An experimental kitchen garden and delicious cocoa rolls

cocoa rolls from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen“Mami, would you come and help me to set up the kitchen garden in spring, will you? You don’t need to do anything just sit in the armchair and give me instructions”- I am asking my grandmother month by month with strong hopes but she always gives me an evasive answer. “We will see… just wait until the weather turns warmer” she replies and I can feel her uncertainty in her voice. With a difference of 3 months she is exactly 50 years older than me. She will be 85 this year and in the past few years it takes her more energy to leave home. Don’t misunderstand me, she doesn’t stop for a second: she is cooking every day, does the shopping, cleaning and laundry, etc. but her comfort zone is her home. She lives in a nice apartment, and her beautiful plot where she used to grow us all kinds of vegetables and fruits is now abandon- she doesn’t have the energy to look after it. I understand and accept it but I still hope that we can make up for the lost time I lived abroad and in Budapest. I hope that I didn’t miss the opportunity to enjoy together all the things we both love so much: cooking and gardening.
Seed-plot is prepared, Áron dug it, I hoed it once and then once again. I bought the seeds, my grandmother’s gardening books that she gave to me are lying on the table if I need any information. On the top of it I had my own kitchen garden years ago. But still I am unsure I can manage it on my own. I call my grandma spontaneously and ask whether she would help me with it. To my great astonishment she answers with lots of energy in her voice: “Ok, let’s go!”
First I have to eat two crêpes she prepared for me before we leave her home then she takes her handbag, a planting stick and a small shovel she long has hidden in her pantry and we drive 10 kilometers to our village. In the moment we arrive she completely transforms- she becomes the same person working like a man in her plot. She takes the hoe and the rake off my hands and when I remind her that she didn’t come to work but to instruct she says: “It is all right, just let me check this bed…” And she is making the ground even, she is raking and in the meantime telling stories about the time when they were working with my grandfather in the plot. He was laughing at her because she was not able to create straight rows of vegetable beds, it always had some curves. That is why he called her “my little Clarence” referring to the cross-eyed lion from the TV series “Daktari” which was very popular that time. I am setting up the rows of beds the way my grandmother showed me (two wooden stick linked to each other with a garn) but when I go a little bit further away I can see that they are not straight at all…”Mami, I think I am Clarence II. – and we start to laugh at the fact that you cannot deny your roots. We sow two kinds of carrots, raddish, parsley, green onions, green peas and lambs lettuce and agree that this year I buy tomato seedlings and plant them directly to the prepared bed. A small plot with sometimes not really straight rows of beds, each row marked with the packaging of the seeds so we know what we sowed- this is how our experimental kitchen garden looks like. The sun is already setting down, Mami is sitting in the armchair and enjoys the view of the garden and our work. On the way home I am worried a bit and ask her whether she didn’t overworked herself. “I am tired but I am feeling great! To be honest I didn’t believe that I would be able to come to help you ever…but somehow your enthusiasm was contagious…And it feels so good!”. That was no question what I am going to prepare as a recipe to this blogpost: cocoa rolls, one of the specialities of my grandmother. Soft dough with a crunch crust and a lot of cocoa filling…Delicious! My dear Mami, I wish ourselves many many days more like this!

Cocoa rolls according to my grandmother’s recipe
500 g flour
1 egg
300 ml milk
1 pinch of salt
2 +4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
30 g fresh yeast
2 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
50 g butter

Mix the flour with the salt and 1 tbsp sugar. Warm up a little bit the half of the milk and dissolve the yeast and 1 tbsp sugar in it. Cover and let it rest until it becomes a bit foamy and bubbly. (5 minutes). Add the yeasted milk, the egg and the rest of the milk to the flour and knead it well. Finally add the oil and knead it until the dough is soft and flexible. Cover it and let it rest for an hour until it doubles its size. Put the dough on a lightly floured board and roll it out 1 cm thin. Mix the 4 tbsp. sugar and the cocoa powder and melt the butter. Line the bottom of a baking dish with parchment paper and brush the sides with butter. I used one round heatproof ceramic baking dish and another square one made from metal and both worked very well. Brush the dough with the butter and sprinkle carefully with the cocoa mixture. Roll it up and cut it into 2 cm pieces. Brush the sides with butter as well (so it will be easy to separate them when ready) and put them close to each other into the baking dish, brush the top with butter and let it rest for another 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and bake the rolls until they are golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

cocoa rolls from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen cocoa rolls from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen cocoa rolls from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen cocoa rolls from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen cocoa rolls from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen my grandmother and the kitchen garden

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.



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