Bobalky (Opekance)

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Ingredients: leavened dough or few days old bread rolls, ground poppy seeds, sugar, milk, butter
Prep Time: 5 minutes if you use old bread, about 2 hours otherwise

Integral part of the Christmas table in many Slovak families are little pieces of sweet bread known as bobaľky, opekance or pupáčky. They are typically topped with poppies (s makom), but some people eat them with farmer’s cheese (tvaroh) or even cabbage (kapusta). In this recipe I show you how to prepare this delicious desert.

Opekance are typically eaten as the third “course”. First, there is the prípitok, a shot of liquor. Then, the lady of the house (gazdina) passes around Christmas wafers (oblátky) with garlic (cesnak) and honey (med). Then come opekance followed by soup and the main meal. While garlic and honey are supposed to bring the person good health, poppies symbolize wealth. There is supposedly even a tradition which involves tossing them on the ceiling, but this is not something I am familiar with.

Although opekance are very traditional, they were not prepared in my family. I don’t remember ever having them while growing up. This is a shame, because they are delicious! So when I first decided to make them, I was not quite sure how they ought to taste. I found several recipes online, with some of them saying bobaľky should be baked few days ahead of time, and then allowed to completely dry up. They are then soaked in hot water until soft. This is the method I tried, and my first attempt ended up in a disaster. I left them in the water way too long, and they ended up soggy.

The good news is, none of this is necessary if you just want to prepare a tasty treat, and not stockpile them for winter. You prepare opekance from the same sweet leavened dough that is used for buchty or makovník. However (I have not tried this yet), I think you could get by just using few days old white bread, or bread rolls. Finally, you will need ground poppy seeds. You can find poppy seeds in most grocery stores, but finding a grinder is bit more complicated. However, most grocery stores sell poppy seed pie filling in the baking isle. You can use this instead, but the taste will be little different. The filling (at least the Solo brand I buy) tastes more like corn syrup than poppies.

dough roll bobalky ready for baking
Cutout a piece of dough (cesto) about the size of your palm and roll it into a cylinder about 3/4 inch thick. Using a knife or a similar circular dough cutting tool, cut slices about 1/4 inch thick. Place them onto a baking sheet (with the cut face down) and let rise for about 10 minutes. Preheat your oven.

baked opekance poppy seed sauce
Bake for about 15 minutes until they get golden brown. They’ll be just like freshly-baked sweet bread: crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Then combine, in a pot, ground poppy seeds (mletý mak), powdered sugar (práškový cukor), butter (masľo) and a bit milk (mlieko). Bring to boil and pour over the bread.

bobalky, opekance, pupacky (slovak poppy seed bread)
Mix together and enjoy. They were delicious!