The first people who used any kind of bread were hunter-gatherers. They baked simple flat bread made out of wild wheat on hot stones. In 1000 BC, Ancient Egyptians isolated yeast and were able to introduce the culture directly to their breads. Baking moved from bare stones to stone or brick ovens and quickly spread through Greece to the whole Europe. When it got to the old Bohemians, they started producing many different kinds of bread. One of them was houska which got its name because of the shape – it reminded a small sitting goose.
For 12 houskas, you’ll need:
4 cups of all-purpose flour (polohruba)
1 cup of lukewarm milk
3/4 of a cube of fresh yeast (30g/1oz)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter (50g/1.8oz)
salt and cumin, mixture of seeds, poppy seeds, Kosher salt, etc.
Make a pile from flour and salt with a large dent in the middle on a kitchen desk. Pour lukewarm milk in the dent, add crumbled yeast and sugar. As soon as you will see the leaven in the milk, add 1 egg, 1 yolk and melted butter. Work the dough well from the center to the sides until it is nice and smooth. Make a ball out of it. Put it in the bowl and cover with a fabric cloth. Let sit in a room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 190 C (370 F). Divide the dough ball into 12 parts of the same size. Divide each part into 3 pieces. Work them well into ropes of the same length. Make a braid from these three ropes. Repeat the process with each part out of 12. Lay the houskas on the tray with baking paper. Brush the houska with leftover egg white and sprinkle them with your favorite topping. Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Serve warm, cold, as a sandwich, as a side dish and when it gets tougher, use it without the seeds and salt for making houskove dumplings.
We never through anything away in the Czech kitchen!