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Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits | Kūčiukai [Recipe]

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com

Christmas is a time for tradition. What’s fascinating to me is how much those traditions vary from country to country and even from family to family. Some children post their letter to Santa up the chimney, some through the regular mail. Some leave out milk and cookies for Santa, but in our house it was a bottle of Guinness and a few mince pies. (Clever ole Dad!) Some traditions don’t believe in Santa at all.

Being somewhat food obsessed, to me the most interesting differences are centred round the foods we eat and how we prepare and serve those foods. In Ireland, the main Christmas feast is served on Christmas Day and typically includes roast turkey, baked ham, boiled Brussels sprouts and roast potatoes. Sweet treats include iced Christmas cake, brandy-laced Christmas pudding and mince pies. Most of these foods are not traditional used in Lithuanian Christmas cooking and in many cases are impossible to source here.

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com

In Lithuania, the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. The meal, known as Kūčios, consists of 12 meatless dishes and typically includes herring, sauerkraut, potatoes, mushrooms, beetroot, carrots and stuffed eggs. For dessert there is a stodgy cranberry drink known as kisielius and bite-sized biscuits called kūčiukai (koo-chuck-ay) made with poppy seeds.

Kūčiukai are typically served with a glass of milk. Old traditions dictated that no animal products, including dairy products, should be consumed on Christmas Eve and so poppy seed milk was used in place of dairy milk. In many regions this custom has now petered out and dairy milk is used. In some homes the biscuits are soaked in milk before eating, in others the milk is served as a drink on the side.

Kūčiukai are widely available in the supermarkets here, but they are generally mass-produced and full of unnecessary ingredients. They are incredibly simple to make and only require a small number of ingredients so this year I decided to make my own. I always feel that the tradition of making the food is as important as the food itself. We always made our own Christmas cake and pudding and now that I’ve chosen to live here in Lithuania I want to start a new tradition of always making my own kūčiukai.

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com

Notes on ingredients:

I use butter in my kūčiukai. Traditionally, only foods typically available during a Lithuanian winter could be used in preparing dishes for the Christmas Eve feast. To me, butter is one of the oldest and most natural cooking fats and fits well with this tradition. Many recipes I found both online and in books used butter as an ingredient. However, if you prefer to stay with the tradition of avoiding dairy products while still using traditional Lithuanian ingredients, I suggest replacing the butter in the recipe with 25 ml (2 Tbsp) of rapeseed (canola) or sunflower oil.

The description of kūčiukai on Wikipedia says that they are made with leavened dough – that is, that the dough has been risen with yeast or some other raising agent. All recipes I found either in books or online included yeast. I made many batches of kūčiukai while developing this recipe and only one batch rose significantly. That batch included more water and the final biscuit was not as crisp as I would like – it was more like a bread than a biscuit. My final recipe still includes yeast as it impacts both the flavour and the texture, but don’t expect the dough to double in size as you would with yeast bread. It may rise slightly, or not at all. However, allow it to rest for at least one hour before baking to allow for fermentation of the sugars which will improve both the texture and flavour of your final biscuits.

Poppy seeds are widely available in Lithuania, particularly at this time of year. They also appear to be widely available in the US. In Ireland I’m not sure if they are available in all supermarkets, but they currently available in Lidl and should also be available in Health Food stores or in Polish or Lithuanian supermarkets, if you happen to live near one.

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits | Kūčiukai

  • Servings: About 100 biscuits
  • Time: Prep 20 mins | Bake 18 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

    250 g | 9 oz plain flour (all-purpose flour)
    5 g | 1 tsp salt
    90 g | 3 oz sugar
    20 g | 2 Tbsp poppy seeds
    25 g | 2 Tbsp butter (or 25 ml | 2 Tbsp sunflower oil for vegan version)
    7 g | ¼ oz fresh yeast or 3.5 g | ⅛ oz dried yeast
    90 ml | 3 fl oz warm water *

*The water should be just warm enough to touch with your finger for at least 10 seconds without feeling hot. I generally use 1/3 boiling water and 2/3 cold water to get just the right temperature.

METHOD:

  1. Place the flour, salt, sugar, poppy seeds, butter (or oil) and yeast in the large bowl of your food processor and mix on full power for about 20 seconds to thoroughly combine the ingredients and to distribute the yeast and poppy seeds.
  2. Pour the water into the food processor and mix on full power for about 1 minute. The mix should come together into a ball in about 20 seconds but continuing to mix for a little longer will help to knead the dough. After 1 minute the dough should be soft and slightly sticky to touch.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and knead for about 1 minute to form into a smooth round. Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for at about 1-2 hours to rise and ferment. (Note that the dough will not rise significantly in the same way as yeast bread. However, allowing the dough to rest for 1-2 hours will greatly improve the final flavour & texture of the biscuits.)
  4. After 1-2 hours, preheat the oven to 180˚ C (355˚ F)
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and cut into 4 pieces.
  6. Roll each piece of dough into a long sausage about 2 cm wide. Ensure the dough is the same thickness along the full length of the roll so that the biscuits will all be a similar size and cook evenly. Note that the roll will end up being about 40 cm long so make sure you have enough space on your board. Alternatively, use your worktop to roll the dough or cut the dough into smaller pieces before rolling.
  7. Cut each roll evenly into 2 cm pieces. You should get about 25 pieces per roll.
  8. Transfer the pieces to a lightly floured baking sheet. Leave a small gap (about ½ cm) between each piece as they will expand a little during baking.
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes until all the biscuits are golden brown and a little crisp. They will crisp further as they cool so don’t overcook them.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet before transferring to an airtight jar or biscuit tin.
  11. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk or with your favourite coffee.

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com


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Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits / Kūčiukai | www.myfoododyssey.com
38 Comments Post a comment
  1. I grew up eating these every Christmas eve in Poppy Seed Milk and looked forward to eating them along with all the other fantastic items that were part of the Christmas Eve tradition. From fish in red sauce to fish in white sauce to mushroom salad… it was a feast that lasted for weeks afterwards in leftovers. Simply amazing. Those look a bit different than the ones I grew up on, but they still look fantastic

    Liked by 1 person

    December 20, 2016
    • I know – 12 dishes is a lot of food! Thankfully those leftovers are delicious!

      Like

      December 20, 2016
  2. Thank you for liking my post “Creek Life II” Please stop back any time.

    Like

    December 17, 2015
  3. Susan V #

    I’ve had trouble making gluten free kuciukai in the past (which I must), so I think I’ll try to start with your recipe and try to adapt it. For those who don’t like poppy seed milk, I’ve found after a few years of kucios celebrations with my husband, it kind of grows on you after a while. By the way, why Guinness and not Svyturys? You’re in Lithuania now! LOL. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    March 24, 2015
    • Hey Susan. I don’t do much gluten free baking so I can’t really help, only to say that these don’t really need gluten as they don’t rise, so I reckon a gluten free version should work fine. The Guinness bit was a reference to my childhood – we only drink Lithuanian beer now!

      Like

      March 24, 2015
  4. Ruta Rusinas #

    Thanks for posting your recipe! It’s always better when someone else has ironed out all the kinks. In my family none of us are fans of poppy seed milk but we love kuciukai as a snack on Christmas Eve and throughout the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 1, 2015
  5. kūčiukai is the best part of meatless Christmas Eve dinner. My grandma used to bake them in a firewood stove, and they used to come in all sorts of sizes, level of crunchiness as well as level of brownness. Mmm, yummy indeed! And when you get to eat as much of them as you want – it’s like a dream come true for me as a kid, since usually I was not allowed to feast on desserts in such quantities 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    December 19, 2014
    • They really are addictive, aren’t they? Once you start munching it’s hard to stop, especially cos they’re so small, they feel like nothing!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 19, 2014
      • Indeed they are 🙂 Thank god they contain poppy seeds, so it’s like getting your daily dose of veggies/fruits/seeds all in one 😉 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        December 19, 2014
  6. They look very good. I like poppy seed dressing and muffins. These would go very nicely with a glass of milk. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    December 15, 2014
    • Ooh, poppy seed muffins sound good – must give those a try. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      December 15, 2014
      • Just don’t get a drug test after eating them. They have a tendency to show up as cocaine, or one of those drugs! Wouldn’t want you to get arrested! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        December 15, 2014
  7. Gary #

    i’ll definately give these a go…with a light covering of traditional Irish salted butter. By the way poppy seeds are available here in Lidl…€1.39 for 90g (millions of them and they last for-ever, and I should know…there’ll all over my kitched floor!!).

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2014
    • Thanks Gary – good to know they’re available in Ireland. I reckoned the had to be, I just couldn’t find them on the supermarkets’ websites. These are easy and lovely to leave on the table for nibbles. Good ole Irish butter – I miss it!

      Like

      December 9, 2014
  8. Poppy seeds are, interestingly enough, a banned product in the UAE. So I guess I wouldn’t be making these for Christmas then. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2014
    • Banned?! How interesting. Any idea why? Is it thought that they might give you some sort of high (an opium connection) or maybe that they carry bugs or parasites? Or do they just not want people to grow poppies? (Opium again, I’m guessing,) Pity – these are yum!

      Like

      December 9, 2014
      • My guess is that it is the opium connection, June. I agree with you, they are delicious.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 9, 2014
  9. They look delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2014
  10. Beth #

    If I were slim like I used to be until a few years ago, I would cook every new recipe I find. As it is I only sit and drool.

    Hmmmm… Maybe I can cook these for company. Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 8, 2014
    • These are so tiny they couldn’t possibly have an impact on one’s waistline!

      Like

      December 9, 2014
  11. Hey, it might be easy to be a vegetarian in Lithuania at Christmas, lol. These look yummy!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 8, 2014
    • Yeh, it’s definitely not the meat-fest that it is in other countries. There’s lots of fish, though. Do you eat fish? I know vegetarians don’t eat fish, but I know a few pseudo-vegetarians that do!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 9, 2014
      • My sister eats fish, since in Denmark it’s hard to be a full vegetarian. I’m strict no meat eater though. However my preference, if I didn’t turn into a size three hundred, would be just to live on desserts, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 9, 2014
  12. Milk. Meatless. Sigh. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    December 8, 2014
  13. I love poppy seeds 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    December 8, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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