Recipe for Grandma's Chrusciki (Polish Bow Ties)
Think of all of the sinfully delicious ingredients that are thought of as "bad for you": Egg yolks, sour cream, sugar, white flour...and then deep fry them and sprinkle powdered sugar all over them while they're still warm. You have what, to a little kid in the 1970s in Elizabeth NJ, was HEAVEN. Great-Grandma Nowakowski passed down the recipe and method to Grandma Zydzik, who passed them down to me (they skipped a generation). I have passed down the secret to my own daughters. And now, I pass it to you. These are nothing like the store-bought version or even the bakery version. Trust me.
P.S. How do you pronounce chrusciki? Kroose - CHEEKy is the easiest way to spell it phonetically. If you're adventurous, you can roll the R.
12 egg yolks
about 5 level tablespoons of sugar
pinch of salt
5 VERY heaping tablespoons of sour cream
5 cups of flour (more or less)
A whole can of vegetable shortening for deep frying
Powdered sugar -- a box (you'll need slightly less than a box)
In a LARGE bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the mixture is a uniform shade of dark yellow. Add the sour cream, and again stir thoroughly until the lumps of sour cream are broken up and the mixture is a uniform light yellow. Then, gradually add the flour until you get a stiff dough.
At this point, you have two options: Divide it into four balls and knead each one until your arms feel like they're going to fall off, or divide into two balls and put one into your KitchenAid mixer fitted with a dough hook. My grandmother of course had only Option 1, but I opt for my mixer. It really takes a quite a while to knead, a good 10 minutes in the mixer, which means each ball gets about 15-20 minutes by hand. (My grandmother would recruit the kids to help. I used to do it while watching TV. But trust me, if Grandma Zydzik were still alive, she'd be ALL OVER that KitchenAid mixer!) If you see the dough sticking to the bowl, add a little more flour, but don't add too much or the dough won't be elastic enough. What you want is a very smooth, soft, uniform medium yellow -- it gets a little darker as you go on. I have found that you can only do half the recipe at a time in the mixer.
Roll out the dough:
After it is well-kneaded, divide the dough into manageable pieces -- usually six or eight. Take one of the balls and turn onto a floured surface. Roll out with a rolling pin until very thin--my grandmother used to do roll until she could vaguely see the orange-and-green 1970s floral pattern of her vinyl tablecloth underneath.
Shape the dough:
With a butter knife, cut the dough into long strips about 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide. Cut each strip into lengths of about four inches so you have a lot of rectangles. In the middle of each rectangle cut a small (1 inch) slit going lengthwise.
Pick up one of the rectangles. Take one end of the rectangle and gently bend it toward the center, threading it through the slit in the center and pulling it out back into a rectangle. The rectangle will now have twisty sides and look kind of like a bow tie. Set the bow tie gently on a plate or platter and move on to the next one. It will take a little while to shape all of the rectangles, and you'll notice that the dough from the first ones dry out a little. This is fine. You should end up with well over a hundred chrusciki, I actually never counted. It depends on how big you make each rectangle.
When you're about 2/3 way through shaping the chrusciki, you can put the vegetable shortening in a large pot with high sides and turn the heat on medium-high so that the shortening melts and heats up while you're finishing shaping the chrusciki.
When you're ready to start frying, take a platter and cover it with paper toweling or a paper bag (which will absorb the grease). It needs to be close, but not too close, to the pot on the stove...close enough so that you don't drip oil between the pot and the plate, but not so close that there is a danger of it catching on fire.
Test out the temperature of the shortening by carefully laying one chrusciki in the pot. It should sink to the bottom and immediately be covered with bubbles and come up to the surface. If it takes more than a few seconds, wait a little while until the shortening is hot enough. When it's right, you'll see that it gets golden really fast, so take care to flip it as soon as you see any browning, usually about 20 seconds or so. As soon as the other side is even a hint of golden brown, it's time to take out. Use a plastic slotted spoon--I use one of those spaghetti utensils and it works great.
But you don't need to fry them one by one! No, you take a handful of raw chrusciki and gently lay it on the surface of the shortening. And then start stirring, flipping gently, until they all seem to be a uniform gold, then remove them from the oil and lay them on the paper-covered platter.
When they cool after a minute, you can transfer them to a large bowl and sprinkle powdered sugar through a sieve onto the chrusciki, turn over and sprinkle again. You'll see that the chrusciki are very delicate and flaky, so you need to be gentle when turning. It's best to work with a partner, here...one monitoring the stove and the other putting the cooked chrusciki in the bowl and adding powdered sugar.
And... it's amazing.
There is a family joke that goes like this: Question: "What is the shelf life of chrusciki?" Answer: "No one knows, because it never lasts long enough to put back on the shelf."
Contributed by Debra Ross, publisher of KidsOutAndAbout.com, in loving memory of Josephine Zydzik. You'd love the whole computer age, Grandma.
© 2010, KidsOutAndAbout.com
Probably more properly © 1930 or so, Josephine Zydzik. But I know she wouldn't mind it spreading far and wide. All should enjoy chrusciki!