Leavened Dough (Kysnuté Cesto)

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Ingredients: 1 pack of yeast, 2lbs flour (about 8 cups), two handfuls of sugar, water, baking powder, bit of oil
Prep Time: 30 minutes preparing the dough, at least an hour to let the dough rise.

I spent the day after Christmas visiting with my grandma Therese (starká Terka). She lives in a little cottage in a village some 30 km away from my hometown of Banská Bystrica. I was there just in time to watch her make three of the most typical home-baked sweets: tvarožník, makovník, and orechovník (farmer’s cheese cake, poppy seed roll and a walnut roll). These three baked goodies share the same leavened (fermented) dough. In this post I show you how my grandma prepares the dough. For the recipes for the cakes, see the following posts, or use the links above.

milk and sugar fresh baking yeast
Start by combining about a cup of milk (mlieko), about 4 tablespoons of sugar (cukor) and a pack of yeast (droždie). My grandma used a cube of fresh yeast. In America, I would substitute one packed of the “rapid-rise” dry yeast available in baking section.

aerate yeast flour
Whisk the yeast well and set it aside covered for few minutes. Whisking is important since it aerates the mixture and makes the yeast more active. For this reason you also need to place the yeast in a warm place. My grandma placed it in her slightly warm oven. At home I just leave the dough on the counter, but start off with a luke-warm milk. To make the dough, pour about 8 cups of flour (múka) into a large pot. We used half of this 2lb bag.

baking powder handful of sugar
Then add a pocket of baking powder (prášok do pečiva) and about a handful of sugar (cukor). Baking powder is similar to baking soda in that produces bubbles that help the dough rise, but unlike baking soda, it also contains some drying agents. As such, it is less active and makes the dough rise less. Also, it doesn’t not require the addition of an acid to become activated.

dough with oil dough with yeast
Then add about a shot of oil (olej) and the yeast mixture once it has risen (after about 10-15 minutes). Note: my grandma doesn’t use eggs when making leavened dough. She said that dough becomes tough if an egg is added.

dough working dough
Add bit of water (voda), and work the dough with your hands until it no longer sticks to the pot. Add more water as needed. This is the “art” part of making dough.

dough bun dough rising
Form the dough into a bun and evenly dust the top with flour. Then cover the pot with a cloth, and set aside to let rise in a warm place for an hour or two.

dough scooping dough on wooden board
Starká then used this circular motion to scoop the dough out and place it onto a wooden board dusted with flour. Form the dough into a bun.

flatten with hands greasing dough
Then use your hands to flatten the dough. Lightly grease it with oil using a baking brush.

fold dough over dough greasing
Then fold the dough over, flatten out with hands, and grease again.

folding dough dough cut into pieces
Then again fold the dough over. Form it into a uniform bun and cut it into two or three pieces. Each of these will become an individual cake.