Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Trio of Polish Delights

It's been quite a while since I've last blogged, so I'm going to break my fast (no pun intended!) with a few traditional family recipes, courtesy of my Polish grandmother. Today is Christmas Eve, and typically my mother and I spend the day baking yummy Polish desserts, including Makowiec (poppy seed cake), Szarlotka (apple tart/pie), and Piernik (a sort of honey fruit cake, but much better than your standard fruit cake). I may not be a huge fan of my maternal grandmother, but I do have her to thank for these delicious recipes!




3/4 c. lukewarm milk
1 pkg. yeast
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 1/4 c. unbleached white flour
3 egg yolks (mixed with a little water)
2 Tbsp. rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
6 Tbsp. softened unsalted butter


3/4 c. poppy seeds
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. raisins, chopped
1/4 c. ground almonds
1 egg white, stiffly beaten

Note: We always make several cakes, so you can double, triple, quadruple, etc. the recipe as you see fit.

Soak poppy seeds in boiling water for 30 minutes to 1 hour to soften. Drain with a sieve. Transfer the poppy seeds to a food processor and grind at high speed, stopping to stir and scrape down the sides as needed. Repeat three times until poppy seeds turn grayish. Melt the butter in a frying pan or skillet. Transfer the ground poppy seeds to the pan, add sugar and honey, and stir over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the raisins and ground almonds. Remove from heat and allow to cool several hours or overnight. Fold in the beaten egg whites and set aside.

Pour the milk into a small bowl. Add the yeast and 1/2 tsp. powdered sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Sift the flour and remaining powdered sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, eggs, vanilla, and rum. Stir gently to mix with a wooden spoon. Add the orange peel and then the butter a few pats at a time. Knead for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl and let sit covered for 1 hour in a warm location.

Spread 1 Tbsp. of the butter on a cookie sheet. Punch the dough down with a single blow. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough to a 10'' X 15'' rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Place the dough on the cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg white. Spread a thin layer of filling on the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and brush with beaten egg yolk. Let sit for 20 minutes. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for at least 1 hour before serving.



Several pounds of Granny Smith or other tart green apples
Sugar to taste
Lemon juice to taste

3 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 c. unbleached sifted flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
zest from two lemons
6 Tbsp. ice cold vodka, orange juice, or water

powdered sugar (optional)

Peel, core, and slice the apples into chunks. Place them in a large bowl, and add sugar and lemon juice to taste. Allow the apples to sit covered in the refrigerator overnight.

Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the flour and cut the butter into the flour using butter knives or a food processor. Add sugar, salt, and lemon zest and continue to cut it until the dough resembles course crumbs. Sprinkle vodka, orange juice, or water over the dough. Working quickly and lightly, crumble the dough with fingers. Pack the dough into balls and place them in plastic bags in the refrigerator overnight.

Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto the work surface. Roll out the dough as thin as possible without tearing it. Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking dish and lay the dough out in the pan, pressing it to fit the sides of the dish without stretching it. Place the dish in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Drain the apples and place them in the pan. Place a thin layer of dough on top of the apples, return the pan to the oven, and continue to bake for 1 hour. Either serve warm or cool to room temperature before serving. Optionally sprinkle the top with powdered sugar before serving.



2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. honey
4 oz. sour cream
2 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Ginger
pinch of salt
3 c. flour
1 c. crushed walnuts
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. dried figs, chopped
1/2 c. dried dates, chopped

Note: The amount of walnuts, raisins, figs, and dates can be adjusted to taste.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, and honey. Mix in the sour cream, oil, baking soda, spices, salt, and flour. Fold in the crushed walnuts, raisins, figs, and dates.

Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with butter and spread the dough in the dish. Bake at 300° for 1-1 1/2 hours until golden brown. Cool to room temperature and serve.

Merry Christmas!

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