When I last wrote, I was cheerfully writing from Billings, MT where I was attending a business meeting.
And then the stomach flu hit.
I have to tell you, there cannot be too much worse than being curled up in a hotel bed 350 miles from home with a severe case of the chills and all that comes with it. I somehow managed to drive myself home Friday, only to spend most of the weekend in bed at home.
I finally felt better Monday, just in time for....Christmas Programs!
Yes, it's Christmas Program week! And each of the school age kids had their own evening programs which we attended. Helena's was on Monday night (you can read about it here ), Nicholas' was last night (Tuesday), and Olivia's will be tomorrow night (Thursday).
Add this to the fact that I am attending a day and a half meeting via conference line (among other things), and you can see that there hasn't been much chance to write in the last week.
But time is on my side now. And I am here to satisfy a request made to me for a GFCF recipe for oplatki, or oplatek.
Before I can get to the recipe, however, I need to tell you about me, and a very special celebration called Wiglia.
In the 1890s, my Great-Grandparents on both sides of my family emigrated to the United States from Poland, although at the time Poland literally didn't exist - the land was occupied by Hungary, Prussia, and Russia. But despite the occupation, the Polish people maintained as best as possible their heritage and traditions, which they brought with them to the United States. One of these traditions is the Wiglia, or the Christmas Eve meal.
Wiglia is the traditional meal Polish people eat on Christmas Eve. Traditionally the family fasts until the first star of the evening was seen, which signifies the birth of the Savior. And then the meal begins. Many families serve a12-course meal, representing the 12 months of the year. Most families serve anywhere from 5 to 9 courses. The courses consists of many traditional Polish foods - fish dishes, pierogi, mushrooms, and sauerkraut, among others. It is traditionally meatless, although this was in line with pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic teaching where Christmas Eve was considered a day of abstinence from meat (this is no longer the case).
In our family, some aspects of the tradition waned (we did not fast until the first star was seen, and we did not go totally meatless), but the concept of gathering the family together to celebrate the birth of the Savior remained. Here is a sample of our menu:
Course 1: Pickled herring and boiled potatoes (fortunately we were not required to partake in all courses!)
Course 2: My Father's homemade potato soup
Course 3: fish, typically fried flounder
Course 4: sauteed mushrooms
Course 5: Pierogi, a traditional Polish stuffed pastry. Ours were either filled with meat or with sauerkraut.
Course 6: Dessert, consisting of a variety of Christmas cookies, including kruschiki (Polish bow tie cookies)
The Wiglia always ends with the breaking of the Oplatek (pronounced o-pwah-tek), or Oplatki. Oplatek is a very thin wafer, similar to a Roman Catholic Communion wafer. It typically has a depiction of the Nativity or other religious scene printed onto the wafer. A special pink wafer is typically given to animals, who, according to Polish tradition, speak at midnight since they were the first to greet the Christ child.
Each person in the household is given a piece of oplatek, which is then shared by having other family members break off a piece of your oplatek, while you do the same to theirs. During the breaking, well wishes for the season and the upcoming year are exchanged. It is truly a special moment.
As it's roots are derived from the Roman Catholic Communion wafer, the oplatek is predominantly made with wheat flour and water, although there are some recipes that also include confectioner's sugar and other ingredients. I am presenting two potentional GFCF versions here, one of which is a recipe for a communion wafer (the original recipe can be found here ) and one which is more of a confection (original recipe can be found here ):
Recipe 1: Communion Wafer
1 cup GF flour 1 tsp xanthan gum 1/2 cup water, or enough to form a dough
Combine ingredients and knead for 5 - 8 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes, then knead again.
Roll dough until as thin as possible. Cut into squares or circles and place on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 to 425 for 20 - 30 minutes or until cooked through (times will vary depending on the thickness of the dough).
Refrigerating the flour and water prior to combining may produce best results.
Recipe II: Confectioner's version
1 cup GF flour 1 cup powdered sugar 1/4 teaspoon saffron 4 egg whites 3 -4 Tbsp water (rose water was used in the original recipe)
Combine all ingredients until a dough forms (you may need to add more or less water as needed). Knead dough for a few minutes.
Roll dough out as thin as possible. Cut and cook as per the previous recipe.
My disclaimer here is that I am only sharing these as potential GFCF recipes - I have not tested them. If you choose to try these, please leave a comment back with how they turn out, or any suggestion on how to further modify the recipes.
And remember, we are not really looking for taste here, just a special wafer to break with those around us on a special day.
Season's Greetings, or, as we say in Polish, Wesolych Swiat!