My grandma used to make us a sweet, beignet-like treat we called by their American name: Angel Wings. Slovenians call them flancati (flan-tsa-tee) or sometimes pohanje.
She twisted strips of dough into fanciful knots and shapes and plunged them into a simmering pot of oil. (Back then, it might have been Crisco, perish the thought!) They emerged brown and crispy, ready to be mounded on a plate, buried in a snowstorm of powdered sugar, and inhaled by a tribe of hungry grandchildren.
I don’t do deep-frying. So I figured angel wings would remain a distant childhood memory.
Then I spotted a recipe for baked flancati. I figured it couldn’t possibly be legitimate. But it turns out the recipe came from More Pots and Pans, another cookbook put out by the Slovenian Women’s Union of America. So I figured it was worth a try.
The recipe, I realized, was simply a variant of the rich pastry dough, made with either sour cream or cream cheese, that is used to make those little filled cookies that are beloved by Eastern Europeans. They are known by various names: Kolachke. Kifles. Rugelach. Everyone has a version. No, it’s not exactly a health food. But baking rather than deep frying is still a more health-conscious choice.
I made a few changes in the recipe, drawing on flavor variations I found in some of the traditional fried versions. Rum instead of vanilla. A little freshly grated nutmeg. And I have to confess: I had to use salted butter. But do try to use unsalted!
2 c. flour
1/2 lb butter, unsalted
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. rum (or vanilla)
freshly grated nutmeg
Cut butter into flour, using knives or (like me) your fingers. Mix together eggs, sour cream, and rum, and add to the flour-butter mixture. Mix lightly by hand until dough is firm. Divide into four portions, wrap well, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove dough from refrigerater and let warm up at room temperature for about a half hour. Now, here is where these cookies become angel wings.
Roll each portion out on a floured surface, into an 8 or 9 inch square. Cut into 16 squares, each about 2 x 2 inches. Cut a slit in the center. At this point, directions differ. Some recipes suggest you can pull a single corner through the slit. Others offer more elaborate directions: pull one corner forward, another back. I finally figured out that the shapes look most like angels if you pull an entire side of the square through the slit. See the before-and-after photos below:
I decided to turn one batch into the familiar kolachke. I just put a small dollop of good quality apricot jam in the middle of each square and pinched two opposite corners together.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper, at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until medium brown.
Here’s a step I added: I turned the angel wings over halfway through the baking time, to make the browning more even and add to the “deep-fried” effect.
Remove to racks and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
The verdict: A sweet and delectable alternative to the deep-fried version. More like a puff pastry than a doughnut, but with the beautiful shapes and all that sugar on top, who would notice?
Enjoy! Or, as Slovenians say: Dober Tek!