ORIGINAL | CHERRIES & ROSEMARY | FENNEL & FIG | GINGER CANDY CHAI | APRICOTS & LAVENDER
The Mozdykuchen Story
Everything about Mozdykuchen evokes memories for me. The sound of the toaster going down and the anxious minute and a half waiting for it to pop conjure images of my dad in his plaid bathrobe and slippers, butter knife in hand, fending off eight little Mozdy muchkins waiting for a slice. Just like when I was a kid, the sweet smell of butter and toasted streusel topping as I crunch through the exterior into the warm, cakey inside of a slice is enough sensory load to block out the most chaotic environment. The slightly sweet aftertaste wraps me like the blue "afghan" blanket my grandma crocheted for me (one for each of us).
I learned to make kuchen from my mother, Elaine Mozdy, who learned it from her mother-in-law, Louise Mozdy, who in turn learned it from her mother-in-law, Helen Mozdy. Helen and her husband Anthony were the first Mozdys. He changed his name from Antek Mozdyniewicz when emigrating from Poland in the late 1800s, and we're sure they learned the recipe from his mother, Pelajia Mozdyniewicz. What we don't know is how many generations of Mozdyniewicz ancestors baked the bread before Pelajia, but there's a family legend to go along with that one (see below).
The Original Mozdykuchen is an old-world, Polish sweet bread - a brioche - with golden raisins and a streusel topping. Unlike a lot of other mini loaf breads, it's yeasted, which creates not just a beautiful lift to the bread, but a complexity of flavor and texture. Mozdy is our last name and "kuchen" means cake in German. I've made four modern variations of our original recipe, and I hope your family enjoys them as much as ours.
Our family legend is that a talented ancestor was once a celebrated baker in his village in what is today southern Poland. It was a part of the world that saw many rulers come and go - Polish, Cossack, Tartar, Swedish, Russian, Prussian, German. This talented ancestor was invited to bake for the reigning king at the time, and knew he had to come up with something special. He baked a rich bread, incorporating expensive ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter. What's more, he sprinkled in golden raisins like coins and a crowned it with a sweet streusel topping - truly a bread fit for a king! He won the king's favor and the recipe was passed along in our family.
I'm not 100% convinced of this fairy tale story, but what I do know is that this bread was traditionally cooked for Easter and Christmas in our Catholic family, celebrating our holy feasts. It helped us to mark these occasions in our home, and our anticipation of these holidays was intertwined with our anticipation of eating Mozdykuchen. It continues to bring a specialness to our table every time we eat it (which is about every day now!).
Cherries and Rosemary
Growing up with lots of brothers and sisters makes for good memories. That's one of our Christmas cards from back in the day - mom and dad would stack us all up in age order - although it's just the first five (I hadn't come along yet, as number eight). Up there with the memories is the smell of kuchen baking in the oven, indelibly linked to the holidays. I loved being on toasting duty just before breakfast, sneaking bites of thick, buttered slices.
In honor of my favorite memories, I’ve created this Mozdykuchen, laced with flavorful cherries and festive rosemary. It’s a bread fit for a special occasion, but versatile enough to enjoy every day. Try it with some honey and tea or use it as a handy scoop for your mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh, and feel free to take a bit when no one is looking!
Fennel and Fig
Little known fact: my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania has three more gray days a year than Seattle, and more lake-effect snow in the winter than you can imagine. I can remember several times being on I-79 just south of Erie in my teens when they closed the highway down because of blizzard conditions. White-knuckled 15-mph rides home with nothing but big flakes showing up in your headlights... yep, that's the climate my gramps decided to thumb his nose at. I made this Mozdykuchen to honor two grandparents: my wife’s Nonna Buonano from Genoa, who moved around the world in her lifetime, inspiring many with her Italian spirit, and my German grandfather, who was the only man in Erie (to my knowledge) to grow a banana tree and fig tree in the harsh climate of his back yard.
We like to cook and eat well, and bringing Mediterranean influences to this bread was a natural fit. Sweet dried figs pair with earthy and floral fennel seed to transport you to a more carefree place. Use it to make an amazing brie grilled cheese with arugula or a toast and marmalade treat.
Ginger Candy Chai
Another generation of Mozdys - these ones, my kids - have grown up with Mozdykuchen. These two are teenagers now, but at the tender ages of three and five, my kids were beautiful little bundles of energy (especially at bedtime). I remember when they decided that their favorite special drink was chai, hot or cold. We lived in Boulder, CO at the time, and have great memories of the Dushanbe Tea House where they would order their chai and sip it like grown ups. Naturally, when it was time to introduce a new flavor, the kids clamored for chai spices. After a lot of fiddling with the recipe, I've finally received their approval, and I hope yours, too.
Chai spices have the distinction of being exotic and familiar at the same time. They share much with holiday spices - cinnamon, clove, and ginger - and the addition of cardamom and black pepper bring a taste of the East to the table. In this Mozdykuchen, we've decided to spike it with spicy crystallized ginger, and the result is a heart-warming toast unlike any other. Enjoy it with some hot chocolate or a good slathering of peanut butter! You might only find this one available in the fall and winter, since we bake it seasonally to celebrate this time of year.
Apricots and Lavender
The leaves couldn't have burned more brightly than the day my wife married me. This picture is from October 23rd, up Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City, where we held our ceremony. She stole my heart, and the Apricots and Lavender Mozdykuchen reminds me of her: subtle perfume and irresistible sweetness. May you find a mate as irreplaceable!
There's bread you grab for a quick PB&J, bread you feed to the pigeons, and bread you use for a doorstop. Then there's bread for which you tiptoe down the stairs at 2 a.m., muffling the toaster when it pops, and savoring every bite. This is the bread I tiptoe on late nights for. It’s the perfect toast to accompany tea and makes a luscious sandwich bread. You might only find this one available in the spring and summer, since we bake it seasonally to celebrate this time of year.
The perfect gift for the gourmand in your life! Included in this package is a Mozdykuchen 9x7 cutting board, a beautiful porcelain butter keeper to keep butter at room temperature on your counter for 30 days at a time, and four (4) loaves of bread, one of each variety.