Polish Cakes

 

 

Cakes & Pastries

There seems to be is no end to the variety of cakes in Poland: yeast cakes, tort(layer cake), poppy seed cakes, apple cakes, cheesecakes, cakes with berries, honey cakes, cakes with nuts and many more. I could write a book just on cakes alone, even on just one type of cake.

The influence of France, Austria and Hungary can be seen or rather tasted in some of the cakes and pastries. This has come about through royal alliances in the past with foreign princesses bringing their chefs to Poland.

There are special cakes for different days of the year especially  Easter and Christmas Eve.

A Few Notes on Ingredients

I have adapted some recipes, as did my mother, to take into consideration the availability of ingredients here in England.

Cream in Poland is smetana – soured cream, and before its general availability in England we would use single or double cream with lemon juice added to it.

As in many countries in Europe, there is not any self-raising flour in Poland. There are different flours for bread making and there is a special plain flour for cake making to which you have to add baking powder. Many recipes use potato flour and sometimes cornflour.

Sugar in Poland is from sugar beet and is white sugar so there is not a tradition of cakes with brown sugar or syrup or treacle. Strangely enough the sugar is granulated or icing there is not any caster sugar.

Butter in Poland is unsalted and this although is better for baking and certainly for making butter cream, I do not find it makes enough of a difference to go out and get this type specially, salted will do if that is what you have.

Tort is usually layered up with rich butter cream or similar.

Chocolate is usually dark chocolate.

I  am going to start with a Traditional Poppy Seed Cake recipe.

 

My Polish Background

My parents met in England after the Second World War. They had come from different parts of North East Poland through many countries and many hard times; they met in Hereford and married there.

I was born in Penley (Polish Hospital) in the then County of Flint in North Wales.

I grew up in Lancashire with a large Polish community around us and my mother cooked very traditional Polish food.

I now live in West Yorkshire  and continue to cook traditional Polish food although often with a modern twist.

The winters are long and hard in Poland and the traditional dishes use ingredients which will survive through these winter months: smoked meats, picked herrings, potatoes, cabbage, pickled cabbage and gherkins, dried mushrooms, buckwheat, rye, dried fruits, poppy and caraway seeds and honey.

The summers are usually warm and there are lots of red berries, apples, fresh dill, flat leaved parsley, tomatoes, carrots and spring onions. Soured milk, soured cream and curd cheese feature in many dishes as this was the way to extend the life of dairy products before refrigeration. Much of the summer produce that was not eaten would be preserved for the winter by drying, bottling, pickling or made into jams.

Both my parents had grown up in the country side on small farms and their families had grown crops, kept animals and knew how to cure meats and preserve fruit and vegetables.

My father’s family’s land had some woodland and bordered onto a small river, and he used to say that with this they were very rich as they could hunt for small animals and birds, catch fish and find mushrooms, nuts and berries.

The Poles are very hospitable and passionate about good food, no guest invited or unexpected is ever sent away hungry. My childhood memories are filled with every occasion possible celebrated with tables filled with delicious food and people of all ages together.

The Polish kitchen seems to rely on one cook who spends a great deal of time preparing food for the extended family and “fast food” is not a description one would use of many of the dishes. However although many take a while to prepare they can then be left to cook slowly and are ideal to be reheated so there is no last minute panic and what is made can serve for several meals.

I would help my mother in the kitchen and when we went to visit my father’s family in London I would always be interested in what was the same and what was different and looked for new ideas.

I visited Poland for the first time in 1979; a time of shortages and queues however I have never tasted food with so much flavour as then. I tried old favourites and found new ideas. When I visited family and friends in the United States of America a few years later I once again tried lots of my old favourites to eat.

I have now visited Poland many times, sometimes to aunts and cousins on both my mother’s and father’s side and also to places in which I do not have family and have then eaten in hotels, restaurants, cafes and found teashops with such a variety of cakes that I have never been able to sample everything in the time I was there.

I am always pleased to have such wonderful food and take the opportunity to have my favourite dishes but in the last few trips I have been doing some research into regional variations and new versions of older recipes.

In my blog I will feature a selection of my favourite recipes from family and friends and some new discoveries, as well as some dishes that have evolved from older recipes.

So as you follow my blog and try the recipes may I wish you, as they do in Poland before eating, smacznego! (may it taste delicious).