There's a T. G. Masaryk quote to the effect of "as many languages as you know, such a man are you." I think for females, the quote would be something like "as many cukroví that you make, such a woman are you."  Czech women are phenomenal hostesses.  Before you even cross the threshold, they've typically got slippers ready for your feet, and once those are secured there's the offer of tea, coffee, or some other beverage.  In preparation for Christmas, Czech women begin baking with an ardor unmatched.

Last year I joined a couple colleagues for some baking.  This year I joined some new colleagues for more baking.  The first gathering was with my new dear friend Petra.  I went with her to Brno, where her in-laws live and where she attended university.  There she yearly meets her college friends for a perníková extravaganza.  When we walked in, the gingerbread dough was actively being cut into cottages, snowmen, rocking horses, mushrooms, fish, and pigs.  Yes, you understood the latter: mushrooms, fish, and pigs.  Mushrooms are an important food for the Czechs, and fish and pigs are both symbols for Christmas because the Christmas dinner is carp and mashed potatoes, and, if you fast all day before Christmas dinner, you are promised a vision of a golden pig.

I joined the ranks in cutting out countless gingerbread cookies.  After being baked and having cooled, we began decorating.  Decorating cookies is no small task here.  Last year, I was chided a couple of times for decorating "sloppily."  Recall, I studied fine art in college, yet I am a "sloppy" cookie decorator.  This, my second Czech Christmas season, I thought I might have improved my decorating skills, and at first I was proud of my work . . .

. . . then I saw the work of the other decorators.

Well, we all have to start somewhere.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed each other's company, and it was a lovely (and late) evening of festivity (cookie creating and decorating is quite exhausting).  However, Petra (in the striped shirt), was not yet finished with her baking endeavors.  Soon I received another invitation from her for a baking evening at her home.  A group of my Czech colleagues came together at her home, each of us bringing one or two (or sometimes three) prepared doughs for preparing.  Some were for cookies and others for other sweets that took other forms.  Once assembled, we quickly got to work on our 11 doughs.

This dough requires forming the dough in a mold,
then injecting it with a liquor filling. 
These ladies are hard at work on some snacks, namely chlebiěky,
which literally means "little breads,"--think open-faced sandwich.
This was a chocolate dough, to finish it off, you put a hazelnut
inside each one.
These are wine cookies, when finished cooking, they're coated in powder sugar.
None of these made it back to the States with me.
Here's another no-bake in process.  There's first some rum and something mixture, then it was covered with a melted chocolate something and then a walnut and sprinkles were placed on top.
I'm helping with my favourite Czech sweet, which translates to something like vanilla miniature rolls.
They're similar to a shortbread cookie but they're coated in powdered sugar at the end.
After the hours of baking, snacking, and chatting, all the cookies were set out, and we boxed up what we pleased, so we could all be women who made 11 different kinds of cukroví at Christmas.


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