Placek with Chocolate, Nuts & Sultanas

I have been making this placek (low flat cake) for years but I cannot remember where I got the recipes from.

The cake varies every time I make it as I alter the type or amount of each chocolate used and I also alter the dried fruit and nuts.

It is not quite a Polish recipe as  Demerara sugar is used rather than granulated & this is not a typical Polish ingredient.

Sugar

Sugar is produced from either sugar cane (a perennial grass) or sugar beet (a tap root).  When sugar cane is refined you get lots of partially refined products such as: treacle, golden syrup, Demerara sugar & various other brown sugars.

Demerara sugar is so named after a region in Guyana where it was first produced.

When sugar beet is used to make sugar you do not get all these brown sugars.

In Poland the main sugar products on sale are granulated sugar and icing sugar, also you can find vanilla sugar, for baking, which is sold in little sachet which contain one tablespoon of sugar.

Ingredients

120g butter or block margarine

120g Demerara sugar

2 eggs

120g self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla essence

100g chopped chocolate (can be a mixture of dark, milk & white)

100g chopped nuts

80g sultanas (or currants or raisins)

Note

I think dried cranberries might work well here  but have not tried these as yet.

Method

Grease and line a 21 x 26 cms baking tray.

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C

Chop the nuts and the chocolate.

Mix the nuts, chocolate & sultanas together.

 

 

Cream together the butter and Demerera sugar.

Mix in the vanilla essence and the eggs.

Mix in the nut mixture.

Gently fold in the flour.

Put the mixture into a baking tray.

Bake for around 30 – 35 minutes.

 

 

Leave to cool in the tin.

Cut into squares to serve.

 

Served on Royal Grafton – Woodside – 1950s

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Czekolada – Chocolate

A very brief history of chocolate

Chocolate originated in Central America around 2,000 years ago from the seeds of the cacao tree – Theobroma cacao.

Theo = god  &  broma = food  – means food of the gods

30 – 50 seeds (called beans) are found in a large pod.

It was consumed by the Aztecs & Mayans as a beverage.

Christopher Columbus took the cacao beans back to Spain in the middle of 16th Century and  within a hundred years it was established throughout Europe.

Chocolate in Europe was originally a beverage  and was sweetened to balance its bitter flavour.

In Spanish it is called is el chocolate which  comes from the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) word  xocolatl or chocolātl …. and so we get  czekolada in Polish and chocolate in English.

By the 19th century many processes had been invented which led to the modern solid form of chocolate

Famous Names in Chocolate.

Coenraad Johannes Van Houten, in 1815, introduced alkaline salts to reduce the bitterness & in 1828 reduced the natural fat – cacao butter  and produced  cocoa powder.

Joseph Fry learnt to make chocolate moldable by adding back the melted cacao butter.

Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by using powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé.

Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching (method of mixing and reducing the particle size of cocoa solids) machine.

John Cadbury in 1824 had a grocer’s shop in Birmingham where he prepared ground cocoa. Moving to a factory in 1831.

Milton S. Hershey in 1893 purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

John Mackintosh had a confectionary business in Halifax from 1890.

Henry Isaaac Rowntree had a confectionery business  in York in 1862.

Joseph Terry was a  confectionery & chocolate maker in York from 1862.

Nowadays roughly two thirds of the world’s cocoa is produced in Western Africa  with Côte d’Ivoire being the largest source.

Chocolate in Poland

Chocolate in Poland has been by tradition dark & slightly bitter  – it is called gorzka – which means bitter.  Recently there has been a move to make milk chocolate. Personally I have not liked the milk chocolate produced in Poland, I much prefer the dark chocolate.

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Karol  Ernest Wedel  (1813 – 1902) came to Poland from Berlin, accompanied by his wife, Karolina and in 1851, set up his own business in Warsaw, originally serving drinking chocolate.

The logo of the company is based on Karol Wedel’s signature.

Thought by many to be the Polish national chocolate brand.

In 1894 the company moved its main factory to another site in Warsaw.

His son Emil Albert Fryderyk Wedel (1841-1919)  worked in sweet and chocolate factories in  Europe before inheriting and expanding his father’s business.

His descendant Jan Wedel  who died  in 1960,  opened a second factory in 1934 in Praga another area of Warsaw, it was  one of the most modern in Poland.

Prior to  World War II,  Wedel became a successful private company, with shops in London and Paris.

The war devastated Poland and the company.

After the war, Wedel rebuilt the factory, but it was nationalised by the communist government and then re-privatised  in 1989 after the fall of communism.

In 1991 it was bought by PepsiCo Foods and Beverages.

In 1999, Cadbury bought E.Wedel and the factory in Praga, from PepsiCo.  The Praga factory was modernised in 2007.

In March 2010  Kraft Foods Inc acquired Cadbury plc.  The European Commission insisted that Wedel be sold in order for the takeover to go ahead.

It was sold to Lotte of  South Korea in June 2010.

 

Warsaw in the late 1970s

 

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Image result for wawel chocolates poland

Adam Antoni Piasecki (1873 -1945)  Started a confectionery company in 1898 in Kraków naming it Wawel after the Royal Castle in Kraków.

 

 

 

Wawel Palace

 

Main Square –  rynek główny

 

At first his small workshop at Długa Street employed  five people.  His first shop was opened in a tenement house in the Main Square in Kraków and there is still a shop in this area today.

In 1951  three confectionery companies from Kraków merged  to form the new Zakłady Przemysłu Cukierniczego Wawel  (Wawel Confectionery Plant).

In 1992, as a result of privatisation, Zakłady Przemysłu Cukierniczego Wawel has become a joint stock company.

In 2005, the company changed its name to Wawel SA.

Plums & Chocolate

Candied Plums coated in chocolate with a cocoa cream filling (instead of the plum stone) –  I remember this combination from when I was a child & I still love it today.

Many visitors to Poland bring these goodies back for their friends.

These chocolates are made by  Solidarność / Goplana   whose origins are with Jan Kolański in 1911.

 

 

Kajmak

Kajmak (or kaimak in my older books) is a speciality make from cream or milk cooked with sugar and then butter is added. It is very sweet and dense,  pliable at first and hardening over time.

It is similar to a creamy type of fudge and it can also be made from tinned condensed milk which has been boiled and so is very like dolce de leche.

In my American-Polish cookery book it is called Turkish Fudge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is used in a variety of cakes including mazurek.

 

Mazurek with kajmak – this recipe will be in a later post

 

Kajmak originated in Turkey and appeared in Poland in the 18th century in the reign of Stanisław II Augustus (1764–95).   Sugar was a luxury commodity then and this was originally just popular with the Polish nobility.

Kajmak

Ingredients

1/2 litre of milk (full or semi-skimmed)

400g of granulated sugar.

50g of butter

2 drops of vanilla essence

Method

Put the milk and sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat gently stirring most of the time to stop the mixture from catching and burning on the base.

Continue cooking and stirring until the volume has reduced to about half of the original and the mixture is thick – rather like jam in the spoon test.

Take the pan from the heat and add the butter and stir till it is incorporated.

Add the drops of vanilla essence and stir them in.

Use the kajmak straight away or pour into a glass bowl that you can heat over a water bath when you want to use it later.

 

 

 

 

Alternatively you can also pour it into a flat dish and cut it up as cubes or fingers of sweets later.

Kajmak is flavoured with a little bit of vanilla but can also have the following additions: caramel, chocolate or coffee

Caramel

In a frying pan heat 20g of granulated sugar until it just starts to turn light brown, then add 6 tablespoons of water and boil gently until you have a caramel syrup.

 

Add this to the kajmak before the addition of the butter.

Salted caramel is very popular in England at the moment and you can add a teaspoon of cooking or table salt to the caramel kajmak.

Then once it is poured out you can sprinkle coarse ground or sea salt on the top.

 

 

Here the kajmak was poured into a rectangular dish.

Chocolate

50g of cocoa mixed with around 6 tablespoons of water

or

80g of melted dark chocolate

Add this to the kajmak before the addition of the butter and reduce the liquid until the kajmak is the correct consistency.

 

 

Coffee

100 to 125 mls of strong coffee made from 20g of ground coffee.

 

 

Brew the coffee in a cup or jug, leave for around 10 minutes and then strain the liquid from the grounds.

Add this to the kajmak before the addition of the butter and reduce the liquid until the kajmak is the correct consistency.

Quick Kajmak

In a recipe book I bought recently there is a recipe for kajmak using  krówki which are classic Polish sweets (krówka mleczna = milky cow) described as creamy fudge.

The recipe used 500g of the sweets which would have been two packets – I just used one packet to test them out.

Ingredients

250g of krówki

120ml of milk

1 tablespoon of butter.

Method

Unwrap the krówki and place them with the milk in a small saucepan.

Heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sweets dissolve.

Add the butter and let it melt.

 

Use whilst it is warm.

Note

This worked very well & one packet could be enough – I must admit I prefer the original version but this is easier & quicker.

 

More Babeczki – More Buns

I saw a baking tin recently whilst shopping – by the American company Nordic ware  – as it was at a greatly discounted price, I could not resist buying it.

I have similar tins bought from both Lidl and from Marks & Spencer and used these in previous recipes.

This one is much thicker and heavier.

Babka refers to the shape of the cake and babeczki are smaller – they are buns.

Babka and Babeczki

I tried our various recipes using this new tin and found it was rather difficult to get the babeczki – the buns – out of the tin and many just ended up being fed to the birds.

Cake Seeking Bird

One of a pair of large wood pigeons that come into my garden – looking for cake!

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At last I found two recipes that work well with this tin!

Tip

I have found that you have to grease the tins very well – I use melted butter or margarine and then I dust with dried Breadcrumbs (or you can use flour).

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Carrot Spice Babeczki

These are based on a recipe for carrot cake which I use and has  dark brown sugar  as one of its ingredients – this is very popular in Britain  where sugars made from sugar cane are readily available. In Poland where sugar is made from sugar beet, white sugar is the norm in the shops.

Ingredients

225g self raising flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice ( I like the mixture from Marks & Spencer)

Grated rind of 1 orange

150g of soft dark brown sugar

150g of medium grated peeled carrots.

2 eggs

150ml of sunflower oil

2 tablespoons of milk

Method

Grease and dried breadcrumb (or flour) the tin ... you might have some mixture left over – so use bun cases in bun tins for the remainder.

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Place the flour and the mixed spice into a large bowl.

Add the sugar (sometimes I have found that this sugar has a few lumps in it  – I mix these into the flour with my finger tips to remove them.)

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Stir in the carrots and the orange rind.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the beaten egg, oil and milk.

Mix well together with a wooden spoon until the mixture is evenly blended.

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Fill the tins around 2/3rds full.

Bake for around 15 to 20 minutes.

Let them cool slightly, then, using a spatula ease the buns gently out of the tins.

Dust well with icing sugar.

Chocolate Babeczki

Here I have used the same recipe as for my Chocolate Babka with a slightly different recipe for the chocolate icing.

Evaporated milk is used for the cake and the icing – a very small tin – 170g is enough for both.

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Ingredients – cake

200g self raising flour

2250g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

25g cocoa powder

200g butter or block margarine

2 eggs

75ml evaporated milk

75ml water

2 drops of vanilla essence

Method – cake

Grease and dried breadcrumb (or flour) the tin ... you might have some mixture left over – so use bun cases in bun tins for the remainder.

Pre-heat the oven oven to GM 4  – 180°C.

You need to use a large bowl for this cake mixture.

Rub the butter into the flour so that the mixture is like breadcrumbs.

Stir in the salt, sugar and cocoa powder.

Lightly beat the eggs and add the evaporated milk, the water and the drops of vanilla essence.

Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients mixing thoroughly to give a thick batter.

Fill the tins around 2/3rds full.

Bake for around 15 to 20 minutes.

Let them cool slightly then using a spatula ease the buns gently out of the tins.

You can then dust with icing sugar or add an icing.

Ingredients – icing

40g butter

2 level tablespoons of cocoa

2 tablespoons of evaporated milk

Around 180g icing sugar

Method – icing

Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the cocoa, stirring continuously.

Remove from the heat and beat in the evaporated milk.

Beat in the icing sugar until the mixture is thick.

Pour the icing over the babeczki.

Chocolate Babka

It has taken me a while to get to this recipe for a super chocolate babka .

I had bought an unused, still with stickers, Oneida babka tin in a charity shop and wanted to try it out.

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I looked up several recipes and tried then out.

The first one was like rubber, the second was dry as dust but finally the third one turned out well.

I have adapted this recipe from one that is found in the older Be-Ro(flour) recipes books.

This recipe just uses cocoa powder.

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These books were ones I used as a child , they contain simple basic recipes for traditional British cakes & biscuits and are very easy to follow.

Cake Ingredients

400g self raising flour

450g caster sugar

1 teaspoon salt

50g cocoa powder

200g butter or block margarine

4 eggs

150ml evaporated milk

150ml water

2 drops of vanilla essence

Method

Grease the babka tin.

One tip I have learnt when using these tins is that it is best to brush them well with melted butter and then sprinkle dried breadcrumbs over the surface to prevent sticking  – I think this works better than flour.

Pre-heat the oven oven to GM 4  – 180°C

You need to use a large bowl for this cake mixture.

Rub the butter into the flour so that the mixture is like breadcrumbs.

Stir in the salt, sugar and cocoa powder.

Lightly beat the eggs and add the evaporated milk, the water and the drops of vanilla essence.

Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients mixing thoroughly to give a thick batter.

Pour the cake batter into the tin.

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Bake for around 40 to 45 minutes, checking it is baked with a cake tester or wooden skewer.

Leave to cool in the tin and then turn out the cake onto a cooling rack.

Chocolate Icing Ingredients

60g butter

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

3 tablespoons of hot milk

250g icing sugar

1-2 drops of vanilla essence

Method

Heat up some milk in a small pan (I use a bit more than is needed and measure it out after heating).

Melt the butter in a pan.

Blend in the cocoa powder.

Stir in the icing sugar, milk and essence (I add the sugar in stages -aiming  for a slightly runny icing) and beat until it is thick and smooth – adjusting with icing sugar and extra milk as necessary.

Try and dribble the icing over the cake first, rather than spread it on with a spatula.  Then use a spatula to even it out over the whole cake.

 

 

 

 

 

The cake stand & pastry forks are Crazy Daisy (21st Century design) by Portmeirion

The tea service is Lyndale, by Royal Standard from the 1950s.

The green teapot is Cafe Culture by Maxwell Williams.

If you have any left after serving, then this cake keeps well if kept in an air tight container.

I use a plastic cake saver from Morrisons Supermarket  which is really useful (however a cake stand on a foot is too high – you have to use a lower stand or plate).

 

The plate is Beechwood by Royal Adderley, 1955  to 1964.

Another Cheesecake!

I had not planned to write about cheesecakes again so soon but recently I had made lots of yoghurt cheese and I decided to make a baked cheesecake for my visitors.

There are so many variations you can make of baked cheesecakes – here is one with a chocolate and an orangey twist.

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I had a packet of milk chocolate digestive biscuits already opened and  I thought I would try  a variation on my usual recipe.

Ingredients for the base

100- 150g of chocolate digestive digestive biscuits (milk or dark)

50 – 75g of butter

A few chunks of dark chocolate

Method

Grease a spring-form or loose bottomed tin with melted butter. (You can use a 7.5cm, 8cm or 8.5cm tin – adjust the amounts of the base ingredients to suit.)

Crush the biscuits in a bowl.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat then add the chocolate and let it melt.

Add the butter & chocolate mix to the biscuits and mix them all together.

Press the mixture into the base of the tin and leave it to cool completely.

Once cool you can put it the tin into the fridge whilst you make the yoghurt cheese mixture.

Ingredients for yoghurt cheese mixture

Around 450g of yoghurt cheese (or use cream cheese)

3 eggs separated

80g of caster sugar

60g of chopped mixed peel (I use the peel from Marks & Spencer)

2 tablespoons of custard powder

Custard 1

 

 

 

 

The custard powder helps as the yoghurt cheese is often quite “wet” – this is a tip I got from the book   Eat Well  The Yochee Way   by Nikki & David Goldbeck.

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Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM 3 – 160ºC.

Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar till they are pale and fluffy.

Lightly whisk in the yoghurt cheese and the custard powder till it is all well combined.

Mix in the mixed peel.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and then fold them into the mixture with a metal spoon.

Pour the mixture onto on the biscuit base.

 

 

Bake in the oven for  50 minutes.

When the cake is ready switch off the oven and leave it in there for at least 40 minutes.

Take out the cake to cool.

Once it is cold – take the cake out of the tin by loosening the outer ring or placing the cake tin with the loose bottom on a tin can and sliding the cake tin down.

Dust the cake with icing sugar before serving.

I think this cake is best made the day before you want to serve it – so it is well cooled and set.

 

The blue & white table cloth is a new 100% cotton one from Ikea.

The tea plate is Las Palmas by Aynsley from the 1960s.