jump to navigation

Sophia Ducich and the Serbian Sisters’ Bake Sales December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts, Other.
1 comment so far

This article was published in the July/August 2011 issue along with my article “Remembering Our Past Through Celebrations at LA’s St. Sava & Jackson’s Summer Camp”  and is posted here with  permission from Serb World USA.  Order a copy of the magazine to also view the companion piece “Everything Old is New Again” by Nadine Radovich and Anita Sabovich Rowe.

Draga Milkovich, Olga Stanisich, Baba Sophia

Sophia Ducich and the Circle of Serbian Sisters, or Kolo Srpskih Sestara (KSS), were steadfast supporters of the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. They had a contract with the mission and ran the day-to-day operations of the camp and the kitchen—ensuring that the camp was open to all children every summer.

Sophia’s experience had begun decades before. At the age of 5 and already proficient in arithmetic, she had helped her mother run a boarding house in her native Montenegro, or Crna Gora. Sophia would use those skills often throughout her life.

First, there had been another boarding house in Wyoming after her father died in World War I (1914-1918). Years later in Butte, Montana, Sophia Ducich often provided board for miners, and in Fresno, California, she had owned and operated the Hiawatha Guest House.

When she came north to Jackson, she devoted herself to supporting the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. When donations were sometimes difficult to come by, she would offer her home to Serbs visiting Jackson, suggesting they donate what they felt was fair for their lodging: every penny went to St. Sava Mission since her own income came from other properties she owned.

In addition, Sophia and the ladies of the KSS would raise additional money by catering events for up to 450 people two or three times a month. The banquets were held in the mission’s large dining room, one of the largest banquet facilities in the area.

Also to benefit the mission, the Serbian Sisters would hold large bake sales. The whole of Amador County would be invited, and the sales were a huge success.

Another of Sophia Ducich’s projects was remembered by Lana Vukovich: “Baba Sophia would sell the old miners’ favorite meat pas ties up and down Main Street on St. Patrick’s Day to raise money for the mission.”

One St. Patrick’s Day, a reporter from The Amador Dispatch recognized Baba Sophia and asked, “Isn’t it unusual for the ladies of St. Sava Mission to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day event?”

“I don’t see why not,” she responded. “St. Sava and St. Patrick were both working for the same cause.”

While the recipe below is not one of Baba Sophia’s, I’d like to think it could have been at one of the bake sales, and in that spirit, I have chosen it. There are similar recipes, with slight variations, from Montenegro to Vojvodina, and for me, the fresh cherries are a reminder of all the roadside fruit stands along old Highway 99 heading north to Jackson’s St. Sava Summer Camp.


Višnjak : Serbian Cherry Cake December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
add a comment

I first published this recipe in Serb World USA July/August 2011 issue.  It is part of a series of articles about the 50th anniversary of the Serbian Summer Camp in Jackson, CA.  Read my related articles: “Remembering Our Past through Celebrations” and “Sophia Ducich and the KSS Bake Sales”

8 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2cup, plus 1 T sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1T lemon zest, finely grated
2 T lemon juice, fresh
1 tsp. vanilla extract, pure
2 C flour, all-purpose
pinch of salt
10-12 oz cherries, fresh and sweet
powdered sugar to finish

Pit the cherries and cut in half. Set aside.

Separate eggs.

Lightly butter an 8×2-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and butter the wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Add the egg yolks, then lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. (I use all the zest from 1 lemon: 1 tablespoon is approximate).  Scrape down the sides to incorporate all, then beat in the flour and mix well to make batter.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form (if doing by hand, use a large balloon whisk). Using a rubber/plastic spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter (about 1/3 of the egg whites at a time), just until all is incorporated.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pitted cherries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle sugar over the cherries (up to 1T).

Bake at 350 F. for 40-50 minutes. The top should be golden and spring back when gently pressed.

Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a thin blade around the edge, then remove the outer ring of the springform. Allow cake to completely cool before removing bottom and transferring to a serving plate. Sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.

Turkish Green Pistachio Cake ~ Yeşil Yayla Tatlısı May 22, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

I first tasted this wonderful cake at a TALL luncheon.  TALL is the acronym for “Turkish American Ladies League”, being approximately 5’3” tall I jumped at the chance to belong to a group called TALL – plus I support the charities they endorse, and the women themselves are fabulous.

The luncheon featured a fashion show (modeled by some mothers and daughters of TALL), and food prepared by various members.  The food was amazing!  To say Turkish women are good cooks is redundant, but these women really prepared some outstanding dishes.

Coffee and dessert was served after the fashion show.  Several of us were swooning with delight at the taste of the pistachio cake when we were joined by two of the models, Aydan and her lovely daughter Inci.  When we enthusiastically recommended they try the pistachio cake we were met with what seemed to be embarrassed laughter.  It turns out that Aydan had made that very cake!

Inci volunteered to send us the recipe, her mother made it from one printed in a 1994 issue of the Turkish magazine Sofra. She had hoped to also provide an English translation, but as a recent college graduate was soon packing to start her new career in another city.  Fortunately for me, she took time to provide a copy of the original recipe – in Turkish.

The recipe that follows is based on my limited knowledge of Turkish, the online Turkish dictionary, and my knowledge of baking.  If you’ve read any Turkish recipes you’ll know that their measurements include:  soup spoons, teaspoons, water glass, tea glass, coffee cup, compote bowl, etc.  So, in addition to translating the words themselves, I have also converted those measurements into ones that American kitchens are more familiar with.  I hope you enjoy the results and much as I enjoyed Aydan’s cake.

1 cup ground pistachios (110 grams) – Raw (dry roasted unsalted can be substituted)
1/3 C pistachios, chopped for topping (2 ounces, approx. 50 grams)
5 eggs – separated (extra large)
1/3 C granulated sugar (80 grams)
½ C flour 
1 Tbl  semolina
2 Tbl + 1 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp baking powder

2 ½ C granulated sugar
2 ½ C water
Juice of ½ lemon (approx 2 Tbl)

Make syrup first as it needs to cool: Mix water and sugar in saucepan. Allow the sugar and water to softly boil about 10 minutes then add the lemon juice and take off the heat. The syrup should be “sticky” but not caramelized.

Grind the nuts in a food processor: use “on/off” to ensure the nuts do not become a paste (about 110 grams or 1 ¼ Cup raw shelled whole – final after grinding should be 1 Cup).

Preheat the oven to 350°F
Grease and flour 9×13 pyrex baking pan (or generously spray with PAM Baking)

Whip the egg whites with electric mixer and a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In electric mixer beat egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow, slowly add the flour, semolina and oil. When all incorporated add the baking powder and ground nuts. The batter will be rather heavy/stiff at this point. Add a couple large spoons of the egg whites to the batter in the mixer – blend in at the slowest setting. Manually fold the remainder of the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan – smooth if necessary so it’s even. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes (a cake tester should come out clean).

Pour the cooled syrup over the hot cake – do it in stages to be sure it’s all incorporated and evenly distributed (I pricked the top of the cake with my cake tester first). Sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the top. Serve “as is” or with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Perfect Priganice April 1, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.

The Vukoje-Polich Family Recipe as presented by Veronica and Georgia at ‘The Serbian Cooking Show”

The story and recipe was published in the September/October 2010 issue of Serb World USA magazine. It is copy written and appears here with their permission. For the story related to this recipe click here:  Table Talk ~ Priganice:  One Family’s Story

2 Tbsp. sugar
I cup flour
2 Tbsp. warm water
1/2 cup warm water
1 package of yeast (2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast)

Oil for frying
Finishing Touches:
I apple (Granny Smith or similar)
Granulated sugar to coat warm priganice

Mix sugar with 2 tablespoons warm water (110°F-115°F). Sprinkle one package of dry yeast over the top. Let the yeast absorb the water for about 1-2 minutes, then gently stir. Set aside for 5 minutes until foam or small bubbles appear on the surface. If bubbles do not appear, start over: either your yeast is not fresh or your water is too hot.

Stir 1/2 cup warm water and 1cup flour into the yeast mixture. Mix well and let rise until double in volume.

When dough is risen, heat oil in a pot for frying. While the oil is heating, cut the apple into small pieces (about ½” x ¾ “). Drop a piece of apple into the dough. Use two good-sized soup spoons to cover the apple piece with dough and shape into a large “doughnut hole.” Then drop the priganica into hot oil. Use one piece of apple in each priganica.

Deep fry in hot oil, turning to brown all sides (a few minutes at most). Let the priganice rest on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Roll in sugar and eat when warm or the same day the priganice are cooked.

Note: One of my favorite cooking tips of the day came from Veronica when she said, I learned most of the nutrients in an apple are in its skin. So, I dont peel the apple for priganice anymore.

The priganice pot used by Veronica and Georgia at The Serbian Cooking Show” and featured in the article “One Family’s Story” is cast iron and measures 8″ across and 4″ deep. It has a capacity of about 2 quarts. It is very thick, very heavy, and very well seasoned.


Roštule Recipe March 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.

The story and recipe was published in the July/August 2010 issue of Serb World USA magazine. It is copy written and appears here with their permission.  For the story of this wonderful recipe from Helen’s daughters:Romilda and Natalie, click here Roštule:A recipe shared from mothers to daughters to granddaughters

4 eggs
1 tsp. whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract (not imitation)
4 T. sugar
pinch of salt
4-6 cups flour (sift flour 3 to 4 times or use presifted flour)
vegetable oil to fill the frying pan to a level of 2 ½  ” to 3″ (preferably canola)

Beat eggs until golden yellow. Beat 4 tablespoons sugar into beaten eggs. Mix in vanilla, whiskey, and a pinch of salt. Add sifted flour to egg mixture slowly–one cup at a time. Continue to incorporate flour until dough has bread-like consistency, and then knead dough on a lightly floured surface until bubbles form.

Separate dough into 8 portions. Roll out dough-very thin on floured cutting board or piece of muslin cloth.

Cutting and Shaping:
Knots or Bow Ties ~ Cut dough into strips about ¾ “ wide by 3″ long. Cut a 1-inch slit in the middle of the strip with a ravioli cutter–one that makes a fluted edge is best. Pull one end of the strip through the slit in the middle forming a bow tie or knot.

Rosettes ~ Cut into strips about ¾ ” wide by 18″ long. Loosely wrap the dough around three fingers-about 3 times-to form a rosette. Tuck the end between two layers and pinch at one end like making a flower. Insert prongs of a fork through the dough at the base where the rosette is secured so the pastry will hold its shape while frying.

In an electric frying pan, heat vegetable oil to 375°. Add only 3 or 4 roštule at one time. Do not overcrowd the frying pan as the temperature of the oil will drop, and the roštule will absorb too much oil.

Turn the roštule for even cooking. Remove when they are light and golden. Place on paper towels to cool.

Note: When first placed in frying pan, gently press the rosettes under the hot oil for a second or two. This will help to preserve their shape.

Before serving roštule, dust with powdered sugar.

Note: This recipe makes a lot! It is okay to cut the recipe in half, but remember that unsugared roštule store well in a paper box or tin for 1-2 weeks. I am told that the tradition on the Adriatic in the lands of Pastrovici is to not only make roštule for special celebrations but also to store them in tins for serving when guests drop by. The roštule are then brought out, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served, either with coffee or with shots of whiskey.

Roštule and whiskey may sound like an unusual combination, but think of it as the drink popular in the Serbian community of Los Angeles-”VO & 7up” ~ without the carbonation.

Want more on this?  Click here: Roštule:A recipe shared from mothers to daughters to granddaughters

Koljivo or Žito January 31, 2010

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts, Other.

Koljivo or Žito is a sweetened whole wheat dish that is served after Parastos, a Serbian Orthodox Church service held 40 days, and again at 1 year, after someone’s passing. More information can be found at Serbian Unity Congress website.

See my website Table Talk for the article about Bora Gajicki that accompanies this recipe.

Marge Gajicki gave me her recipe for Koljivo, which she translated from Cyrillic – she really has come a long way from Mrs. Mikulicich’s class.  However, the recipe that follows is one that I’ve created based on my memories of my grandmothers’.  To me it is the taste of old Saint Sava Church in Los Angeles.

1 pound whole wheat
1 pound powdered sugar
1 pound walnuts, shelled
1 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons golden raisins (or more to taste)
3 tablespoons golden rum (or more to cover the raisins)

Jordan almonds, blanched almonds, or additional raisins for decoration

This is not a complicated recipe, but it does take time, so start the day before (especially if you are making it for a church service).

Place whole wheat in a large pot with 6 cups of cold water over high heat.  The wheat will become about three times its size when fully cooked, so be sure to use a pot that accommodates that volume.  When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to keep it at a soft boil or simmer.  Check often to ensure that it is always covered with water.  Add additional water as needed one cup at a time (9 to 10 cups of water in total).  Allow the wheat to simmer until it is tender and “pops”, approximately 2 hours.

Draining cooked wheat

When the wheat is cooked rinse it several times in cold water and strain in a fine mesh colander.  You can leave the wheat in the colander to drain overnight (cover with a kitchen towel).  Or, spread it on a clean dry kitchen towel for at least 2 hours.

While the wheat is boiling:

Scraping the vanilla bean

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife.  Mix the vanilla seeds into the powdered sugar and set aside.   Soak the raisins in the rum, set aside.

Ground walnuts

Grind the walnuts finely.  Note:  Most of the old recipes specify that the walnuts should be ground with a meat grinder.  While I have my grandmother’s old meat grinder, and fond memories of her using it, I prefer my food processor.  Place walnuts in the food processor in batches (2 or 3 batches for 1 pound of nuts).  Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but not a paste.

Mixing it all together

Place the wheat in a large mixing bowl, mix in the vanilla powdered sugar and ground walnuts with a wooden spoon or strong spatula.  Drain the raisins and add them to the Koljivo.

Transfer the Koljivo to “your best cut-glass bowl” I can hear my grandmothers’ voices say.  Decorate with blanched almonds in the shape of a cross (optional).  Raisins or candied almonds can also be used for decoration.

Ready for a taste

Marble Pound Cake November 11, 2008

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
add a comment


The original recipe for this moist cake was called “Miracle Cake”. It was named for Miracle Margarine, which had six cubes to the pound. As Miracle Margarine is no longer available, those of us who remember this cake fondly have been trying to recreate it. A couple of us even wrote to the company that made it for a replacement suggestion – to no avail.


So, after many trials, I have found the recipe below to be the closest to my childhood memory. I even tried using fancier chocolates, but found good old fashioned Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Morsels are the best. Be sure to use good quality pure extracts, I get mine from Penzey’s (see Links).


1 lb Sweet (unsalted) Butter,

       Challenge Whipped (8oz to the tub)

1 lb Powdered Sugar

6 Eggs, large or jumbo (by weight about 12oz)

3 C Cake Flour

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Almond Extract

Dash Salt

6 oz Chocolate Chips, semi-sweet


Lightly grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan – or use PAM with flour for baking


Beat the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg at a time, incorporate prior to adding the next egg. Blend in vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in the flour, one cup at a time, and the dash of salt. The batter should be thick, but still light and fluffy.



Place chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler. Stir until all the chips have melted. Note: I usually melt the chocolate chips while whipping the butter. Then keep it over the hot water, but off the heat, until ready to use.


Pour about 2/3 of cake batter into prepared pan, spread gently. Mix the remaining 1/3 of cake batter into the melted chocolate. Pour the chocolate batter over the top of the white batter – marble slightly with your spoon or spatula; you don’t want it perfectly even.


Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Prior to spreading and baking

Prior to spreading and baking

Marble Pound Cake cooling in pan

Marble Pound Cake cooling in pan

Cool in pan. Cut into small squares and serve “as is” – no frosting or powdered sugar required!


Pistachio Wreaths or Yesil Fistik Bisküvi December 14, 2007

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
add a comment


¼ lb Butter, unsalted room temperature
¼ cup Sugar
¼ tsp Cinnamon, Ground
Lemon Zest from 1 lemon, finely grated
1 Egg Yolk
¾ Cup Flour, All-Purpose
¼ lb Pistachio Nuts, Raw, Shelled, unsalted (not dyed)
16 Cherries, Candied (cut in half for 32 pieces)
Jam of your choice

Finely grind pistachios, should be about 1 1/3 Cups ground.

Beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest until creamy. Beat in egg yolk. Sift flour over mixture, add pistachios and mix until thoroughly blended. Divide dough in half. Sift a little powdered sugar or flour over work surface. Roll each dough portion into a log about 8 inches long (on prepared surface). Wrap rolls in plastic or wax paper. Place rolls on a baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F, lightly grease two baking sheets (or use parchment paper).

Cut each log into 16 pieces. Slightly flatten each piece and make a dent in center (like for Thumbprint cookies). Place on prepared baking sheet. Fill each dent with jam of your choice (I use Apricot, Raspberry, or Strawberry). Place a candied cherry half on each cookie.

Bake for 10 -15 minutes until lightly golden. Let rest in pan a couple of minutes, then transfer to wire rack until completely cooled.

Makes 32 cookies


Almond Horn Cookies December 8, 2007

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
add a comment


These cookies say “Christmas” to me and my family. The scent of almonds and sweet butter filling the house transports us to a different time and place. The warmth of Grandma’s kitchen floods our senses and marks the start of the Christmas season. Grandma would make dozens and dozens of cookies. The variety was only matched by the taste and beauty of her creations: Almond Horn, Meringue Kisses, Linzer Wreaths, Kifle, and so many more. She would bring a box filled with these delicacies to every home she visited during the season – she was invited everywhere.

While Grandma has been gone for many years, her spirit is always with us when sharing these cookies.

½ lb Almonds, whole shelled
¾ lbs Butter, Unsalted
¾ Cup Sugar, Confection (Powdered), plus additional to dust finished cookies
3 Cups Flour, all purpose
1 tsp Vanilla extract (not imitation)

Grind the almonds in a food processor to a medium-fine consistency. Be careful not to over grind the nuts, you do not want the oils to be released which can create a paste. Blanching the almonds will result in a lighter colored cookie – I have not done that step in years and have had no complaints.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, ground almonds, flour, and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pinch a walnut sized amount of dough (or use a cookie scoop) then roll into approximately 2 inch log and shape log into a crescent (or “Horn“).

Place on ungreased cookie sheet (or lined w/parchment), about 1 – 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake about 15 minutes, they should just start to turn color.

To coat with powdered sugar:
Grandma’s method: While still warm, shake in a bag with powdered sugar to coat.
Paula’s method: Sift powdered sugar on a jelly roll pan. Place warm cookies on sugar, sift more sugar over top.

You get more broken cookies with Grandma’s method, which is great for the cook as that’s who gets to eat the broken ones!

Yields about 50 large crescents per batch.  xmas-cookies.jpg


Cha Cha Cherry Chip August 2, 2007

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
add a comment


~ an adult take on the classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

1 cup Almond Slivers, blanched
4 ounces Chocolate, Dark
8 ounces Chocolate Chips, Semi-sweet
4 ounces Chocolate, White
8 ounces Cherries, Dried Tart*
2 Cups Oats, Rolled, Dry
2 Cups Flour, all purpose
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
½ pound Butter, Unsalted – room temperature
1 cup Brown Sugar, golden
1 cup Sugar, granulated
2 Eggs, large or extra large
1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350F
Line cookie sheets with parchment or lightly grease

In a nonstick pan, toast the almonds over medium-low heat. Stir constantly, for about 5- 10 minutes, until they have just begun to turn brown and fragrant. Turn out onto a plate to cool.

Chop the chocolate into pieces, close to size of chocolate chips, and set aside. Note: good quality chocolate (Dark, White and Milk) taste best – but use whatever type you prefer (chips or bars). Remember this puts the cha-cha-cha into the Cherry Chip Cookies. In a large bowl, combine the cherries, chocolate and oats. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add granulated and brown sugars. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat the mixture until well combined, about one minute. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar mixture. Beat at low speed until well combined, less than a minute. Add chocolate, oats, and cherries (you can continue to use the electric mixer at it‘s lowest setting until these ingredients are well combined). Add the almonds by hand using a sturdy wooden spoon. Mix well by hand, until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop, measure out cookies onto sheets, leave plenty of room for the cookies to expand (I put 12 on a half sheet baking pan). Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies have set and are slightly flattened and light brown. Cool on sheets 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.


Makes 5-6 dozen, depending on how rounded your scoops are.

*Montmorency Dried Tart Cherries from Trader Joe’s are perfect. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~