Recipe by Fit Fan Chris Pronchik
This bread, which is basically a simple cheese bread, has been handed down through my father’s side of the family. Its heritage, we believe, is Ukrainian – but it could just as easily be from any of the ethnic regions in the Western area of Ukraine, near Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. As my grandmother once put it, the borders were always changing.
My grandmother did not have a written recipe for the bread (which would have needed translation from Ukrainian anyway) and as far as I can determine, no one ever tried to write its name in english. HZYMPKA (ha-zeemp’-ka) is my best phonetic guess of what I heard my grandmom and dad call it.
My mom and dad always made it with swiss cheese – as do I now – but I suspect that something like a farmer’s cheese (or whatever my ancestors had on hand at the time) would be more authentic. My dad also made a version with mashed potatoes when I was a child and it was the only type I would eat.
This bread is best served within an hour after it is made, when the cheese is still buttery-warm and soft. If any is still around the next day, serve it sliced, buttered and slightly toasted in a toaster oven.
Do I have to say how well it goes with kielbasi?
There are no added oils in this recipe but you want to make it more healthy you can substitute the Swiss cheese for a reduced fat cheese.
- 2½ cup flour
- 1 cup luke warm water
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounce Swiss cheese, cubed
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- 1. Make a sponge by whisking together 1 cup flour with the water, sugar and yeast, in a large bowl. Cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes or until bubbly. (If it doesn’t bubble up, after an hour, there is a problem with the yeast or the water was too hot – and you must start over.)
- 2. Add the salt and the remaining 1½ cups of flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until a uniform texture develops. The dough will be very sticky. Recover the bowl with the damp towel and let it rest/rise for about an hour until approximately doubled in bulk. Note: You may use something like a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook in place of hand mixing as it does take some muscle, but I do not recommend a food processor.
- 3. After it has risen, gently pour/coax the dough into a buttered 8 or 9 inch cake pan (or pie plate), centering it, and allowing it to relax. Place the cubed cheese uniformly on top. Sprinkle with a liberal amount of cracked black pepper, and if you like, a little coarse salt too.
Then with your fingers, pull the dough from edge to middle, so that it covers the cheese. The trick is to stretch the sticky dough over the cheese without redistributing it too much. If the dough is sticking to your hands, you can try dipping them in water. Cover with the damp towel again and let the bread rise in a warm area of the kitchen until doubled.
- 4. Apply an egg glaze to the bread (1 egg yolk and a tsp. water) and place in a heated 400° oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
When done, remove it from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before cutting it.