Growing up in a Russian Mennonite** home, the best summer memories usually included Roll Kuchen and Rhebuze. The direct translations of these are “rolled cookies” and “watermelon”, though the term rolled cookies is a bit of a misnomer. They are indeed rolled, but they are certainly not cookies – they don’t even have sugar in them, for goodness sake! Instead, roll kuchen is a kind of a fritter or perhaps fried bread. Whatever you want to call them, they’re wonderful! My mum says that her mother would make them in summer and they would ALWAYS be eaten with watermelon: “you would have the roll kuchen in one hand and the rhebuze in the other and eat them together, alternating bites between the two.” She herself likes to dip them in corn syrup, or a strawberry rhubarb syrup/jam. Personally, I prefer mine spread with honey. Whatever way you have them, it should be something sweet because of the saltiness of the kuchen.
I had never made roll kuchen before and was, frankly, a little intimidated by the process. I decided to make them when my aunt was planning a family gathering and was saying she had arranged for one of my uncles to buy roll kuchen. I thought of my blog and offered to make a batch. As I rolled out and fried the dough, my mum and I looked at each other in amazement. Neither of us could believe that we had actually made what sat in front of us – real authentic roll kuchen! It really was quite the moment, lol.
The recipe I ended up using was not from Grandma’s recipe box. But it was from my other grandmother’s collection of recipes. My aunt who lives in California has Grandma K’s original recipe book and was kind enough to email me a picture of the recipe. I will also admit to veering from the original recipe slightly, adding a little sour cream. I would feel guilty about it, but since they turned out so good, I don’t think I have to.
Roll Kuchen (Rol Cookies)
- 3/4 cup whipping (32%) cream
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 1/2 cups flour
You’ll notice that I cut the whipping cream down and added sour cream. I did this because it didn’t make sense to me that there would be baking soda in a recipe without an acid. I also thought the sour cream would add to the taste and texture of the kuchen.
I beat the eggs and creams together and then drizzled the melted butter into the liquid. The recipe doesn’t actually say to melt the butter, but most other recipes I looked at gave this direction, so I went with it. I then sifted in the dry ingredients and mixed it all together with a spoon.
I chilled the dough for a few hours (though it probably only needs one hour in the fridge) and then I started rolling it out. I used LOTS of flour to coat the counter surface, as the dough was quite sticky. I was sorry I hadn’t added more flour to the batter when I mixed it all together, but my mum said she had heard it’s better to have a sticky dough and use more flour in the rolling process rather than adding too much flour and risk having a tough dough. I rolled the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch … possibly a little less (I’m terrible at measuring thicknesses like that!) and then cut the dough into strips using a pizza cutter. Roll kuchen always has a slit down the centre to make them cook faster in the hot oil. I placed the uncooked kuchen on cookie sheets so I could fry them all without having to stop and roll out more in between. It’s important to note that if you want crispy roll kuchen, roll the dough out VERY thin. Mine was plenty thick enough for a soft kuchen. You might want to experiment on this to get your own preference.
Once I had all the kuchen rolled out and the deep fryer was ready, I gently dropped them one at a time into the hot oil (I fried up 3 in at a time). They immediately puffed up and took about a minute to a minute and a half to cook on each side. I drained them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and tried not to eat too many before the gathering. Not sure I was successful on that count.
These were so much fun to make – I’ll definitely be putting this recipe in my own special recipe book. My mum has even volunteered me to make them for a small gathering with my siblings next Sunday, lol.
** Note: Russian Mennonites should not be confused with the Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch. After the Anabaptist reformation, the Mennonites (those who followed the teachings of Menno Simons) had to flee Germany and Holland due to religious persecution from not only the Catholics, but the Protestant church as well. Some Mennonite groups came immediately to North America – those would be the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish. My forefathers, however, emigrated from Europe first to Russia and Prussia (now known as the Ukraine) and then to the North American prairies several generations later in the early 1800’s and mid 1900’s. We kept much of our Dutch heritage, but incorporated a lot of Ukrainian and Russian cooking into our diet.