment paper made them so much easier to separate.
With slathered frosting and drizzled frosting
Then the huge gooey mess of Apple cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar
I’m taking out my inspirational ethnic cookbooks, good thing I can kinda sorta read Hungarian.
–Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans
“There is the Kolacz, taken from the word Kolo -wheel. The dough is rolled into a sheet, buttered well, sugared and spiced, strewn with fruit fillings, peels, and nut meats. It is then rolled like a jelly roll. The ends are brought together to form a ring. The diminution of the word is Kolaczki for small rolls filled with fruit and nuts.
Kolaczki is my newly found love, hopefully without the HUGE kitchen messes going forward.