The Krustiki-making at Holidays! The image is of the irons passed to me from my Mother, from her Mother, and one day to my daughter. It's not just a treat - it's a life thing and for the love.
The story through the years:
I ~ Krustiki ~ 1956 In childhood, I loved school - both the ones at Greenfield Hill and beloved Saint Anthony's was not just school, but generations after it was founded to help Polish-Americans learn perfect English and "be good Americans", it was a fine opportunity to learn and pass on my Mother's cultural favorites, as well.
At Holidays , especially, I spent many happy hours, with the older women, learning and sharing the rituals, like the making of the delicate "Krustiki", meaning "Little Crusts". The stars,flowers & rounds 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. When all is ready, the hot iron forms are dipped in batter and oil till crisp - then cooled and dusted with confectioners sugar, and the result is exciting! Crispy, yet tender light and melt-in-the-mouth sweet and yet not too fattening. Oh yes! they were, and still are, a delight! Such fun and then the irons carefully cleaned , oiled and wrapped and put away for the next time. A worthy afternoon for a young girl - Strong, nice, kind, and perpetuating.
The mommies' approval and interest was so good for feelings of worth in a child. They cared, and so I cared. I felt there was symbolism in making the krustiki : Women, so delicate and lacy and yet strong as iron - easier to understand, while making krustiki! We are batter in the hands of God, by whatever name you call Source of Life!
II ~ Krustiki ~ 1976 No act is really simple, and even the simplest tasks inspire complex thought. With the Mothers and Aunties, I was learning the big lessons and was not afraid to think. Working side-by-side, it was all easy.
Years passed: growing up, I did fine in studies and truly blessed marriage and wonderful son and daughter! Glad I worked and prayed and played and cared - my dreams came true, with work and love - and Motherhood of my own, with gifts to share! Far away from 'roots' in every way, now it was not just pleasant, It was clarifying to do the krustiki-making on my own - it was so different and even more special. Connecting me in spirit, with the Mothers and Aunties of my childhood, there was an overflow of happy love in the continuum.
My Mother visited often and the visits often included the special preparation of Krustiki, and now,my own daughter alongside us and joyfully, by her own preference! Exult! To reward her interest... Not a word of teaching - "permissions" for her to enjoy and learn, as she pleased!
III ~ Krustiki ~ 1996 Time and time passing too swiftly! The family circle was growing up and well. Then My husband's sudden and early death Made the sweetness of empty-nesting not so easy. Mother remained true when all lights failed due to the recession threatening nearly everyone. The lessons from those days with the "mommies" were MUCH more than sweet recollections - but insurance policies that saved my soul when so severely stricken.
A reprise of girlhood Response work was considered a creative and classic choice to help grief recovery, and did, though it got important, became an adventure, including three kinds of rescue, and also American Red Cross, local and "away" work during Operation Desert Storm. And more - too much more. I finally fell to injury and exhaustion. Medical needs set up, I was relocated to the airy Connecticut Hills, near the lakes, rivers and waterfalls...a beautiful healing experience! It worked partly because ethnic arts and crafts thrive there, and I was delighted to be asked to join in the seasonal group cooking of a few thousand Krustiki, prepared by the Church as a fundraiser.
Many of the women were seniors to me. Most of them did not know me. Still, on the word of others, I was very kindly treated, and I reveled in the memories of similar times in girlhood. I laughed at the anachronism of my "adventure boots" and promised daintier footwear next time.We worked in teams of two 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, satisfied that I would not injure myself or anyone else, allowed me the lead task. I heated my iron, dipped it carefully into the batter, then into the hot oil and tended the twin krustiki diligently. When they looked right, I eased them off the irons. Pausing as the irons reheated, I glanced about and my partner who was staring at my work oddly. Why?
My partner, mature and coolheaded, must have expected poor results from me, disabled, because she stared wide-eyed at my "snappy" work, and then at me, and I quietly rejoiced in her respect, and the treasured secret smile for us both! Or maybe it was just that is cool to Always wear world-class adventure boots when making krustiki?
IV~ Krustiki ~ 2016 And sharing this and its power to heal minor woes for its goodness. It is still there - the glow of love created through such the "simple" tasks! These words are a duty, a tour de force! My Husband is gone long ago and fine and free again for a long time; but my Mother, 90 and in decline, no longer recognizes me and so, more than ever, these moments must be not be lost, I hope stories like this one bring a glow to all its readers.
Praise for their maker and the Angels who seemed to bless us through it all!
~ a popular krustiki recipe ~
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"
Or enjoy the literal translation, "little crusts". Whatever the name, they are special!
- 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: Do not do this with children until you have mastered it yourself.
And later, When there are children working 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 :-)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UP0VKrfHdk This video is the closest to the Polish generations-old process that I could find. May make my own video soon. The video shows it is fun and simpler than you might fear! And worth the effort!
My commentary on this video:
- Shows the double- headed irons, available online for purchase as "Rosette cookie irons"
- shows a very old sifter that I do NOT support - nice fresh clean sifter is safer
- shows the wonderful process JUST right, though, but
- does not show the optional turning with a cooking fork, in the oil to cook the white inside of the cookie - doughiness is fatal - crisp but not burned is key.
So, when the cookie looks almost done on the irons, take the fork and gently poke the cookie off the iron and over into the oil - let the cookie float in the oil, just a moment, till the white inside has crisped and then use the fork to remove the cookie to drain.
Takes a bit of practice and wearing cooking gloves if you fear you may splash.