Pisanki – Polish Easter Eggs

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the spring equinox, which is the 21st of March. So the earliest date for Easter is the 22nd of March and the latest date is the 25th of April.

In English the word Easter comes from the name of the pagan goddess of dawn or spring – Eastre or Eostre and her festival was in spring time and hence this old word has stuck.

In Polish the name is Wielkanoc – which translates as Great Night – as it is the night of The Resurrection.

Eggs at Easter were originally a pagan tradition as symbols of fertility, rebirth and the revival of nature and heralded in the start of spring.

The tradition was absorbed by Christianity and the egg is now the symbol of the tomb and as the chick hatches from the egg with life so it symbolises the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Pisanki are the decorated eggs you find in Poland. The word comes from the Polish verb pisać which nowadays means to write,  however in old Polish it also meant to paint.

There are many different ways of decorating eggs and each of these has its own specific name  –  one method uses beeswax and dyes are used to give wax resist patterns – another scratches away the dye to revel the original shell colour.

In Kraków there is the Museum of Ethnography, founded in 1902, which has  superb displays of intricate and beautiful pisanki through the ages – well worth a visit.

Below are photographs of an egg which was decorated using the beeswax and dye method – onion skins in this case.  It belongs to the Director of  the Leeds Polish Saturday School and was one of many made two years ago with instructions from a visiting tutor at a workshop session for the teachers and pupils at the school.

 

 

I make very simple coloured eggs by hard boiling eggs with onion skins.

Boiling eggs with brown onion skins dyes the egg shells a rich brown colour.

 

Boiling eggs with red onion skins dyes the egg shells a dark red-brown colour.

 

 

You can buy sheets of coloured paper dyes which give a range of colours   – safe edible dyes of course – I have tried these in the past but now just use onions as they are always in my vegetable basket.

Tip

When hard boiling eggs use eggs that are at least three days old as very fresh eggs are hard to peel.

These hard boiled eggs form part of the basket of food which is taken to church on the Saturday before Easter to be blessed see Palm Sunday & Holy Saturday.

The blessed eggs are peeled and cut into quarters to be shared at the Easter Breakfast with all the people present.

 

 

Other non- blessed hard boiled eggs are used in a game of tapping  eggs together to see which one cracks first.

A wooden imitation of these lovely decorated eggs is now a very popular item for sale throughout the year in Poland.  It is a something that many tourists buy to take home.

 

Picture45

Pisanki for sale in Kraków

Picture48

 

 

My Wooden Pisanki

 

 

Wooden Eggs belonging to my friend in Leeds

 

In these the wooden eggs have been painted and carved to expose the pale wood imitating the method of scratching with a fine tool the paint or dye and exposing the egg shell colour of real eggs

Easter Greetings

The photographs are taken from recent Easter cards from Poland.

Wesołych Świąt

IMG_20160307_122736836

 

Happy Holy (Holiday) Day

 

IMG_20160307_122818233

Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych

Happy Holy (Holiday) Day at Easter

Wesołego Alleluja

Happy Alleluia

 

Because of the egg theme you may also hear

Smacznego jajka 

May the eggs be delicious.

 

 

IMG_20160307_122641469

PS

After posting the above I received an Easter card from Poland with the following stamp.

IMG_20160331_155207810

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday & Holy Saturday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Palms are blessed in church on this day to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.

Of course palm trees do not grow in Poland and so other plants are substituted. Often pussy willow  is used as the catkins are usually out around this time. My mother always called pussy willow – palma – the Polish for palm.

 

Picture12

 

Twigs For Sale in the Old Square in Kraków

 

Picture11

Palms are also made from  dried grasses and corn which are often dyed to make them colourful or from coloured paper which is rolled and the edges cut to make a fringe.

IMG_20160317_084252377_HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160317_085832182

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160317_084304081

In many villages the farmers would make huge palms for the procession completing with each other to see who had the biggest and best.

The Main Square in  Kraków – Decorated with Large Palms

 

 

It is still Lent in Holy Week so the food eaten is simple and often meat, butter and egg free. Most baking and cooking done now is to make food to eat at Easter.

As well as going to church services it is a time for houses to undergo a massive clean-up especially inside.

Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent – the day before Easter.

This is the only day in the Catholic year on which Mass is not celebrated.

In Poland there is the tradition on this day to have the food for Easter blessed.

This has its roots in the early medieval church in the 12th Century and the food would have originally  been just bread and eggs.

In times past in villages the priest would have gone around to people’s houses and blessed the food there. Nowadays people bring a basket of food to the church and the food is blessed with Holy Water and is then taken home and not eaten till the Easter Sunday Breakfast.

Once blessed this basket is called święconka meaning  that which has been blessed

The basket is lined with a cloth – often white linen and sometimes embroidered.  A white linen cloth is used to cover the basket. These cloths represent the white shroud in which Jesus was wrapped.

What goes into the basket depends on several factors but hard boiled eggs and bread are usually present. Everything in the basket has a symbolic meaning.

Eggs –  Christ’s Resurrection – a symbol of life.

Bread – Christ as the Bread of Heaven.

Salt –  Preservation & Purification & Zest for Life

Horseradish – The Harsh & Bitter sacrifice of Christ.

Cooked Meat & Sausage – Joy & Abundance of God’s mercy.

Babka – The risen  dough  – this represents the Risen Christ.

Shaped Lamb (butter/cake/bread) – Christ – The Lamb of God -(see Lamb Bread)

Cheese – Moderation.

Butter – End of Lent.

Getting a basket ready to take to Church

IMG_20160317_091427426 IMG_20160317_091412273

IMG_20160314_121021117

IMG_20160314_121012463

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160209_170105296

IMG_20160302_063114078

 

 

 

IMG_20160314_121030337

 

 

 

IMG_20160301_080227533

 

 

 

Picture33 Picture23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Babka

 

IMG_20160314_121136387

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160314_121150500

 

 

 

 

 

People coming & going to church in Kraków with baskets of food.

 

 

 

Food for sale for Easter in Kraków.

Picture17

Picture22

The special meal at Easter in Poland is the Easter Breakfast –  although it is a lot later than a normal breakfast being usually around 11am

This meal is a cold buffet and includes the food that was blessed in church on Easter Saturday.

The hard boiled eggs are cut up into quarters or eighths and they are shared between everyone present  at the start of the meal.

POSTSCRIPT

Since posting I received the following photographs from my friend in Leeds who is The Director of the Polish Saturday School.

Sugar Lambs to go in the basket for blessing.

 

Salt Dough Lambs – made for the Easter Fair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polish Easter Lamb

The Lamb is a symbol of Christ Resurrected  – The  Lamb of God – The Saviour of the World.

In Poland there is a tradition of having a Lamb  on the table at Easter.  This would be made out of moulded butter or sugar or baked as a cake.  There are moulds available for making a lamb-shaped cake into which you pour the cake mixture before you bake it.

My auntie in America sent me the instructions for making a lamb using bread dough. I think the result is super.

I used my basic enriched bread dough (click here for link to the recipe).

You can use this or your favourite bread dough recipe using 500g of flour.

Make the dough until it is ready for shaping.

Shaping the Lamb

Grease a large baking sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 – 200°C.

Prepare an egg white wash by whisking an egg white in a bowl or an egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.

Divide the dough into 3 parts.

IMG_20160228_104453014_HDR

Use 1 of the pieces and shape it into a large oval – this will be the “body

IMG_20160228_104701414

 

 

 

 

Chop 1 of the pieces into 4 parts

IMG_20160228_104805952

 

 

 

 

Shape 1 part into an oval “head

Shape 1 part into an oval “tail

Shape the remaining  2 parts into long oval “legs

Attach these to the body by pinching them slightly together.

Cut a vertical slit in each leg.

IMG_20160228_105018714(1) IMG_20160228_105157040

 

 

 

 

 

Using the remaining pieces of dough, pinch off small amounts to make around 24 x 2.5 cm balls and 11 x 1cm balls by rolling the pieces in your hand.

Arrange the larger balls over the body leaving a border of around 1cm uncovered.

Arrange the smaller balls between the larger balls and on the top of the head.

Insert a currant or a raisin for the eye.

 

IMG_20160228_105821648 IMG_20160228_105830553 IMG_20160228_110240522

 

 

IMG_20160228_110236026

 

 

 

 

 

Brush with egg white wash and bake for 10 minutes.

Quickly brush on more egg white wash and sprinkle sesame seeds over the head and body.

Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or slightly longer until lightly browned on top.

IMG_20160228_113024233

IMG_20160228_113007450

 

 

 

IMG_20160228_122343641

 

 

 

IMG_20160228_122357093

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160228_122327553

 

Babka and Babeczki

A babka is a large cake and babeczki are small cakes.

For a general description on what a babka is  –  read my post – Babka.

The following cakes have been made using a creamed sponge mixture –using my mother’s friend’s basic recipe for a creamed sponge.

In this recipe you weigh the eggs in their shells and then use the same weights of butter (or block margarine), caster sugar and self raising flour.

IMG_20150709_061756195
Weighing eggs

 

IMG_20151209_072508772_HDR
Silver Tin at the front was used.

Marbled Babka

Pre-heat the over to GM4 – 180°C

Grease and flour the tin.

For this babka, 4 eggs were used.

After making the cake mixture, half the mixture was placed in the tin and to the rest 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder was added and lightly folded in. This cocoa mixture was then placed on top of the plain mixture and with a metal spoon lightly mix the two to give a marbling effect.

Bake the cake for 35 to 40minutes.

When the cake is ready, leave it to cool completely before turning it out of the tin.

 

 

The babka can be dusted with icing sugar or  you can use a chocolate glaze and allow this to dribble down the grooves.

Medium babeczki

I bought these tins a few years ago in Lidl.

You might be able to find find smaller babka tins like those in the photograph below. (I bought these many years ago in France – sold there as brioche tins).

IMG_20150824_150418237_HDR

Grease and flour the tins.

I used 3 eggs to make these 6 babeczki with the addition of 75g of currants (25g per egg)

Bake these in a pre-heated oven a GM4 – 180°C for around 25 minutes.

Wait till the cakes are cool before turning them out.

You can dust them with icing sugar or drizzle a thin lemon icing over them.

I think the size of these makes them ideal for sharing!

Small babeczki

I bought these small mini bundt tins from Marks & Spencer in January 2016.

They are a good size for an individual small cake (of course you can always have two!)

Grease and flour the tins.

Bake these in a pre-heated oven at GM4 – 180°C for around 20 minutes.

I used a 2 egg mixture with the addition of one and a half tablespoons of cocoa powder for the marbling.

This mixture made  9 cakes. (If you use a 3 egg mixture and 2 tablespoons of cocoa and fill the moulds a little more you should get 12 cakes – I have yet to try this amount.)

Wait till the cakes are cool before turning them out.

Then dust them with icing sugar before serving.

 

IMG_20160117_162535255

 

Karnawał – Carnival

The official end of the Christmas & Epiphany season is February 2nd which is 40 days(inclusive) after Christmas and is the feast of the Presentation of Christ in The Temple also known as Candlemas Day.  In Poland it is called Święto Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej – The feast of Our Lady of the Thunder Candles (as the blessed candles are used during thunder storms)

February 2nd is the start of karnawał  – carnival and the festivities leading up to the beginning of Lent which starts on Ash Wednesday.

During karnawał there is lots of dressing up in costumes such as beggars, chimney sweeps, goats, bears, horses or storks and going from farm to farm or house to house and there the revellers would be given food and drink.

The date of Ash Wednesday varies as it is based on the date for Easter which is calculated according to the Paschal full moon.

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the spring equinox, which is the 21st of March. So the earliest date for Easter is the 22nd of March and the latest date is the 25th of April.

Ash Wednesday is six and a half weeks before Easter – calculated as 40 days but the Sundays are not included so it is in fact 46 days before Easter Sunday.

Therefore the earliest date for Ash Wednesday is the 4th of February and the latest date is the 10th of March.

In a year when Ash Wednesday is very early – I am sure that  karnawał  festivities would begin a little early!

After Christmas with all the wonderful food it seems like only a few days and it is time to prepare for Lent. All the rich food is used up before Lent, especially on the last day before Ash Wednesday.

In England it is Shrove Tuesday, in France Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday), in Poland tłusty wtorek (Fat Tuesday) and in some parts of Poland there is also tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday) and then the last Tuesday can also be be called ostatki (last remnants).

In Poland chrusty and pączki (doughnuts) are made (pancakes are eaten throughout the year and do not feature here.)

My mother always made chrusty, doughnuts we got from other Polish ladies in the neighbourhood.

I was in Kraków once on tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday) and bought some doughnuts  – I found that these were very special ones made for that day made with rose petal jam.  I am afraid I did not like these – I am used to Polish plum jam or raspberry jam in Polish doughnuts and found theses too perfumed for me. (I have recently seen many English recipes made with rose petal jam – so maybe it is an acquired taste)   

Chrusty

Chrusty are deep fat fried, sugar dusted pastries.

These must be my favourite pastries which my mother would only make once or twice a year before Lent began.

When I was little before I started to help, I could never understand how she made these amazing shapes.

The name chrusty means “dry twigs” which may describe their appearance but not their taste!

You could call them ribbon shaped and in some parts of Poland they are called faworki from the French word  faveur which means  favour as in the coloured ribbons given by ladies to Medieval knights.

My aunty in The United States told me that nowadays they are popular there for weddings and other big parties not just during carnival and that Americans call them Angel wings.

I remember that my mother always fried these in vegetable oil.  During my research I have realised that originally they were fried in lard, and the books say that this makes them very tasty!

They taste best a few minutes after cooking, straight from the pan, when still slightly warm and dusted with icing sugar.  So being in the kitchen when they are being made is the best place to be!

Ingredients

300g plain flour

100g self-raising flour

50g butter

50g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of rum (or vodka and 2 drops of vanilla essence)

2 – 3 tablespoon of soured cream to mix (use double cream if not available)

Sunflower oil to deep fat fry

Icing sugar to dust

Method

Mix the flours together and rub in the butter to make fine crumbs and then mix in the sugar.

Mix together the eggs, yolks and alcohol together. Make the decision on how much cream to use or not as you start to mix later.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid.

Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients to make a  soft dough.  You can use a knife at first and then your hands.

If the dough needs some extra liquid then add the soured cream bit by bit.

Take about a third of the dough and roll it out on a floured board as thinly as possible.

Using a sharp knife cut strips which are strips 3 to 4 cm wide and about 15cm long, you can cut the short edges diagonally.

In each one cut a slit down the middle long ways and pull the short edge through to make a twist.

Repeat with the rest of the dough, try to use as much as possible in the first cutting but you can mix and re-roll the off-cuts.

Try not to add too much extra flour when re-rolling.

You can brush of excess flour with a pastry brush.

In a pan or fryer heat up the oil and deep fat fry the chrusty, about 2 or 3 at a time till they are golden.  They will rise to the top as they cook, turn them over using bamboo or wooden tongs.

Remove from the hot oil, using the frying basket or bamboo/wooden tongs.

Place onto kitchen roll and dust with icing sugar.

If you have any left put them in an airtight container when they are completely cold and add extra icing sugar when you serve them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Babka

Babka is the name of a Polish cake.

Babka means grandmother and refers to the round dumpy shape reminiscent of an older lady wearing a long full skirt as is traditional in many Polish folk costumes.

Wooden Dolls in Polish Costumes

IMG_20160122_115232764

IMG_20160122_115446112 IMG_20160122_115431469 IMG_20160122_115339715 IMG_20160122_115323452 IMG_20160122_115312632

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are references to this cake in Poland in the early 18 century.

The early cakes will have been yeast cakes.

Later cakes were creamed sponge cakes and  then marbled (usually with cocoa powder) cakes  became very popular.

Yeast cakes are glazed with either warmed honey, a sugar and lemon glaze or poncz (derived from the English word – punch) which is a  sweetened syrup made with tea and rum.

At Easter a yeast babka is very traditional and it would also be covered in a thin icing glaze.

A creamed sponge babka  can be  made with wheat flour or a mixture of potato flour and  wheat flour.

Dried fruit such as currants, sultanas, raisins or candied peel can be added – just small amounts – this is not a heavy fruit cake!

Many are also iced or glazed with  a lemon or vanilla icing

The marbled cakes  are often coated with a runny  chocolate icing which is allowed to run down from the top.

Assorted Babka Tins

 

Yeast Babka with Raisins – Dusted with Icing Sugar

 

Creamed Sponge Babka

 

Marbled Babka

In other parts of Europe there are similar cakes such as Gugelhopf or Kugelhopf in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland  and Bundkuchen in Northern Germany.

In Italy there is the panetonne – the name for this in Polish is włoska babka which means Italian babka.

In the 1950s Nordic Ware in the USA produced a tin which they trademarked as a Bundt  tin.

It is thought the name comes from a  Bundkuchen   – a cake for a large gathering in Northern Germany.

Babecki – small Babka cakes

IMG_20160112_170556139 IMG_20160112_170548279 IMG_20160111_150948880 IMG_20160111_170817391

 

Babecki – made in a new tin from Marks & Spencer – which they call a 12 cup mini Bundt tray.

IMG_20160117_155144747

IMG_20160117_162535255

 

The origin of baba au rhum or rum baba 

Legend has it that when Stanisław Leszczyński   (1677-1766) the exiled King of Poland was living in Lorraine in France (He was made Duke of Lorraine and Bar for his lifetime) he had acquired some (yeast) babka which turned out to be very dry. His pastry chef revived it by soaking it in a sugary rum liquid (very like the poncz they use in Poland). This became the start of baba au rhum in France. These  are usually done as small individual cakes nowadays. note

Dry babka will soak up more liquid than a freshly baked one – so if you are making this it is better to use cake at least a day old.

 Savarin

The savarin was invented in Paris in 1844 and was inspired by the baba au rhum but it is large cake made in a circular(ring) tin. In the centre it usually has fruit in syrup and whipped cream (this is not used in Polish cookery).

Recipes to Follow

Future posts are coming up shortly with recipes for the various types of babka – look out for these!