“Once when my father was making the dessert, it fell to the floor and fell apart,” reveals Roman Batis and adds: “and that is why it got its name Kočevje little bomb.”
In the mid 1950s, Slavko Batis came up with a dessert in his oblong building in the centre of Kočevje that was immediately accepted among the fellow inhabitants and is considered as one of the most recognisable culinary products of Kočevska region. He also taught Adica, Francka, Marjanca and Angelca how to make a three-layered Kočevje little bomb. For decades they were preparing delicious parachute parcels, chocolate coated marshmallow treats (“indijančki”, Indian boys), cream slices, punch cakes, Kočevje star- and kiss-shaped desserts.
Kočevje bakery and confectionery was famous for its products far and wide – Batis was also known as the manufacturer of excellent candy. “The businessmen from Ljubljana wanted to buy a recipe for Kočevje little bombs. However, the father did not agree to this,” tells Roman Batis. At the time, besides the confectioners and sellers, the bakery and confectionery also employed bakers, and together with the management and office staff it provided livelihood for around twelve people.
The Kočevje rum bomb was created intentionally. The late Slavko Batis used to tell his family that after one of the exhibitions the debate touched upon a subject that the town located by Rinža certainly needs a famous dessert, such as the Zagreb cream cake and Sacher cake. The assignment was entrusted to Slavko Batis who got his specialisation in confectionery and candymaking. The interwoven layers and flavours – bittersweet – was what convinced customers. “For lovers, he also prepared coconut kiss-shaped desserts,« reminisces Roman Batis, and his father also supposedly came up with Kočevje star-shaped desserts (“kočevske zvezdice”). Or as one of the former sellers who wishes to remain unnamed tells us: “He had nimble fingers, he made all sorts of things.«
The confectioners filled the bags with sponge cake mass and pressed out circles on the trays. The ovens were in the back of the building. If cakes, i.e. baked circles were not uniform in shape they used special models to trim them. They spread cream, which among other ingredients included sugar, butter, rum and the remainder of the crushed pastry on the essence-moistened baked dough, and on it they dabbed cap-shaped whipped cream. And as the final touch, they added the sprinkled ground coffee. Mr Batis gave the original recipe to women who worked there as confectioners. Since not all of them were professionally qualified, they had to take an exam; and in those days they had to bring own recipes to class. According to testimony of Mr Roman Batis, the family no longer holds the original recipe. However, the families whose mothers used to work as confectioners, have their own recipes that they keep as the biggest secret. In decades following the closure of the bakery – there is an optics shop taking up part of the building now, while in the other part is a store Zakladi Kočevske (Treasures of Gottschee) – several variants of the story sprung up and were circulated among the passionate bakers.
Bakers started their work at night, and the confectioners early in the morning. In the early 1980s, people were waiting for bread in long lines that wound from the bakery to the sidewalk. The customers could enjoy their desserts in the other part of the bakery and confectionery where a few chairs and tables were set up. Despite the lack of ingredients and equipment – Mr Batis ordered candy models with the local craftsmen – the Kočevje bakery and confectionery had long before offered five sorts of ice-cream, truffle chocolates, decorations for Christmas trees and a myriad of treats for gourmets, while Batis cakes, which were bought even by people from Ljubljana, won awards at the catering and confectionery fairs.
Today, the City Café (Mestna kavarna) and the store Zakladi Kočevske (Treasures of Gottschee) are the only places where you can buy Kočevje little bombs.
Sources: interview with Roman Batis, son of Slavko Batis / interview with one of the saleswomen (she wishes to remain unnamed)
Kočevje little bombs recipe:
4 tbs of cold water
150 g sugar
150 g flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 baking powder
2 tbs of oil
100 g butter,
50 g powdered sugar
3 tbs of rum
2 tbs of chocolate powder
6–10 tbs of water
remainder of the sponge cake
Beat the egg whites until stiff and add 4 tablespoons of cold water. Slowly mix in sugar, yolks, flour with baking powder, salt and oil. Put in a large baking tray and bake for 20 minutes at 180 to 200 degrees Celsius.
When the sponge cake is baked, cut out the circles. Crush the remainder of the sponge cake, add 100 g of butter, 50 g of powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons of rum, 2 tablespoons of chocolate powder and 6 to 10 tablespoons of water. Mix to get a smooth punch cream.
Spread cream on sponge cake cut-outs, decorate them with whipped sweet cream and sprinkle with coffee.
Recipe by: Jana Primčič