Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Traditional Christmas pastry decorations; biscuits

I've pinched these two images off Google because, alas, I just don't have the patience to make any of these - but I thought they should go on the blog because these 'Vizovice' figures are very typical of Moravian, folksy, tree-decorations, and unusual in that they are made from dough.
You can read about the process (in English) and see many more photos of this decorative pastry
by clicking the link, but in short, all you need is ordinary flour, mixed with water, and a tiny bit of yeast (a pea-size bit for a kilo of flour). You work this well into a smooth dough, firm enough to hold shape when modelled.
Modelling the various figures and animals is done by hand, with the aid of scissors (e.g. for feathers or for hedgehog spines) or a small knife, and often a motif of platting is used too. Use linseeds for eyes and buttons, etc.

Leave your figures to rise slightly once on the baking tray, brush them over with egg-white, and bake slowly in a dry oven - about 3 hrs at 120C.

You can make people or animals - in the traditional lore each animal symbolises some wish, such as a frog stands for clear water, dove for peace, cockerell for fertility, squirrel for plenty in the larder. The pastries are then used for decorating the Christmas tree, sometimes people make figures for more or less elaborate Nativity scenes that are placed under the tree.
A lovely way to involve children when making home-made decorations, if a bit messy :-)

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