Streator parish bakers make dough for their school with rozek

STREATOR — It takes quite a bit of dough to make 2,000 rolls of rozek each year, but sales of the Slovak delicacy make a lot of dough and all of it goes to St. Michael the Archangel School.

“We make about $20,000 a year for the school,” said Margaret Kmetz, coordinator of the parish bakers for the last 13 years. “Nobody here gets paid. Hopefully they’ll get paid in heaven.”

One year the proceeds were used to buy smartboards for the classrooms, for example. She has also heard that the funds help to pay the salaries of support staff at the school.

The holiday tradition was started by the St. Stephen Altar and Rosary Society in Streator about 75 years ago. At that time they baked the rozek on Friday and sold them the following day.

Now the parish bakers start baking about a month before Thanksgiving and continue until Christmas. They take orders for the rolls, which may be picked up the Saturday before each of those holidays. The rozek is also a popular item at the Christmas bazaar, Kmetz said.

In addition to the rozek, they make and sell cinnamon rolls, cream puffs and pagach — a Slovak stuff-cabbage bread — at Christmas.

They will start baking again in February for Easter. Paska, another traditional Slovak bread, and kolach with prunes, apricots or cottage cheese are offered along with the rozek for this sale.

The rozek comes in a variety of flavors, including pecan, raspberry, poppyseed, cherry, cottage cheese with golden raisins, prune, raisin, and nuts with brown sugar. Kmetz said the most popular is the apricot rozek.

She gets orders from as far away as California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Montana. One parishioner asks for 20 or 30 rolls each Christmas to give as gifts to her large, extended family.

Baking is done on Saturdays in the kitchen of St. Michael the Archangel School and starts at about 7 a.m., when Greg Palko, Tom Washko or Roger Johnson arrive to make the dough. The bakers arrive at 8:30 a.m. and get to work weighing the dough, rolling it out, spreading the filling of the day, rolling it up and placing the rolls in pans equipped with special dividers.

John Kinkade makes certain the rozek gets into the oven and bakes until golden brown.

“Everyone knows what to do,” Kmetz said. “We rock and roll.”

The rolls cool while the volunteers have lunch. Before everyone leaves, the rozek is wrapped and placed in the freezer for storage.

Kmetz said on an average baking day they’ll make as many as eight batches, which is about 212 rolls.

“We have a good time and we enjoy doing it,” Kmetz said as the school cafeteria buzzed with activity, conversation and laughter on a recent Saturday. “It’s our work of love.”

The rozek sell for $10 per roll. While it’s too late to place orders for the Christmas sale, Kmetz said anyone who would like to buy the rolls may contact her at (815) 672-9463 and she’ll mail them if and when they are available.

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