This story has been waiting for me to tell you since last year. The scene of this story is a small village in northwestern Hungary, in the Bakony mountains, however it could be any village where those kind of people live for whom keeping traditions, and preserving values for the next generation is a vital part of life.
This village is one of this kind.
During the Turkish occupation of the 16th-17th century the village became depopulated, but revived in the 18th century when settlers from South Germany arrived to this place surrounded by the Bakony mountains at the invitation of the Holy Roman Empress and Hungarian Queen Maria Theresa in hope of a new life.
The land was not rich in soil, but these Germans were tough, diligent people. They wanted to work hard and make a home for themselves in their chosen new country. At the end of the 1700’s they established their circumstances and felt the need and urgency to build their own church. They were deeply religious people so was the church a symbol of everything that they valued in life: faith, community and a reference point in both spiritual and geographical sense.
The members of this community, that created a new home in a foreign country basically from nothing, joined force to build the church with support of local , from bricks that were produced in the local brick kiln.
This small, white church survived a lot since then: a revolution in 1848, a big fire, two world wars and the German expulsion. There were attempts to conserve this beautiful building, but a general renovation became crucial at the beginning of the 21st century.
We could think that nowadays, in our crazy, high-tech, speedy life such a cooperation is not imaginable, as it was 200 years ago in the time of our ancestors.
However, it happened though in 2019.
First, a local retired architect joined the initiative, but slowly the enthusiasm was contagious. Donations were collected, regular meetings were organised where tasks were discussed and to do lists were put together. Photocopied fliers where thrown into postboxes telling people to come and help because all helping hands are needed.
And the locals went and helped. Local professionals from different fields offered their knowledge and work to the village, for free. Young and old, religious and non-religious people grabbed shovel, spade and broom, carried heavy materials, climbed on the scaffolding. They worked from morning until the evening, weekdays and weekends and the renovation of the church was finished in 8 month, for the third of the official cost estimation. The difference was payed by the people in the village, by their free time, weekends, and their enthusiasm.
If we hear a story like this, we think that these kind of things only happen in a movie, but in reality the characters of this story are far from Hollywood actors. They are normal people, like you and me, who work, live their everyday life, struggle with smaller or bigger challenges of life.
I am sitting on the bank in the church and watching when the organiser of the renovation hand over the iron key to the vicar of the church. While I am trying to wipe away tears from my eyes, I am thinking how much we need these stories, which are the proof that miracles really exist.
Because everything we see in this world started with a person, or a group of people who were not afraid of dreaming big.
For instance, dreaming a church, which will last for at least another 200 years.
To this story today I brought you the recipe of jam pastries, which are combination of something old and something new. For the dough, I used the recipe of chestnut filled butter crescents from a 1939 cookbook by Andrea Dávid Kollmann, changed it a bit- which I noted in the description) and decided to shape a parcel form and fill the pastries with jam instead of chestnut.
However we gave away a lot of the jams from our pantry room, that I made last summer, but there are still a lot of them, so I am looking for opportunities to use them. (Or I just decide to open them, and start spooning out while standing at the kitchen counter…)
Textiles I use for photography are hand-woven and botanical dyed, made by @textil_szakacsniki
Hungarian jam pastries
450 g + 50 g all-purpose flour
10 g fresh yeast
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
300 ml lukewarm milk (in the original recipe 100 ml milk is written, however it must be a mistake. I increased the amount to get the necessary consistency of the dough)
1 egg yolk
250 g cold butter
200 ml jam (I used home-made sour cherry jam)
For the egg-wash:
2 tablespoon cream
- Cut butter into small pieces and knead well with the flour. The original recipe recommends forming a brick shape and later slice it and spread all over the dough. Instead, I used the method we used when I learnt how to make croissants. Cut a large piece of parchment paper, approximately the size of a usual oven tray. Fold the left and right size until the middle then do the same with the other two sides. When you open it up, you will see a rectangular shape in the middle. Place the butter-flour mixture into the middle, fold the sides back on it, and roll it carefully with a rolling pin, until the butter fills up the “envelop” evenly. Refrigerate it.
- Dissolve sugar and yeast in 100 ml lukewarm milk and let it covered for 10 minutes, or until it has risen a bit. Mix flour with salt, add the remaining milk, the egg yolk, and the yeasted milk. Knead it well, until you get a smooth, flexible dough. Cover and let it rest for 1 hour, or until it doubles its size.
- After bulk fermentation knead the dough a little bit, then roll out to the size, that your butter-rectangular fits in and you will be able to pack it into the dough. Mark its place, then remove the paper on one side, place the butter on the dough, press it, then remove the rest of the paper.
- Fold the dough over the butter, then beat it a few times with your rolling pin, so the butter sticks to the dough properly. Roll it out, then fold over the side closest to you until the midline and do the same with the side farthest to you. Then fold over the upper part again, so you get like a book-shape. Wrap the dough into plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Do this rolling-folding-refrigeration process two times more.
- After the third 30 minutes resting time roll it out again to an approximately 30×40 cm large, 0,5 cm thick rectangular. Cut 10×10 cm squares. Place a tablespoon of jam into the middle and fold the edges over to make a little parcel, and press it a bit in the middle so they stick together. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200º C (190 º with a fan)Whisk egg and cream together to make an egg wash. Brush over the pastries and bake them for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar before serving.