On Sunday, two beloved popes from our modern era, John Paul II and John XXIII, will be canonized at the Vatican by Pope Francis.
John Paul II is the first pope of my recollection as a youth. And since he was Polish, it was an extra special honor cherished by my family. He was our pope from Oct. 16, 1978 until April 2, 2005, when he passed away 46 days short of his 85th birthday.
He was the second longest-serving pope in history, and his Polish heritage made him the first non-Italian since Pope Adrian VI, who died in 1523.
John XXIII was Pope from Oct. 28, 1958 until his death at age 81 June 3, 1963.
Even though I was only 9-years-old at the time when Pope John Paul II came to Chicago for two days in October 1979, I still recall how excited my family members were about the event. Everyone from my aunts and uncles who lived in the Polish neighborhoods around Midway Airport to my aunts and uncles at our farm were excited. My Auntie Lilly, who lived at the farm with Grandma Potempa, even took photographs of the television screen in the living room to capture images of the live coverage of the Chicago NBC news coverage, all of which she carefully preserved in a scrapbook. I've shared one of her photographs published here with today's column.
While previously known as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, he had been to Chicago before, in 1976, to visit a Northwest Side church while he was still "a little-known Polish cardinal." His 1979 Chicago visit, as John Paul II, earned him a place in history and the hearts of so many when he became the first Polish pope in history, the 264th successor to the Apostle Peter and leader to the world's 700 million Roman Catholics). His 1979 visit was also his distinction as only the second pope to visit the United States, and the first to come to Chicago.
He held mass for thousands who gathered in Chicago's Grant Park and also attended a special event at Holy Name Cathedral with Chicago's Cardinal John Cody that featured the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Much attention has been given over the years to Pope John Paul II's favorite dessert, a fluffy, sweet cream filled coffeecake pastry called Kremowka (pronounced krem-OOV-ka).
There are a number of versions of it that have floated around throughout the years. I've had a copy of a version of the recipe in my file at the farm for some time and decided this is the perfect week to share it with readers.
"Kremowka" aka Fluffy Cream-Filled Coffeecake
8 ounces wheat flour
8 ounces margarine
3 tablespoons sour cream
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cold milk (divided into 1/2 cup and 1-1/2 cups)
7 ounces butter, softened
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar (for filling)
Confectioners' sugar (for dusting top of cake)
Directions: To make pastry (a frozen prepared puff pastry can also be subbed in a pinch), combine all ingredients and mix by cutting with a knife. Knead dough and then chill in refrigerator for 24 hours. Once chilled, divide the dough into 2 parts and roll out on a floured surface into a rectangle shape slightly smaller than the baking sheet or jelly roll pan that will be used. Fold corners of pastry inward, like the shape of the flaps of an envelope and roll dough once more before baking for 10 to 15 minutes on baking sheet in oven preheated to 450 degrees. Pastry dough should bubble up from air pockets. Use a fork to release air for even baking. Remove and set aside to cool. To make filling, beat egg yolks with sugar until thick and creamy. Dissolve cornstarch and vanilla into 1/2 cup of cold milk; stir into egg yolk mixture and mix well. Bring the remaining 1-1/2 cups of milk to a boil; while boiling, stir in yolk/milk/cornstarch mixture. Stir constantly, cooking until a thick and creamy pudding-like consistency forms. Set aside to cool. Beat softened butter with confectioners' sugar until fluffy; gradually add the cold pudding mixture a little at a time, beating until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Toward the end, beat in the lemon juice. Spread the entire filling on one half of the baked dough. Cover with the other piece of dough and press down lightly (like a sandwich). Refrigerate at least one hour or until the filling is set. Carefully cut into squares with a sharp knife, taking care that the filling does not squish out the sides. Dust top of cake with confectioners' sugar. Makes 12 slices.