Tag Archives: dessert

Hoska, a Latus Family Recipe

So, what to do with all those egg yolks you were left with after making the meringues from our last post?  Well, one thing James likes to do is make a traditional eastern European Christmas/Easter bread called hoska.  A fancy-looking braided bread, James learned to make this with his mother in their Milwaukee kitchen.   He first shared it backstage with his colleagues at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC at an Easter potluck during a run of The Beggar’s Opera.  “We also did an Easter Egg hunt on the Derek McClain-designed set.  There were lots of piles of rubble and debris which gave us perfect places to hides the eggs.”  I have to wonder if one or two weren’t found until sometime during the show that night!

For all you theater folks out there, you know how the holidays go – generally we have MORE shows.  And especially in regional and Off-Broadway shows with limited runs, you often find yourself eating a potluck holiday meal backstage between shows.  James recalls this Easter potluck being one of many held during the run.  “I usually brought dessert, which is how the cheesecake bake-off began (more on that in a later post.)  But for Easter, of course I brought hoska.”

I give you James’ family recipe with all its charming, old country instructions (to make the dough rise, it recommends putting a piece of buttered waxed paper over the bowl, placing a tea towel over the waxed paper and then placing the covered bowl under a feather pillow.  Really James?  Really??)  But I’ll also tell you that I’ve halved the recipe and made this dough very successfully in my bread machine.

Hoska (Braid) Bread

Makes two braided loaves


2 cups milk
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cake yeast
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt
8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
¼ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon lemon rind


1.  Place 1/2 cup lukewarm milk in a small bowl and mix in yeast cake with 1 teaspoon sugar.  Let bubble for about 30 minutes.
2.  Heat  1 1/2 cups of milk and add 1 cup butter, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ cup sugar to hot milk.  Mix thoroughly with a spoon until butter is completely melted.
3.  In a large mixing bowl put in 4 cups sifted flour.  Make a well in the center of the flour in bowl,  add 4 egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg, 1/4 tsp. mace and 1/4 tsp. lemon rind. Add yeast mixture and milk mixture to flour & eggs. Mix well with mixer. Then add 4 more cups flour. Knead by hand until flour is well blended or use your Mixmaster hooks to knead the dough. Let the dough rise for about 1-2 hours until doubled in size. (Tip for making the dough rise. Put a piece of buttered waxed paper over the bowl and place a tea towel over the waxed paper. Place the covered bowl under a feather pillow.)
4.  After dough rises, divide dough into two portions.  Each portion will make one loaf  (FYI, each hoska consists of two braids.)  Working with one portion of dough, divide it into two parts, one part a little bigger than the other. Cut the bigger portion into 3 pieces. Roll each piece about 10 to 12″ long then form into a braid. With the smaller piece of dough, also divide that into 3 pieces but take a walnut size ball off first and reserve than. This time roll each piece only about 8″ long before making into a braid. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger. Take the walnut sized ball and roll that out into a long piece a few inches longer than the hoska. Lay this rope-like piece of dough on top of the other two and tuck the ends under the ends of the bread. You now have one hoska made. Do the same with the other portion of dough.  Remember, this makes two braided loaves.
5. Let rise about 1/2 hour. Brush the hoska with 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of cold water for a golden brown finish just before baking.
6. Bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

**Caroline’s note:  I’ve halved this recipe, warmed the milk and melted the butter separately, then put all the ingredients in my bread machine at once.  Then, I set it on the ‘Dough’ setting for about two hours and proceed with step #4 above. 



Meringue, meringue!!

The Skriker, March 1996

The first show James and I worked on together was a crazy complicated piece by Caryl Churchill called “The Skriker.”  To this day I’m not really sure if it was a play or a musical or even what it was all about.   But it was memorably dramatic and edgy and out there. It started with the unforgettable entrance of Jayne Atkinson (the Skriker) breaking through the stage floor, encased in a rubber cocoon and sitting on an armchair covered in real live grass.  She sat on top of the 12’ scissor lift and recited a 4 ½ page monologue that started with:  “Heard her boast beef a roast beef eater, daughter could spin span spick and spun the lowest form of wheat straw into gold, raw into roar, golden lion and lyonesse under the sea, her in dungeonesse under the castle, spindling swindling dwindling Gwendolyn wheedling.”   WTF??

Directed by the intrepid Mark Wing-Davey, and presented in the Public Theater’s Newman Theater, it was a wild and woolly evening of theater.  Nothing was out of bounds. Mark set the tone immediately and our rehearsals began with a leisurely game of koosh ball and ended up including field trips to the Bronx Zoo and Bellevue.  James’ rehearsal reports (which for some reason I still have) are full of delightful little oddities:

 “Does anyone have a newborn baby we could use in rehearsal for a few hours?  We’ll take good care of it, but the child shouldn’t be sensitive to being called a slitty-eyed changeling.”


“In the bar scene, the Skriker wants a scotch and soda (don’t we all.)  We’ll need an appropriate glass, ice and spoon.”


“The Fair Fairy will only vomit vegetable soup.  (Actor is vegetarian.)”

As I recall, there was a lot of food (and mud and water and slime!) used throughout the show.  One rehearsal report noted that: “For the Glamour Banquet Scene, Mark wants to use brains (from British cows, of course!), eyeballs (real or fake – you decide), edible ladyfingers and edible meringues.”

Oh that Glamour Banquet!  I remember it vividly.  The banquet table was laid directly on a large section of the stage deck that lowered so we could quickly we dress it in the trap with the above-mentioned brains, etc., and then raise it up to table height.    The number itself was deafening, full of subwoofer and strobe, and the lyrics went something like this:

Meringue meringue!  
Meringue meringue!  
Meringue utang!  
Welcome homesick
drink drank drunk
avocado and prawn cockfight cockup cocksuck
red wine or white wash
champagne the pain is a sham pain the pain is a sham
fillet steak fill it up stakes in your heart
meringue  utang
black coffee fe fi fo fum

Again, not to sound like a complete Philistine, but WTF does any of this mean??  I still haven’t a clue.

But, I think you can see where this is going – a recipe for meringues!  Meringues were, in fact, my first introduction to the Backstage Baker.  James made them all the time for the Skriker cast and crew, and took the mystery out of meringue for me.  He taught me that meringues are not scary at all, and actually quite simple to make.  Just make sure your beaters are scrupulously clean and don’t try to make these on a humid rainy day.

The recipe below got a lot of use over the recent Christmas holidays.   But you can easily enjoy these year round.   Sometimes I’ll switch out the candy canes and substitute mini-chocolate chips.  But these are also perfectly good without any additions at all.   Even better, they’re eminently suitable for the gluten-free!  (Soon we’ll post a recipe that uses all those egg yolks you’ll be left with.)

Peppermint Meringues


2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 peppermint candy canes, crushed


1.    Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  (I like to use a pastry bag or just a zip-top bag with a corner cut out to squeeze the mixture through.)  Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy (if using) over the cookies.  If using mini-chocolate chips, gently fold them into the mixture before spooning onto cookie sheet.
2.    Bake for 1 1/2 hours in preheated oven. Meringues should be completely dry on the inside.   (You’ll just have to eat one to test this.)  Do not allow them to brown. When they seem done, turn off oven. Keeping oven door ajar, let meringues sit in the oven until completely cool. Loosen from foil with metal spatula. Store loosely covered in cool dry place for up to 2 months.