They must be fragile, with a crunchy texture, smell like a wafer and melt deliciously in your mouth. In no case, they should stick to your palate like paper. We are talking about sweet delicate rolls that have been produced in and around the town of Hořice for 200 years.
From France to Hořice
If you go to the Louvre Museum, you can also find this painting from the mid-17th century by the French painter Lubin Baugin: Still Life with Waffles. On the table covered with a damask tablecloth, there are a bottle of wine, a glass cup and a pewter tray with rolls. So it is quite possible that even Louis XIV had enjoyed this delicate pastry. But how did the rolls get to Hořice, a small town in Czechia, located 23 km northwest of the regional city of Hradec Králové?
When Napoleon was returning home after his unsuccessful military expedition to Russia, scattered parts of his exhausted army passed through the territory of present-day Czechia. And so this legend was born… Among the wounded soldiers, there was a cook who was cared for by the local widow Líčková. When the soldier recovered, he repaid his saviour by revealing to her the recipe for this French royal delicacy. Some even claim that he was Napoleon’s personal chef, baking him diet wafers when the emperor suffered from stomach problems. Whether it was one way or another, it is certain that in Mrs. Líčková’s family, the rolls started to be baked in 1812 already.
I had the opportunity to visit the company in Miletín, where its founder Václav Klůz welcomed us – with wafers in his hands, right under the photo of another lady Marie, whom we will talk about later.
Successful Businessman Karel Kofránek
The neighbours enjoyed the rolls, so Mrs Líčková’s daughter went from house to house and baked rolls for weddings, christenings, birthdays and other family events. The housewives helped her, always picked up something by watching and then started baking themselves. However, the original recipe remained a secret and was passed down from generation to generation. Great-granddaughter Barbora Dmychová made baking rolls her profession and won the first medal for them. In addition, she met the clever confectioner Karel Kofránek. She brought the recipe to their joint family, while Karel brought an entrepreneurial spirit. Kofránek invested not only in production but also in packaging and advertising. His advertising posters recommended consuming the rolls together with another product – honey liqueur – 3-5 times a day, especially for diseases of the tongue, stomach or other problems. Of course, also just for pleasure as the most delicate dessert pastry.
Kofránek significantly modernized production by introducing an electric device with two plates for baking wafers, for which he obtained a patent. He exported his products to France, England, Germany and Turkey, but to China and America as well, and collected various recognitions and medals for them. However, when World War I started, there was a shortage of raw materials, Karel Kofránek died and the production stopped. The tradition was later restored by his daughter Marie. At that time, other confectioners in Hořice were also already baking rolls. The communists nationalized these small companies and moved production to state factories. Nevertheless, authentic rolls continued to be hand-baked and rolled at homes for own consumption. The situation changed after 1989 when several family companies resumed production. Currently, eight producers make up an association which received a protected geographical indication of the EU in 2007. The authentic Hořice rolls can only be produced by producers in the cadastre of the town of Hořice and adjacent municipalities. One of them is a company in Miletín, you can find their products under the name Hořické trubičky – Dobré z Miletína (Hořice Rolls – The Good Ones from Miletín).
How Rolls Are Made
First, round wafers are baked. In the past, such iron round tongs were used for baking.
A baked wafer was spread with melted butter with a little honey. Then it was sprinkled with a mixture, the composition of which used to be a family secret. It is usually a mixture of sugar, nuts or almonds, cocoa and cinnamon. Another wafer was placed on top of the sprinkled wafer and then they were rolled together by hand into a roll. These are typical Hořice “sprinkled” rolls.
Today, a carousel with several round plates is used for baking. The machine first pours a little dough into the centre of the plate, then the second plate is closed, the dough is spread and at a temperature of 170°C, the wafer is baked in one minute, then slides into the prepared basket.
In a 7-hour shift, 9,000 wafers are baked this way. When Mr. Klůz talks about the machines in their company, his eyes light up with enthusiasm. His original profession was mechanical designer, and he invented and designed most of the machines in the factory himself.
However, filled rolls are more commercially successful. Each wafer must be cut off to have a perfect shape.
Neatly stacked thin wafers travel to the so-called humid room, where they stay for 3-4 weeks.
Meanwhile, the sweet cream is whipped. I do not know about you, but I would like to stick my finger into that sweet mass and taste the cream immediately…
…or at least lick the beater from the mixer… 🙂
Then the wafers are rolled by hand on a heated plate using a wooden mallet. Rolls from Miletín are also special because the name of the person who rolled these rolls is written on the packaging! The company has 55 employees, and up to half of them roll the rolls by hand.
In the next phase, the coiled rolls are filled. It is not as simple as it looks. The roll must not crack and its surface must not become dirty from the filling.
Mr. Klůz admitted that every day he has to go to the storeroom with the finished rolls just to smell them. In order to recognize the quality of a roll, he does not have to eat it whole, he only needs to taste a little cream or smell the butter.
The company produces eight types of filled rolls – chocolate, nut, coffee, yoghurt, egg liqueur, etc. 1.5 million pieces are produced per month – four long trucks! They offer also rolls completely or partially dipped in chocolate.
Filled rolls are suitable for coffee or tea, and those without filling go well with wine – exactly as it is depicted in that painting from the 17th century…
More information about the company: Hořice Rolls
More information about attractions in the Hradec Králové Region: hkregion
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri