Midsummer (Līgo/Jāņi) is probably the most favourite and significant holiday for Latvians. It’s celebrated on 23/24th June when the night is so short that there’re only a couple of really dark hours. It’s not as evident as the famous Saint Petersburg’s “white nights”, but still enough for birds to confuse day and night: sometimes you can hear them sing or make noise after midnight. I’d say it’s even a little bit disturbing that the sky almost never turns black in June – I keep waking up at night because of that eerie blue glow coming through the curtains.
On the shortest night of the year, everyone heads out to the countryside, drinks gallons of beer, barbecues, eats traditional caraway cheese (Jāņu siers, see picture), makes (or tries to make) bonfires and almost certainly soaks in the rain, because it typically rains on Midsummer. The cities become absolutely deserted! All guys named Jānis wear heavy oak leaf wreaths and all ladies named Līga wear wreaths of flowers/oak leaves. If you see an oak leaf wreath on a car – there’s certainly a Jānis in it! Oh and there’s also that ancient tradition of searching for the mythical fern blossom, which is believed to have magical powers. Actually the fern blossom quest means more than just that – to give you a hint, a lot of children are born 9 months after Midsummer night 🙂
Even though I don’t celebrate Midsummer, I couldn’t miss the chance to buy some of that special caraway cheese and use it for some crescent rolls. I first saw garlic crescent rolls on a Slovak Christmas table and copied the recipe from Stano’s Mother. With some tweaking and the addition of some fresh dill this could make a lovely Midsummer snack, I figured. And with caraway cheese these rolls turn into a truest Midsummer treat! They pair perfectly with beer, cider, and fresh vegetables, and they’re easily transportable, in case you’re going to have a picnic. For the garlic version, there’s a lot of garlic odour while baking, but ready crescent rolls are just slightly garlicky. And they look so plump and appetizing!
1kg all-purpose flour
150g margarine, melted
700ml milk, lukewarm
50g baker’s yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
Garlic filling (for ½ of the crescent rolls):
7 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
Cheese filling (for remaining crescent rolls):
1 cup shredded cheese (Gouda-type-like)
1 cup shredded caraway cheese (or a fresh cheese + caraway seeds)
Salt to taste
1 egg yolk
1 egg white, slightly beaten with a fork
Cilantro, sesame, nigella, cumin seeds
Makes 80 crescent rolls
In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and half of the milk. Stir until well-blended and no lumps. Gradually add flour while stirring. When you’ve added about ½ of the flour, add salt and fold in melted margarine. Stir thoroughly and continue adding flour. When the dough turns thick and sticky, start kneading by hand, stretching and tossing the dough from hand to hand – this will make it airier. Continue kneading until smooth and non-sticky. When your fingers are completely clean, the dough is ready. Return it to the bowl, cover and leave for about an hour to rise.
To make garlic filling, combine all ingredients and blend with a fork.
To make cheese filling, combine two kinds of cheeses and season with salt if necessary. If you don’t have caraway cheese, use any other kind of fresh crumbly cheese and add a spoonful of cumin. Add egg yolk and stir well.
When the dough has risen, divide it into 10 parts. We will be making 5 batches of garlic crescent rolls and 5 batches of cheese crescent rolls.
Roll out each lump of dough and cut it into 8 wedges. Spread the filling on each wedge and make crescent rolls. Be sure to seal the pointed edge properly. (In the picture: We made one batch of garlic rolls without dill)
Brush the crescent rolls with beaten egg white and (optionally) sprinkle with sesame, cilantro, caraway, or nigella seeds. We used cilantro for the garlic version and sesame/caraway for the cheese version.
Bake on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.