As with many of the world's favorites, this treat is called by several names, & more than one country claims it for its own. In America today, we call them "Rosettes", and I also like the literal translation, "little crusts". Whatever the name, they are special!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On this Page: Krustiki Stories and A Krustiki Recipe
Collecting the notes for this page, they organized themselves into the three little stories below -
and of course, one of several classic recipes for the cookies:
I ~ Krustiki ~ 1956
I spent many happy hours,
with the older women, making the
"Krustiki", meaning "Little Crusts",
a near-sacred ritual.
The stars, flowers & rounds,
symbols of the season,
are still made privately,
in very special groups
The krustiki irons,
passed on through generations of women,
brought out from wrappings, cleaned,
attached to their handles,
and set into pans of hot oil to heat.
Then dipped into a pancake-like batter,
often gently flavored with extracts or liqueurs,
a sizzling bit of it clinging to the iron.
Then back into the oil for a moment
to crisp it and quickly out,
and popped off the iron
to cool on spotless toweling and racks...
At this point, the krustiki appear to be a fancy-shaped potato chip, to the eyes of a stranger to the treat.
An afternoon's work would find
the entire kitchen heaped with them!
Dusted with a little confectioner's sugar,
they were, and still are, a delight!
Like all the simple things, the ritual of the ritual
Draws attention to its symbolic message:
Women, so delicate and lacy
and yet strong as iron!
The human contradiction ~
somehow easier to understand,
while making the krustiki !
The human analogy ~
We are batter in the hands of God,
by whatever name you call
experience of the Essence and Source of Life!
...without form unless dipped
in the hot oil of learning and trial,
but, then ~ light, strong, sweet and good ~
a part of it all!
The human comedy ~
sometimes, after having been crisped in oil,
a thing may need cooling and
sweetening in skilled hands!
III ~ Krustiki ~ 1996
"Some interesting work", for an Arts/Mother profile,
became an adventure, including American Red Cross
work during Operation Desert Storm.
Demands were intense and, afterward, in my home town,
my skills were put to good use at a homeless shelter,
just in startup days, with plenty of challenges.
They could have known nothing about krustiki,
or my ethnicity...my name says nothing to hint at it,
when someone began calling me "Iron Woman Fagan",
as a compliment, though I had difficulty experiencing it as such. I like my dresses!And the term "ladylike".
It had been several years since I had even seen
my stored krustiki irons, in paid storage to protect them
during these risky days.
... and an injury finally disabled me.
I was relocated to the airy Connecticut Hills,
near the lakes, rivers and waterfalls...
a beautiful healing experience!
I live there still, having found wonderful new work.
Ethnic arts and crafts thrive here, and
I was delighted to be asked to join in the
seasonal ethnic group cooking of the Krustiki,
prepared by the Church as a fundraiser, and
for easy sales ads, called rosettes here.
We prepared the irons & pans with the oil...
arranged in the usual group meeting/workroom space.
Batter prep had been done, and distributed
to each team of cooks at the several tables.
Many of the women were seniors to me,
and I exulted in the memories of similar times,
and even enjoyed the skeptical looks from this group
with whom I had never worked.
I was assigned my partner .
and I served as assistant at first; My partner wielded the irons,
I was the tipper, flipper, tapper and drainer.
Another work team collected the completed crusts,
sugaring, packaging and storing them till Bazaar time.
Now my senior partner looked at me,
still mildly skeptical but satisfied
that I would not injure myself or anyone else,
and allowed me the lead task.
I heated my iron. I dipped it carefully into the oil.
I immersed it and tended it diligently, unblinking.
The irons usually, but not always contain twin heads,
to produce two crusts at once.
When they looked right, I eased them off the irons
and my partner flipped them and removed them from the bubbling oil.
I had already started on the second pair,
and so it took a moment, but for some reason,
I looked at my partner who was staring at my work,
mildly shocked...so I looked, too!
The finished crusts are usually flecked with small bubbles,
and the contours become plump and rounded ... not mine!
I am afraid that my "honing" life experiences,
fine arts and red-cross disaster response fitness
created "sculpture"... picture-perfect krustiki!
My partner, mature and coolheaded, stared wide-eyed
at my work, and then at me...
a nice woman-bonding thing, and her respect...
and the treasured secret smile for us both!
II ~ Krustiki ~ 1976
No act is really simple,
and even the simplest tasks
inspire complex thought.
But, making the krustiki
with the Mothers and Aunties,
I was not afraid to think...
generate my own ideas...
and share them to help evaluate them.
Even if I was wrong, there was love enough in it
to make the corrections
as easy to take as the "little crusts"~
Years impressive for experience, not number,
had passed: growing up, marriage, war,
post-war celebrations and new work,
including wonderful son and daughter
Motherhood of my own, with gifts to share!
There was only one Polish lady
in the entire county
Where my late husband, myself
and our children lived through the 70's,
eight hundred miles from "roots". And I did not meet her
until the children were in their teens!
The krustiki-making was only more special ~
Connecting me in spirit,
With the Mothers and Aunties of my childhood.
And I experienced the overflow
of happy love in the continuum.
My Mother visited often,
And the visits often included
the special preparation of Krustiki, and now, our own daughter alongside us ~
and joyfully, by her own preference!
To reward her interest... Not a word of teaching,
beyond the care and caution,
but the "permissions" for her,
included with the women,
expressed in the microcosm
created by our ritual,
to enjoy and learn, as she pleased!
And I am healed, today, of all minor woes,
Remembering the rightness of such times!
And my Husband delighting in us...
enveloped in the glow of love
created through such a"simple" task!
These words are a duty, a tour de force!
My Husband is gone, my Mother aging,
But these moments must be not be lost,
Or the praise for their authors,
or the Angels who seemed to bless us through it all!
A popular KRUSTIKI recipe ~
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon lemon extract
Add sugar to slightly beaten eggs, then add milk.
Sift flour before measuring, then together with salt.
Stir into first mixture and beat until smooth (about the consistency of heavy cream).
Add flavoring. Fry as directed.
For extra nice Rosettes, allow batter to stand two hours covered in refrigerator before frying.
Caution: especially if there are children learning the art with you, gently but firmly teach and stay aware that hot oil is hot...if you wash the irons immediately before cooking time, put them in a warm oven for a minute to dry thoroughly, or water in the crevices may cause the oil to spit and burn.......watch out for steam during cooking, too, and plan to test for the best temperature for the oil, and time in the oil, for a nice golden crust.......
...but, back to the fun!
Our church ladies group does up tons of them for fundraisers at our Christmas Bazaar.
They substitute the extract with some fine brandy or rum.....yum!......
Theoretically, the alcohol evaporates during cooking, leaving only a special gentle flavor,
so they are safe for alcohol-restricted diets, but check ...
The preparation can be more fun with this recipe :-)
Related links, to come at this update:
Albina Who Polkas
A quality Polish Cookbook resource
Polish-American Women's Alliance - founded 1898
Poland - a new page, you may like its Falcon.
Question and comment are welcome! I may be able to publish your stories at this page to share, with your permission.