Czech Republic: Vanilkove Rohlicky

Czech national cuisine is based on ingredients that can be grown domestically, i.e. cereals, leguminous plants and potatoes, which are usually served with pork, beef or poultry, or, in some places, with freshwater fish. These seemingly ordinary ingredients have been used to create excellent and original dishes that you can truly only find in Czech cuisine.

Czech cuisine has developed over hundreds of years and has been influenced by Austrian and Hungarian cuisines, yet it has also influenced the cuisines of its neighboring countries in return. Many of the fine cakes and pastries that are popular in Central Europe actually originated in Czechoslovakia.

Desserts (moučníky) come in many varieties and tend to be heavy and fatty because butter (máslo) and whipped cream (šlehačka) are often used. Some popular desserts are:
- crepes (palačinky) filled with jam (džem) or strawberries (jahody)- and whipped cream- honey cake called Medovník - blueberry dumplings (borůvkové knedlíky)- apple strudel (jablečný závin)- ice cream sundae (zmrzlinový pohár).

A favorite cookie is Vanilkove Rohlicky, sweet vanilla crescents. It is said that Czech President Vaclav Havel was hospitalized in intensive care for 10 days. When he began to recover, the first food he ate were four of these tasty cookies.

Vanilkove Rohlicky (Vanilla Crescents)

1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups ground, unblanched almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Confectioner's sugar

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Add in the almonds, vanilla extract and salt, continuing to beat until the mixture becomes a slightly stiff dough.

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for approximately one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Light grease or butter baking sheet.

Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of the chilled dough and place them on a floured board. Roll each one into a 2-1/2" strip approximately 1" wide and 1/2" thick. Shape each piece into a crescent by pulling it into a semi-circle.

Arrange the crescents at least 1" apart on the baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Freeze or store in airtight containers. (Note: Many Czech's prefer "vanilkove rohlicky" a few days old when the flavors have fully developed.)

Recipe courtesy of Eleanor's Kitchen.

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