Bread Pudding (Žemlovka)

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Ingredients: 2lb apples (or other fruit), 1L (4 cups) milk, 4 eggs, 10 bread rolls, 1lb farmer’s cheese (about 2 cups), powdered sugar, handful of raisins, butter, bread crumbs for dusting the baking pan
Prep Time: 30 minutes + about 1 hour for baking

Here is the recipe for žemlovka. The word žemla means bread roll so the closest I could come up with when translating the name of this delicacy was “bread pie”. This probably is not a bad name, given that it’s made with pieces of bread instead of dough. This is the closest food item we have in Slovakia to the American apple pie. However, žemlovka doesn’t need to be made with apples. It’s also delicious with nectarines, plums or pears. But apple is the most common filling and so that’s how we prepared it today. I made this dish with the help of my mom and my grandma, who yesterday prepared the very delicious apple pancakes.

We made the pie with rožky, little baguette-like bread rolls. These are not sold in America, but any Italian-style white bread should work fine. But if you feel adventurous, you can bake your own bread rolls. It’s better if the bread is a day old, so its easier to cut.

grate apples mix with sugar and cinnamon
Start by cutting apples (jablká) into few pieces and removing the pits and the seeds. Shred the apples using a food processor or a hand grater. Then add 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar (práškový cukor) and about a teaspoon of cinnamon (škorica).

also add raisins
Also add about a handful of raisins (hrozienka) and mix together. All this is done to taste so don’t worry if you deviate from these amounts. Next prepare the cheese filling by mixing the farmer’s cheese (tvaroh) with another 2 tablespoons (again to taste) of powdered sugar.

cut up bread rolls egg sauce
Now cut up the bread rolls (rožky) into circles about quarter inch thick. These will be soaked in a sauce prepared from 4 yolks, 1 quart of milk and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Save the whites, you will use them later.

Grease a deep baking pan well all around with butter. Then dust a thin layer of of finely ground bread crumbs (strúhanka) all around the pan. Then place about a handful of the sliced bread rolls in the egg sauce. Let them soak for few seconds, and then squeeze out much of the liquid. Place the rolls on the bottom of the baking pan to make the bottom layer. Do this with half of the bread rolls. Save the other half for later.

add fruit add cheese
Then add a layer of the fruit mixture and then another of the cheese filling.

rolls in egg
Finally, place the other half of rolls in the sauce. Let them soak up all the liquid. Then scoop them into the baking pan and make another bread layer. Then generously spread slices of butter (masľo) on this top layer. Bake in a preheat hot oven.

baked zemlovka layer of egg whites
The baking time will vary depending on the size of your pie, but it will take about an hour. You want the top to be crunchy and golden brown. But if not sure, just take out a small spoonful and taste it. Once the pie is done, beat the egg whites (bielka) mixed with few spoons of powdered sugar into a stiff snow. Spread this evenly on the top.

Slovak jablkova zemlovka (apple bread pie)
Bake for another 10-or-so minutes. Let cool down before cutting.

One of the peculiarities of the Slovak kitchen is that we often eat sweet dishes for the main course (eg. plum dumplings or poppy seed noodles). Žemlovka is no exception. Although this dish resembles the apple pie, it is eaten as the main entrée, typically following some sour soup. From the picture above, you can see that this is exactly how we had this dish today. It followed a really delicious sour mushroom soup prepared by my aunt Soňa, who previously prepared the stuffed peppers.