Biszkopt – Sponge Cake using Potato Flour

Biszkopt is a fat free sponge cake which means it does not have any butter, margarine or oil in it – just eggs, sugar & flour.

This recipe in my Polish cookery book is described as oszczędna which means economical and compared with many of the recipes which use 4 or more eggs it is.

I used this recipe to make  a cake which is very popular in Poland  –  rolada  which is a  roulade or roll.

I was really pleased with this  recipe & think I  will continue to use this the most.

Ingredients

40g potato flour

3 tablespoons of plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder.

2 eggs separated

65g icing sugar plus 1 tablespoon of icing sugar & extra for dusting.

2 tablespoons of boiling water

Also you need a tin 23 x 32cms & 3 sheets of greaseproof paper

Fillings

Jam

Lemon Curd – This is very English but I am sure it would be loved in Poland –

Marks & Spencer’s Sicilian lemon curd is superb!

 

Butter Cream filling of your choice – I used coffee & rum here.

Method

Pre-heat oven to GM 4 – 180°C

There are lots of steps in this recipe &  after several trials, I have given the steps in the order I found worked the best.

Grease and line a  23 x 32cms baking tin – you can also grease the paper on the upper side – I have found this does make it easier to remove the cake.

Mix together the potato flour, plain flour and the baking powder.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff then add in 1 tablespoon of icing sugar and whisk again.

Whisk the egg yolks until they are pale then add the 2 tablespoons of boiling water and whisk again, add the icing sugar and whisk till the mixture is  pale and creamy.

Gently fold in the flour mixture.

Fold in the stiff whites.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan & bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and lightly dust with icing sugar then turn this out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper also dusted with icing sugar.

 

Place another piece of greaseproof on top of this and roll up the cake (starting with a short side) with the paper.

Leave this to cool.

Unroll the cake and spread with jam, lemon curd or a butter cream filling of your choice & then roll up the cake again.

Dust the cake  with icing sugar.

Rolada with lemon curd

 

 

Blue edged plates 1930s Allertons Ltd

Sandwich plate H&K Tunstall

Rolada with jam

 

Coffee & Rum Butter Cream

Ingredients

2 egg yolks

100g icing sugar

120g of butter

2 tablespoons of strong coffee

2 tablespoons of rum

Method

Make some strong coffee using 20g of ground coffee and boiling water and then strain it and leave to cool.

(You can of course use  instant coffee – my mother used Camp coffee years ago & it is still available)

 

 

Beat the egg yolks, butter & icing together

Add the coffee & rum and mix well in.

You can add a little more icing sugar  if you think the mixture is too soft.

 

 

Sandwich plate H&K Tunstall

Biszkopt -Sponge Cake

Biszkopt is a fat free sponge cake which means it does not have any butter, margarine or oil in it – just eggs, sugar & flour.

The word originates from the old Italian biscotto & Medieval Latin bis coctus – which  means twice baked – though why I do not understand as this sponge is only baked once!

The English word biscuit also has this origin.

This sponge is used to make tort – layer cake 0r gateaux – however as these are usually such large cakes – I have used it for another popular cake in Poland – rolada – which is a  roulade  – often called a Swiss roll  – though I have not been able to find the reason for this  Swiss connection.

Rolada

Ingredients

4 eggs – separated

4 tablespoons of granulated sugar

4 tablespoons of plain flour

Icing sugar to dust

You will need 3 sheets of greaseproof paper

Fillings

Jam

Butter Cream Icing

Lemon Curd – this is very English – but would be loved in Poland – Marks & Spencer’s Sicilian lemon curd is superb!

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180°C.

Grease and line a  23 x 32cms baking tin – you can also grease the paper on the upper side – I have found this does make it easier to remove the cake.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff.

Whisk together the egg yolks & sugar until they are pale and fluffy.

Fold in the flour.

Fold in the egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan & bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and lightly dust with icing sugar then turn this out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper also dusted with icing sugar.

 

 

 

Place another piece of greaseproof on top of this and roll up the cake (starting with a short side) with the paper.

Leave this to cool.

Unroll the cake and spread with jam, lemon curd or a butter cream filling of your choice & then roll up the cake again.

Dust the cake  with icing sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Polish Christmas

A Polish Christmas

To understand a Polish Christmas one has to know about its historical and cultural background as these have shaped what we have today.

Poles love festivals and traditions and there seem to me to be more celebrations in Poland than in England with every possible Saint’s day or other opportunity  for a gathering, with eating and drinking, taken.

Polish Recipe Books For Christmas

History & Background

In the first centuries AD, around the river Warta, between the river Odra (Oder)  and the river Wisła (Vistula) was the cradle of Poland.  (The Wisła runs from the Carpathian Mountains to the Baltic Sea.) This region was immense forest land but many areas along the rivers had been cleared. In the east of Poland there are still the remains of the primeval forest at Białowierza (White Tower), this is a National Park were bison and wild boar roam.

By the 5th century the “Amber Road” was the trade route from the Baltic in the North to the Mediterranean in the South.

In the 6th & 7th centuries, many different Slav tribes arrived there, and as by now more of the land had been cleared, they settled.

The People of the Fields

By the mid 10th century  the Polanie tribe became dominant – these were the people of the fields – pole means fields in Polish.

Agriculture in General

Compared to England the summers are warmer and the winters much colder, a drier cold  than in England, often up to -300 C, with lots of snow.

The fertile plains of Poland have made it an agricultural country and the people are close to the land and understand about the seasons and food production. Even now in towns people have vegetable gardens & allotments.

Main crops are wheat, rye, buckwheat, potatoes and cabbage.

Dill is a favourite herb, also flat leaf parsley and caraway.

Pork is the most popular meat.

Poultry and eggs are used extensively

Butter, milk, soured milk, smetana (soured cream), twaróg (curd cheese) feature in many recipes.

In the south in the Tatra Mountains they make smoked cheeses from sheep’s milk.

In the  16th century southern Poland was 40C warmer than it is today and grapes for wine were grown.

Food from the Forest

Mushrooms, fruits and berries are even today collected from forests, eaten, preserved or even sold at the roadside.

Fish are caught in rivers and lakes, fish farms are becoming popular.

Dried mushrooms provide a lot of flavour in the winter diet.

Food Preservation for the Winter

  • Drying
  • Fermentation with Brine
  • Bottling
  • Smoking
  • Marinating
  • Jams – using sugar

Christianity in Poland

In 966 Duke Mieszko the First, Poland’s first recorded leader converted to Christianity.

By the 13th & 14th centuries  Roman Catholicism was the main religion in Poland.

In the late 14th century the marriage of the Polish Queen Jadwiga to the Duke of Lithuania was on the promise of his and his people’s conversion to Christianity and the formation of a new enlarged Poland.

In the 16th century the Reformation did come to Poland and did have followers but it mostly died out following arguments between different factions & the Catholic counter reformation.

After the middle of the 17th century the main religion was again Roman Catholicism and is still so today.

Poland was more tolerant of different religions than many of its neighbours and by the early 20th century  it had more Jewish people that any other country in Europe.

Advent

St Andrew’s Day –  30 November  is celebrated in Poland, and the eve  on  29 November has many superstitions and traditions to do with foretelling the future especially with regards to future husbands.

The nearest Sunday to 30 November is the start of Advent, this can be from 27 November to  3 December so there are always 4  Sundays before Christmas day.

Advent is a time of reflection, prayer and preparation.

In the past Advent was like Lent; a time of doing without.

In Poland Christmas is celebrated from the evening of 24 December – Wigilia (the vigil) and parties and visiting relatives and family happens from then on.

It seems very strange to the Poles to have all the Christmas parties before Christmas when is still Advent.

The Christmas days are called Gody – days of Harmony and Goodwill

6 December –  St Nicholas Day

Older pictures show Swięty Mikołaj (St Nicholas) in his bishop’s robes, newer ones tend to be more like the English Santa.

Presents were to be found on the doorstep or hidden in the house or under the pillow.

Pierniki – spiced honey cakes are  given to children, often in the shape of the bishop.

He returns again on Christmas Eve after the evening meal.

It used to be that presents were given on just one of these days, usually  6 December and Christmas Eve was more about the meal and carols and Church.

Nowadays  you are likely to get presents on both days.

Before the Second World War the presents were small tokens such as mandarin oranges (a luxury – as they were imported), chocolates, and an item of new clothes or a small toy.

Christmas Tree

The old Polish Tradition was to hang from the ceiling just the tip of a spruce/fir tree (tip side down) decorated with apples and nuts which were either wrapped in silver or gold paper or painted and ribbons. Old Polish Village houses are made of wood – so it was easy to attach the tree tip.

Doorways and walls were often decorated with separate boughs of the remainder of the tree.

This custom originated in pre-Christian times and texts dating back to the 15th & 16th centuries referred to this use of the tree as a pagan rite. Unable to halt the growing trend, the church then reinterpreted the tree to be the Tree of Knowledge – the tree of good and evil.

The tradition of using the whole tree came from Germany in the late 18th century and early 19th century first into the towns and then into richer villages and by the 1920s this had taken over.

In small flats and in towns, and with small funds, people often still just decorate a branch of a fir tree.

Decorations for the tree

Apples symbolise health & beauty, strength & vitality and paradise

Nuts wrapped in Silver or Gold guarantee prosperity & vitality.

When I was young we tied wrapped sweets & chocolates on the tree.

The Tree is put up on Christmas Eve (though nowadays maybe a day or 2 before) the whole family helps.

Decorated with glass baubles – in the past these were often blown eggs decorated with glitter. There are also many straw decorations – angels and stars.

Many of the old ornaments look like the apples and nuts of before.

Some of my mother’s old nut baubles with a few newer ones

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Recent Magazine Feature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowadays Polish Glass Factories make 2,500 glass baubles a day,  some of them very elaborate and expensive.

Paper chains guarantee love within the family.

Candles and baubles guard the house from malevolent deeds.

The star on the top of the tree helps guide back absent family and friend

Bells symbolise good news

Angels are the guardians of the house.

Clip on candles holders with real candles though nowadays artificial lights are more likely to be used.

Photograph’s of  my mother’s clip in candle holders.

Pierniki – spiced honey cakes with white icing were used in some areas.

Polish Cribs – szopka

Cribs are varied in Poland, mostly wooden and carved, often with the shepherds dressed in traditional Polish highland costume.

Every year In Krakow in the Grand Square (Rynek Glówny) there is a competition held on the morning of the first Thursday of December, of Christmas cribs.

Image result for szopka competition

The above  image is from  the  website    Poland.pl/tourism/traditions-and-holidays/

Model makers come carrying their cribs and they are judged. The winners are kept in the Museum of Ethnography – the rest are sold.

I saw an exhibition of past winners  when they were on tour in England in 2011 at The Lowry in Salford.

This competition began in 1937. It was intended to bring back to life a tradition which had died shortly after the First World War, that of the Crib Theatre and these cribs are portable theatres for traditional puppet Nativity plays.

These ornate cribs are very colourful and richly decorated. They are covered in coloured foils, and are inspired by the architecture of Krakow eg Wawel Cathedral and the unequal spires of The Church of the Virgin Mary  – Mariatski

They can be from 15 cm high up to 2 metres high and some have clockwork mechanisms or lights.

In the past the Christmas cribs were mostly the works of Krakow masons in their idle weeks of the Polish rainy late autumn.

Nowadays it is a pastime of many Krakow dwellers of all walks of life. And the city boasts several dynasties of Christmas crib makers where two or three generations construct brand-new cribs every year.

Christmas cards

In the past these were always postcards but now folded cards are coming in to vogue.

Copies of old cards from Zakopane from the 1930s – bought in the Folk Museum there.

Cards are only sent to family and friends that will not been seen over Christmas.

In Communist times cards depicted, branches of fir trees and baubles, nowadays many religious cards are sent.

Often when Poles send cards to family abroad they include a piece opłatek. This was originally bread but now a paper thin wafer with an impression of the Nativity scene is used and is a symbol of forgiveness, unity and love.

 

The opłatek usually has the corner nipped off to show that this is being  shared. My aunty in America always does this.

Wigilia – The Christmas Vigil

I wrote a whole post about this topic last year.

Wigilia – Polish Christmas Eve

This is a very Important Meal – Poles want to be with their family on this evening.
This Christmas Eve supper became a fixed tradition in Poland in the 18th century.

It is a completely unique experience with an ordinary evening meal transformed into a celebration of family love and solidarity and it is also so strange that in a country of meat lovers this meatless meal is so important and loved.
The days before the meal were a time to thoroughly clean the house.

The day used to be a day Fasting & Abstinence as the last day of Advent – no meat on that day (abstinence) and only 1 main/large meal (fasting)

There are usually  12 dishes for the 12 apostles though some areas have an odd number of dishes either 7, 9 or 11.

I only make dishes which would have been available through food preservation in the winter or are seasonal.

Presents

If there are presents they are placed under the tree and opened at the end of the meal.

In some areas of the West of Poland– presents today come from Gwiazdor – Starman

In the South West of Poland from an angel or baby Jesus.

In Communist times to try and remove the religious idea – many tried to favour Gwiazdor often portrayed in red robes with gold star or even to introduce the Russian Grandfather Frost on January 1st – unsuccessfully.

However Gwiazdor had links with St Nicholas (Swięty Mikołaj) as he often carries a star in front of St Nicholas.

Carols

The oldest hymn/carol in the Polish Language is Bogurodzica (Mother of God) and is known from the beginning of the 13th Century.

Carols are rich and varied with examples from many different centuries with ones originating from:

  • church music
  • to many with music from the Royal Court such as the Polonaise
  • to lively folk & dance music &
  • quiet lullabies.

Many carols feature shepherds as the Poles from the countryside felt an empathy with them.

Bóg się Rodzi – a Polonaise( Polonez )– words from the 18th Century.

Przebieżeli do Betlejem – music from the 16th Century.

Carols are sung from midnight mass till 2nd February in Church.

Carollers went from the second day of the Holiday – 26 December until 6 January – carrying:

  • a star,
  • a crib,
  • a stork – the New Year – new life
  • a baby goat – fertility
  • a bear – hostile forces of Nature

In some areas Carollers went from Christmas Eve – after their own meal.

They are welcome visitors however if your house is left out then this is seen as a sign of bad luck.

Food for Christmas Day

Many would say that this meal is just like a very special Sunday Dinner.

There are not as many must have dishes on Christmas Day

As with all Polish dinners there is soup to start and this would be most likely rosol – clear chicken consommé with small pasta pieces (the original chicken noodle soup)

There will be lots of MEAT with  Pork Dishes mainly such as:

  • Roast Pork Loin with Prunes
  • Roast Pork Loin with Cloves
  • Roast Ham
  • Duck with Apples
  • Roast Goose
  • Roast Chicken stuffed with minced pork
  • Veal stuffed and rolled
  • Cold Polish smoked sausages and meats
  • Home-made pate from liver and/ or rabbit or hare
  • And nowadays maybe even Roast Turkey – an imported idea or
  • Stuffed rolada (roulade) of turkey breast
  • There could also be Bigos a stew made from sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, tomato purée and assorted sausages and meat.

Cakes

  • Piernik
  • Keks – a light fruit cake/loaf
  • Tort – rich layer cake often made from hazel nuts.

Nowadays there will also there will be chocolates & these Polish dried plums with chocolate continue the tradition of dried fruits at Christmas time – I love them!

My China & Tableware  – A New Tradition

Classic white china would be the norm for Christmas but over the last couple of years I have started to use china with poppies* and other red flowers at Christmas time  as well as china with autumn and winter foliage from my collection of china.

*Although not a Christmas flower – these poppies are a remembrance to the Battle at Monte Cassino in May 1944 & the military song – Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino – Red poppies on Monte Cassino.   As my father fought there, these are very special for me.

New Year’s Eve – Sylwestra

31 December is the feast of Saint Sylwester (Sylvester) and this is the name of the festival in Polish.

In the towns & cities the evening is often celebrated with a dance – no special traditional dishes – more of the Christmas Day type food.

Sleigh rides from house to house, with food at each, were popular in times gone by on the eve and on New Year’s Day.

The 3 Kings – 6 January  – Epiphany

xmas-1

During the Christmas period the priest would visit all the homes of his parishioners and say prayers, bless the house and get an offering. He would also bless some chalk or blessed chalk would be obtained at the Mass on  6  January. This chalk is used on 6  January to write over the door frame in the house –

For example for next year – 2017

20+ K + M + B + 17

For the  year and Kasper, Melchior and Baltazar  – the traditional names of the kings.

To bless all who enter or leave in the coming year.

The end of the Christmas period

In the church –  2 February – Candlemas day – 40 days after Christmas – is the official end of Christmas and then karnawał starts – the festive time before Lent.

Karnawał – Carnival

Kotlety mielone

There is a little bit of linguistic confusion with this dish – I have noticed it in most translations for this recipe.

Kotlety is the Polish word for cutlets or chops as discussed in my  last post.

Mielone means minced – so kotlety mielone are what in the USA are called meat patties or now in England as burgers.

My mother called both dishes kotlety – I would realise from the ingredients as to which dish  was being prepared in the kitchen.

We had kotlety mielone once a week at home, any left would be heated up in a sauce, often mushroom, the next day.

In Poland they would have been made with minced pork but previously this  was hard to get  and my mother found it hard work to use a hand mincer, so she made hers with minced beef using the beef that the butcher would mince for her.

In her original recipe she would use an onion which was grated finely; this was the job that was often delegated to me!  Later on she changed her recipe and would chop up the raw onion finely and fry this up lightly and let it go cold before adding it to the mince mixture.  I now like this second version better, but both are good and you can even do half and half.

Nowadays I  use an electric mini chopper to “grate” the onion.

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I used beef in this recipe for years and then tried pork, and also half and half; I like the ones half and half the best,  however I always make sure it is lean pork mince.

Ingredients

500g minced beef or pork, or 250g of each

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1 beaten egg

1 slice of white bread or bread roll, left for half an hour in a bowl with a little milk – do not use the excess milk just the wet slightly squeezed bread

 

1 onion finely grated, or chopped and fried till golden brown and left to cool. (or half and half)

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1 teaspoon of Italian herbs or similar

Salt

Ground black pepper

Dried breadcrumbs – home made see Breadcrumbs – Bułka tarta

Sunflower oil for frying

Method

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together except for the dried breadcrumbs, it is best to do this using both hands, making sure that all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

If the mixture seems too wet then add a tablespoon full of dried breadcrumbs and mix this in.

Pour some dried breadcrumbs onto a large plate or board.

Try to make each one the same size, take a handful of the mixture and press it between your hands to make a flattened circle and then place this in the dried breadcrumbs and turn it over to cover both sides and edges.

Once coated place them on a tray dusted with breadcrumbs until you have used all the mixture up.

Shallow fry the kotlety in hot oil, depending on the frying pan size,  you can do 3 to 4 at a time, turning them over so that both sides are done. Place them on kitchen roll on a plate or metal tray till they are all cooked –  you can keep them warm in a low oven.

I usually serve them with creamy mashed potatoes or lightly buttered boiled rice.

Here they are served with a beetroot & apple salad see  Buraki – Buraczki – Beetroots – Beets.

I also like them with any sauerkraut or cabbage salad see  Sauerkraut Salads  and  Cabbage Salad.

Variations

Sometimes I add some finely chopped peppers or chillies to the mixture and serve them with boiled rice.

You can make the kotlety with minced chicken or turkey.

In Poland many people think that ones made with minced veal are the best.

Jasia’s  Variations

My cousin  Janina (Jasia is the diminutive) in her farm house in the Mazurian lakes in North East Poland made some kotlety mielone which had an addition to the usual recipe. Each one had a small piece of  stuffing inside.  The meat recipe was the same as was the method of cooking but when she was making them, she placed a little extra at the centre and this added an extra dimension to an old favourite.

The stuffing she used  was one of the following:

A cube of cheese – the type which will melt like Gouda or cheddar

A chunk of pickled gherkin.

A thick slice of fried mushroom.

The Next Day

You can eat any kotlety you have left, cold with mustard and any salad.

However if I have any kotlety  left, I often re-heated them in a sauce in the oven, my favourite is mushroom sauce.

I often just make a very quick sauce by frying up some sliced mushrooms in a little butter, adding some stock (mushroom or chicken – made from a stock cube). Add the kotlety  into the pan and heat them through in the oven for around 1 hour.

 

Add some soured cream mixed with a tablespoon of corn flour and out this back in the oven for a while or continue heating it on a top burner.

Super served with creamy mashed potatoes – sprinkle chopped dill or parsley over them before serving.

 

Served on Carnation (1982 – 1998)  by Royal Doulton.

Krystyna’s Plum Cake

I have very fond memories of the first time I tasted this cake, it was a very warm, late summer’s day in the land of a thousand lakes in North East Poland – the Mazurian Lakes.

 

 

My cousin Krystyna went outside and came back in with one basket of eggs she had collected and another of ripe plums from one of the trees outside.  We set to and made this cake to her recipe, calling in the other cousins to eat it as soon as it was cool enough!

The contrasts between the texture of the cake and cooked plums and also the sweetness of the cake and the slight tartness of the plums make this a cake to remember.

The use of oil means this is a relevantly modern recipe & it is so easy to make.

The original recipe was made using metric cups but I have converted it to weights as I am happier using these.

I make this using Victoria Plums.

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Ingredients

350 – 400g of plums  –  small plums are best

4 eggs

170g granulated sugar

200g self raising flour

60ml sunflower oil

Icing sugar – to dust

Method

Pre heat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 1800C

Take a roasting tin around 22cm by 31 cm and use one piece of greaseproof paper to line the 2 long sides and the base.

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Cut the plums into quarters and take out the stones.

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Whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy.

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Add the oil and the flour and lightly beat everything together to make a thick batter.

Pour the batter into the roasting tin.

Place the cut plums, skin side down in rows on the batter until the top is full – they will start to sink – do not worry.

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Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Dust with icing sugar when it has cooled slightly.

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Cut into squares to serve.

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Tea plates are Counterpoint (1973 – 1987) by  Royal Doulton.

Note

If you have any cake left, it is better not to cover it with too airtight a cover as it will go soggy.

 

 

Kołaczyki – Little Wheels

Sweet Yeast Buns

Kołaczyki means little wheels from the word koła which means wheels.

In a previous post –  Bułeczki – Sweet Yeast Buns– I gave a recipe for basic sweet yeast dough – since then I have tried out a slightly different recipe – nearly the same ingredients but a slightly different method – and I think these turned out to be the best yeast buns I have ever made – so this is  – Basic sweet yeast dough version two. 

A few reminders when using yeast in baking

  • Learn to be patient – you cannot control the timings exactly with yeast, it depends on the temperature of the room and the flour used and other variables.
  • Do yeast baking on a day you are planning to be in & have other things to do, but ones you can break off from when needed.
  • Heat the milk so it is at body temperature – use the finger test – too hot and you will kill the yeast – too cold is okay – it will just take longer.
  • An egg glaze often burns too quickly –  I have found an egg white or egg white & water glaze gives a better result.

Older Polish recipes use fresh yeast. I have used dried yeast and have had very good results.  (I have not tried using easy bake yeast for this recipe).

Basic Sweet Yeast Dough Version 2

Ingredients

Leaven – Starter

  • 100g plain flour
  • 30g fresh yeast or 15-20g dried yeast
  • 125ml  milk

Rest of ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 60g sugar
  • 50g melted butter or block margarine
  • 400g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 drops of vanilla essence
  • 125ml milk

and

Save 1 egg white for use as a wash on the buns.

Method

  • Warm the milk slightly – so it is just warm to the touch – and add the yeast and mix together.
  • Put the flour in to a bowl and add the milk and yeast  mix it all together and leave it covered until it is double in size.
  • Melt the butter and leave it to cool.
  • Whisk the yolks and sugar until they are pale and fluffy.
  • Grease 2 baking sheets – You should get around 15 buns. – invite people round!
  • Into a large bowl put: the flour and the salt, the yeast starter, the yolk mixture, the zest of a lemon, the vanilla essence and the milk.
  • Mix it all together so that you get a soft dough that comes away from the side of the bowl – you do not have to knead it.
  • Then work in the melted butter (this is the hardest part) until it is all incorporated and you have a uniform shiny dough.
  • Cover the dough with a cloth and leave this to rise until it is double in size.
  • Onto a floured surface place the dough and form it into a rectangle and then roll this out until it is around  2cm thick.
  • Using a 8cm diameter cutter cut out circles of dough and place them on the greased baking sheets, leaving room for the dough to rise.
  • Gather together the left over dough and repeat the process.
  • Cover the trays and leave the circles to rise and double in size.
  • Pre heat the oven to GM5 – 190ºC
  • Use a clean napkin or tea towel and cover the base of a tumbler.
  • Use the covered tumbler and press down on the centre of each circle to form an indentation into which you will put a filling.

Fillings

  • These are the ones I tried –
  • Cheese mixture – similar to ones for baked cheesecake.
  • Mix together around 250g of cream cheese/twaróg/curd or yoghurt cheese, 70g icing sugar, 1 egg yolk and 2-3 drops of vanilla essence.
  • Blackcurrant jam (you could use any tart jam such as cherry or gooseberry )
  • English style sweet mincemeat – I use Delia Smith’s recipe (without the nuts)
  • Put a large dollop of the filling onto each circle.

Brush the exposed dough with beaten egg white.

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Topping

This is for the jam or mincemeat only – not the cheese mixture.

Kruszonka – Crumble Mixture

Ingredients

  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g butter
  • 50g granulated  sugar

Method

  • Mix together the flour and butter to make fine crumbs then mix in the sugar.
  • Sprinkle around a tablespoon or so over the jam or mincemeat.
  • Bake the buns for around 15 minutes.

Tea plate pattern below is called Mayfair.

They were all delicious – the sweet cheese ones were my favourites!

Rhubarb Cake

Rheum rhabarbarum is the Latin name for rhubarb   –  in Polish  it is rabarbar.

It is a plant that has its origins in China, Mongolia & Siberia – its roots survive the cold!

Rhubarb roots have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

The plant arrived in Europe via Venice in the 14th century  having been brought  from China  along the Silk Road.

The leaves are poisonous  to humans as they contain large quantities of oxalic acid and other toxins.

The stems however can be eaten safely, although they do contain a little oxalic acid but their tartness is due mainly  to malic acid which is also found in sour green apples.

Rhubarb stems were first eaten in England in the 17th century.

In 1820 the rhubarb plant was taken over to the USA.

I live in West Yorkshire –  just outside what is called the Rhubarb Triangle  of Wakefield, Leeds & Morley   – where rhubarb is grown in forcing sheds (in darkness) on a commercial scale.

I have rhubarb growing in my garden.

I have used the rhubarb to make rhubarb crumble but over the last few years I have been trying to find recipes for a rhubarb cake and have tried many from English, American & Polish recipe books and magazines.

Some recipes just used 1 or 2 stalks of rhubarb – as I have lots of rhubarb – I wanted a recipe that used more.

Some recipes used the raw stalks in a cake – I found that none of these were to my liking.

I tried using my best Polish apple cake recipe with stewed rhubarb  instead of apple but found that it just did not come out very well.  The cake was  too soggy and raw in places because of the amount of liquid in the stewed rhubarb.

Finally after more trial and error – I came up with a recipe which I am happy to make for people and to share.

Preparing The Rhubarb

This I have found to be the most important part to making a successful rhubarb cake.

You need to prepare the rhubarb the day before you want to make cake.

I tend to make a large amount and if I do not use it all I freeze the rest.

You need around 8 large stalks if not more.

Trim the ends of the rhubarb stalks and then chop the stalk  into pieces around 7cm in length.

Put the pieces into an oven proof dish and add granulated sugar – try not to use large amounts – it is better slightly tart.

Put the covered dish into a low oven –  GM 2 for around an hour or so – you want it soft but not totally disintegrated.

Allow this to cool.

 

 

Now comes the part I found to be the most important – I strain the cooked rhubarb from the juice & syrup.

Put the rhubarb into a colander over a bowl and leave this for several hours or even overnight.

 

The juice and sugar syrup can  be used to flavour yoghurt, diluted with water to make  a drink or even added to pork in a slow cook recipe.

Now by just using this strained rhubarb  I have found that a cake adapted from my apple cake comes out very well.  I have used half the quantity from my apple cake recipe as the base and then used a drier crumble type mixture – called kruszonka in Polish – for the top.

Cake Ingredients

Base

150g self raising flour

100g butter or block margarine

40g caster sugar

1 egg yolk and 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or water.

Topping

120g plain flour

90g butter or block margarine

60g icing sugar.

Method

You have to use a loose bottom or spring-form tin or you will not be able to get the cake out.

I use a loose bottomed anodised aluminium cake tin which is 22cm in diameter and 8cm deep.

Grease the tin well.

First make the cake base by rubbing the butter into the flour to make crumbs then stir in the sugar.

Add the yolk and lemon juice and bring the ingredients together to form a soft dough – do not handle the dough too much. Leave the dough in a cool place for about half an hour so it is easier to handle.

Pre heat the oven to GM 4 – 180ºC.

Make the topping by rubbing the butter into the flour to make crumbs and then stir in the sugar.

Press the dough into the base of the tin.

 

Cover the base with the strained rhubarb.

Evenly sprinkle all the topping over the rhubarb.

Bake in the oven for around 1 hour to 1 hour & 10 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin.

Use a long metal spatula to ease the cake from the side of the tin then place the cake on to the top of a  tin can and slide the side down.

If you find the cake is not sweet enough – you can sprinkle the pieces  with icing sugar – I rarely due – I like the fruit to be tart.

 

Tea plates are Counterpoint by Royal Doulton 1973 – 1987

Do not put the cake into an airtight plastic box as it will get soggy – better to cover it with a mesh cover.

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Polish Apple Cake – Jabłecznik

Apple trees (Genus –  Malus) originated in Central Asia and then spread to Northern Europe.  In the 17th century they were taken to North America.

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Apple Blossom Buds

Worldwide, measured in tonnes, China is the top apple producer, the United States of America coming second.

Poland is the largest apple producer in Europe.

In Poland in the countryside and even in the towns most houses have at least one fruit tree in the garden – often more – with apple, plum and cherry  being the favourites.

 

In my garden there are two Bramley apple trees.

Jabłko is the Polish for apple –  jabłecznik is an apple cake.

Some people use the word szarlotka – but my mother used that word for apple crumble.

Apple cake is made with tart cooking apples – Antonówki are very popular in Poland –  these are similar to Bramley apples and the apple filling is kept slightly tart so that the sweetness in the cake gives a lovely contrast.

I think there are as many variations of this cake as cooks in Poland.

This is my mother’s version which I think this is the very best.

Apple Filling – Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 Bramley Apples
  • Granulated Sugar to taste – keep it slightly tart
  • A little water
  • 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Method

  • Make the apple filling first, even the day beforehand as it needs to be cold before you use it.
  • Peel and core the apples and cut them into thick slices.
  • Stew the apples gently with some sugar and very little water. You can make this in a saucepan on the stove or place the apples and sugar in a dish in the oven.
  • Do not add a lot of sugar at the beginning as it does not want to be too sweet, you can adjust the sweetness at the end.
  • Do not make it too much of a purée, cook so that you have some soft apples but with some harder less cooked chunks as well.
  • Leave the mixture to cool and then add the ground cinnamon.  The mixture should look quite brown.

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Note

When I have lots of apples, I cook a large amount and portion this up and keep them in the freezer – better to leave out the cinnamon if freezing and add this fresh when making the cake.

Cake – Ingredients

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 200g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (save the white for the topping)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice or water

    Method

  • You need a round tin with a loose base or a spring form tin or you will not be able to get the cake out.  I always use an anodised aluminium tin, 22cm in diameter and 8 cm deep, which does not rust.
  • Grease the tin well.
  • Rub the butter into the flour to make fine crumbs and add the sugar.

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  • Add the egg yolk and the lemon juice to and mix together to make a soft “dough” (try not to add more flour),  handle it as little as possible.
  • Leave it to chill for about ½ an hour as this makes it easier to handle.
  • Pre heat the oven to GM5 – 190oC.
  • Take slightly more than half the dough and press it into the cake tin.

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  • Spoon the apple mixture on top of this.
  • The rest of the dough will go on top of the apple mixture.
  • I use a rolling pin to make a circle that is smaller than the tin diameter and then place this on top.
  • Do not worry if the dough falls apart, just place it on with the breaks nearly touching.

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Topping – Ingredients

  • 1 egg white and caster sugar
  • Slightly beat the egg white with a fork and brush this over the top of the dough.  You will not need it all.

 

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  • Liberally sprinkle caster sugar over the egg white.
  • Bake for around 50 minutes until the top is a golden brown.
  • I tend to check the cake at 40 minutes and will cover the top with greaseproof if it starts to brown but is not yet cooked through.
  • Leave to cool before getting the cake out of the tin.
  • I use a tin can and put the cake tin on this and slide the side of the cake tin down.
  • Do not put the cake in a air-tight covered container as the apples absorb moisture and you loose the crispness of the cake.
  • I hardly ever have any left anyway as I seem to get visitors as soon as they know I am baking this cake.

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Tea plates are Stardust by Colclough from the 1950s or early 1960s.

NoteI updated this in March 2020 – I altered the amount of apples in the filling.

Bułeczki – Sweet Yeast Buns

Bułeczki  – this word can cause a little confusion as it can mean –  little white bread rolls or a more sweet yeast bun.

This recipe has been used to make round buns with a filling – it can be used for a variety of sweet buns – all of which are very popular in Poland.

A few reminders when using yeast in baking

  • Learn to be patient – you cannot control the timings exactly with yeast, it depends on the temperature of the room and the flour used and other variables.
  • Do yeast baking on a day you are planning to be in & have other things to do, but ones you can break off from when needed.
  • Heat the milk so it is at body temperature – use the finger test – too hot and you will kill the yeast – too cold is okay – it will just take longer.
  • An egg glaze often burns too quickly –  I have found an egg white or egg white & water glaze gives a better result.

The older Polish recipes use fresh yeast. I have used dried yeast and had very good results.  (I have not tried using easy bake yeast for this recipe).

Basic sweet dough recipe

Ingredients

Yeast starter

  • 25g fresh yeast or 15g dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of  sugar
  • 250ml  milk – warmed
  • Rest of dough
  • 3 yolks
  • 100g granulated sugar

*******

  • 500g plain flour
  • 2-3 drops of vanilla essence
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

******

  • 60g of melted butter

******

  • Egg or egg white to glaze (whole egg tends to brown very quickly).

Fillings

Jam – I used strawberry jam and also blackcurrant jam (made by my friend in Leeds) and I think the more tart blackcurrant jam goes better with the semi-sweet dough.

Mincemeat – I used my own mincemeat which is from the recipe by Delia Smith but without the chopped almonds. This of course in one way is very English, but it would be recognised in Poland if  described as bakalie –  which is a  mixture made of dried fruits (often with figs or dates), nuts and honey.

Method

Mix the yeast, sugar and warmed milk together and leave it till it doubles in size.

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  • Whisk the yolks and sugar together until the mixture is pale and thick.
  • Put the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast starter, the yolks & sugar mix, vanilla essence, lemon zest and the salt.
  • Combine everything together and knead it together until the dough leaves the side of the bowl clean.
  • Add the melted butter and mix it in and then knead it well until you get a glossy smooth dough.
  • Place it back in the bowl and cover with a cloth and leave it until it doubles in size.
  • Grease 1 or 2 baking sheets to hold 16 buns.
  • Knead the dough again lightly, then cut in to half and half again and so on to give 16 pieces.
  • Roll each piece into a smooth ball, then flatten it and roll it out into a circle.
  • Put a small spoonful of filling onto each circle and then draw the edges of the dough circle together and pinch the dough to seal in the filling.

Turn the balls over so the seal is on the underside.

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  • Place the buns on the baking sheets with room apart for them to double in size.
  • Cover the buns with a cloth and leave them to rise to double in size.
  • Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 – 190ºC
  • When the buns have doubled in size brush them with an egg or egg white wash.

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  • I used whole egg in this case but since have found that egg white does not burn as quickly.
  • Bake the buns for around 15 minutes.

Leave to cool before serving.

Tea plates are Las Palmas  by Aynsley from the 1960s.

Buraki – Buraczki – Beetroots – Beets

Beetroot is a very popular vegetable in Poland and is served both hot and cold and is the main ingredients of barszcz (The classic Polish beetroot soup).

Now this may just my imagination but the beetroot in Poland just tastes so much better than the ones I have had in England, maybe it is the variety that is grown there or the soil.   I think you have to use home-grown or organic beetroot to get as good a taste.

In the following recipes I have used vacuum packed boiled beetroots – boiling or roasting raw beetroot should give a better flavour but when you only want to make a small amount or you have little time this will work as well especially if you adjust the flavour with lemon juice or a little sugar.

A popular variant is something called botwinka  – this is very young beetroot – sold in bunches (rather like radishes) and consists of the small “bulb” and the  young  green leaves, which are all used.  As I have not seen this for sale in England I will not be including any recipes – but if you are ever in a position to try this (often in the form of a soup) you will taste something very delicious.

Ćwikła is the most typical Polish accompaniment to roasted and smoked meats and sausage. This salad or relish is made from grated cooked beetroot which is mixed with grated horseradish – chrzan.

The first recorded recipe for ćwikła comes from the writings of Mikołaj Rej  (1505 – 1569)  who is known as the “Father of Polish Literature”.  He was the first person to write exclusively in Polish.

He was born 59 years before Shakespeare (1564 – 1616).

Ćwikła

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 boiled beetroots
  • Horseradish sauce
  • Soured Cream
  • Extra lemon juice – optional
  • Method

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  • Grate the beetroots using a fine or medium grater and put this into a bowl.
  • In the past I always used a fine grater but now I prefer to use my medium grater.

 

 

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Medium Grated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fine Grated

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Add a large dollop or two of horseradish sauce.
  • Below are two kinds, one with soured cream and one without.
  • I like the one with soured cream more.

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A few years ago I thought it would be a good idea to grow my own horseradish – that was a mistake! It starts to take over with the roots spreading underground. However the dark leaves are very attractive and the air does smell of horseradish when you walk up to it.  You just need to be able to contain it.

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  • Mix the grated beetroot and horseradish sauce together.
  • Add soured cream – if using the sauce with this in already you might not need as much.
  • You can add lemon juice as well.

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Carnation  Serving Dish by Royal Doulton

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Beetroot & Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 boiled beetroots
  • 1 eating apple  with a good flavour such as Jazz, Braeburn or Pink Lady.
  • Juice of  half  or a whole lemon
  • Sugar – optional

Method

  • Grate the beetroots using a medium grater.

 

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  • Peel and core the apple and grate this using a medium grater.
  • Mix the two together.
  • Add lemon juice to taste.
  • You can add some extra sugar to taste.

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NOTE

  • This tastes much better if it is left so all the ingredients mingle together for a few hours.
  • I make this in the morning if I want it for the evening or I make it the night before for lunch time the next day.

Creamed Beetroot

This is a delicious way of serving beetroot warm with a roast dinner.

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 boiled beetroots
  • Large tablespoon of butter
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour
  • Juice of a lemon & some extra water
  • 3- 4  tablespoons of soured cream
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • A little sugar to taste – optional

Method

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  • Grate the beetroots using a medium grater and put them into a saucepan with the lemon juice and a little water.
  • Put a lid on the saucepan and gently simmer the beetroot – taking care not to let it dry out or burn.
  • Melt the butter in a small frying pan and add the flour – let it colour slightly.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of soured cream and a little water and combine this well.
  • Add this mixture to the simmering beetroots, once again combining well.
  • Let this simmer for 5 to 10 minutes – keep checking, and stirring and adding  more soured cream, lemon juice or water if it looks like it is going to dry out.
  • Add salt & pepper and a little sugar to taste.

 

Serving dish is Topic designed by  Alan Rogers in 1967 for J & G Meakin.