Thursday, December 22, 2011

Time to make the Vánočka!

A Czech Christmas wouldn't be complete without Vánočka!  Vánočka is our traditional Christmas bread, and it's oh sooooo delicious!  The bread is named after Vánoce, meaning Christmas in Czech (Vianoce in Slovak) and is rich in eggs and butter ...and doesn't butter make everything better?  Lemon rind and raisins give it color and flavor.  It's then braided and baked to a beautiful golden brown.  A vánočka can be built from three progressively smaller braids, stacked on top of each other...this is sometimes interpreted as a rough sculpture of Baby Jesus wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.
Vánočka has a reputation for being difficult to prepare (I can attest to that...mine did not turn out all). thus in many households superstitions and special customs are attached to the baking process.  When making vánočka, it is said that you must think of everyone dear to you.  Another custom is to avoid touching silver or metal to the vánočka.  Finally, and my personal favorite, the person who is making the vánočka should jump up and down while the dough rises.  Imagine that...