This recipe own by Jiri Knedlik’s family, comes from the old spa resort town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. Sacramento Cookie Factory is the first in the United States to offer this specialty.
These gourmet Wafers were first introduced in 1640 at the spa as a treat for the rich and famous. Known variously as Oplatky in Czech, Oblaten in German, and Carlsbad Wafers in English, the name has Latin roots, i.e. oblata, oblati, oblatus.
Early wafers were baked between waffle-like plates imprinted with the likeness of the man who would soon become Bohemia’s patron saint.
Oplatky wafers (served exclusively in the spa town) became intimately associated with the health center. Being light, low fat, and delicious didn’t hurt none neither! They are now emblematic of their city.
Over the centuries local bakers have vied to create the best commemorative designs and flavors. Proof of their success is the wafer status as a popular gift among the rich and famous. Those with financial means “took the waters” at Karlovy Vary’s various luxury spas then returned home with gift boxes of oplatky proving they’d been there (done that).
One of the first companies dedicated solely to baking luxury wafers found itself making special deliveries to Viennese royalty and Kaiser Wilhelm himself! Among noted oplatky eaters have been: President Benjamin Harrison, Chopin, Wagner, Goethe, Edward VII of England. The wafer cookie was awarded with a gold metal for best baking product at the Paris World Expo of 1900.
For centuries before it was left to slumber behind Czechoslovakia’s Iron Curtain, Karlovy Vary — Karlsbad in German — was a legendary European spa, its therapeutic mineral springs attracting the fashionable and the fawning, the earliest It Girls and the truly ailing. Peter the Great visited twice, and Emperor Franz Josef found time for a repeat trip, too. Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin took the waters and called at the right cafes, as did Goethe, Turgenev and Tolstoy. Even Marx submitted to some pampering, though he probably didn’t call it that since he was in the midst of drafting ”Das Kapital.”
Lore has it that Karlovy Vary got its start in the mid-14th century, when Charles IV was both king of Bohemia and Roman emperor. A group of his attendants, chasing a stag through the woods, were suddenly summoned by the howls of a hunting dog. They discovered the hound paddling in a pool of steaming water and, after fishing it out, founded Karlovy Vary — literally Charles’s Spring.
Baths in the waters from the town’s 14 springs were first prescribed to treat a host of disorders. Those early soaks, hours long, were nicknamed ”skin eaters” and could sometimes be worse than the ailments, leaving the skin chapped, raw and oozing. Some patients prepared their wills before arriving. Later, the drinking cure was added, at one point requiring as many as 50 cups of water a day. Between treatments, there were concerts and dances, visits over coffee and cake, and terrain therapy — strolls through the steep, pine-crested woods that rim the town, the hills traversed with scenic lookout points, shady wooden summerhouses and, of course, pubs and cafes.