Naturally occurring microorganisms produce many fermented milk products.
This preservation of milk has been known to be used since around 10,000 BC.
Soured milk, kefir, and yoghurt are three such products.
They could be described as “cousins”.
Lactose, the sugar, in the milk is converted into lactic acid – this is what gives them the sour taste.
Soured Milk – Kwaśne mleko or Zsiadłe mleko – is the fermented milk product that is found in Northern Europe, especially in Poland. It forms naturally from bacteria in fresh milk and these bacteria live happily in colder climates.
When we used to have farm milk at home my mother made soured milk all the time and then also made twaróg – Polish curd cheese, which is used in lots of Polish recipes – savoury and sweet.
However you cannot make soured milk from pasteurised milk at home (of course it can be made in a dairy where they will have starters).
Yoghurt – jogurt – is the fermented milk product that is found in Southern Europe and the Middle East. It forms naturally from bacteria in fresh milk and these bacteria live happily in warmer climates.
You can make yoghurt at home because you can use some bought yoghurt as a starter and some milk and then continue using your yoghurt as a starter and so on.
Naleśniki are thin pancakes like the French crêpes. Their name comes from the Polish verb to pour.
In Poland pancakes are eaten all year round, with either savoury or sweet fillings, and not just before Lent. (In fact pancakes are not amongst the special foods eaten before this time of fasting).
We used to have then about once a week but I never seemed to have been involved much in their making except for spreading the fillings on, so when I started to make them myself I had lots of disasters!
My pancakes were always a bit hit and miss. Often the constancy was not constant nor the thickness and nearly always the first one of the batch would stick to the pan and have to be thrown away.
Then I looked up the recipe in my old Polish cookbook, made a few telephone calls to various relatives and also followed Delia Smith’s advice and bought a special frying pan which I use only for pancakes.
So I now I think I know the secrets of making perfect pancakes and these I will now pass on.
Sift the flour
You must use a mixture of milk and water – 50/50 is the best – this ensures that the pancakes do not burn as easily and also enables you to make then very thin and elastic so they are easy to work with. (This is the most important tip).
Beat the eggs and add then them first to the sifted flour.
Add the milk mixture to the egg and flour mix until you have a batter the consistency of pouring cream.
Leave the batter to stand for at least 1 hour in which time it will thicken, then add a little more liquid.
Use a special thin pan which you use just for pancakes, mine has a base diameter of 20 cm and is made of steel, once seasoned, just wipe it clean between uses with kitchen roll – never scour it or use detergent.
Work out how much batter you need for a pancake and find a measure which will then give you a consistent amount – I use a small ladle which holds 45ml.
Have a dish of melted butter or margarine and sunflower oil for frying so you can add just enough and tip some back if needed.
200g plain flour
200 ml milk (full or semi-skimmed)
200 ml water
pinch of salt
This amount makes around 8 pancakes.
I remember this recipe as it is all the 2’s for ease, but it will depend on the flour and the size of the eggs, you might not use all the milk & water mixture or you might just need a little more.
Heat the pan – you want a high heat but not too much to burn the pancakes – you will find you have to keep adjusting the heat. (As I cook using gas this is easy to do).
Using the ladle pour the mixture into the pan.
Tilt the pan so that the mixture covers the surface completely and evenly.
Cook the pancakes on one side and turn then over (or toss them English style), you can make them up one by one or stack then up with a piece of greaseproof paper in between them. You can do this and leave then for later use
There are many recipes for pancake fillings both savoury and sweet.
I think the 2 most popular sweet fillings in Poland are sweet curd cheese (see a previous post) and stewed apples with cinnamon.
Pancakes with sweet fillings are normally folded into triangles – fan -shaped by folding the pancake into half and half again.
Pancakes with savoury fillings are normally rolled up and often then put in a dish, topped with a sauce or grated yellow cheese and put in the oven for a time.
In these instructions I have used photographs of pancakes being made with the sweet curd cheese filling.
I find two are enough for me!
You can make the filled pancakes in advance prior to dusting them with icing sugar and then heat them up on both sides – using the pancake pan again – maybe with the addition of a little butter. Then dust them with icing sugar.