Racuszki – A Kind of Pancake

A racuch – according  to my dictionary is  a kind of pancake.

Racuszki or racuchy are plural words for them- used much more as you never have just one!  They are small thick pancakes similar to dropped scones, Scotch pancakes or American style pancakes.

In my old Polish recipe book, the recipe uses soured milk, but as I do not have this, I use my own thick yoghurt instead.

Racuszki

1 egg

250ml yoghurt

200g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

large pinch salt.

Method

In a large bowl mix the flour, pinch of salt, the egg and some of the yoghurt, mix it with a wooden spoon. I found my new one with a hole in it which I bought in The Netherlands very good for this.

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Keep adding the yoghurt (and some water if needed) and mix till you get a batter which is thick and then beat it more till it is smooth and glossy.

Then add the bicarbonate of soda and give this a final mix.

Use a griddle or thick cast iron frying pan and use oil to grease it lightly and heat it up.

You need to try and keep a low to medium heat so as not to burn the pancakes.

Place tablespoonfuls of the batter on the frying pan and cook until the base is set and golden then turn them over and cook the other side.

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They are traditionally served warm with jam or thick fruit syrup – caster sugar also goes well.

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With Sour Cherry Jam

Yoghurt Cheese Pancakes

I have recently been to The Netherlands to stay with my friend and was looking at the local newspaper and saw a recipe for pancakes using qwark  (I can manage enough Dutch words to  figure out some recipes – especially if there is  a photograph!)

I thought they sounded very much like racuszki, so I jotted the recipe down and when I came home I adapted it slightly by using self raising flour, adding a little vanilla essence and used my own yoghurt cheese instead of qwark.

In the original recipe they served them warm with yoghurt & honey, I also tried them with melted butter & sugar, and with maple syrup – from the large bottle I got from my friend who lives in Canada.

 

 

They were super and ones I had left could be easily reheated and were still soft and not rubbery – I will be using this recipe lots from now on.

Ingredients

2 eggs separated

2 tablespoons sugar

250g yoghurt cheese

200ml milk (you might not need it all)

125g self raising flour

Pinch salt

2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Method

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff – I tend to do this first so you can use the beaters for the rest of the recipe – without having to wash them to remove the grease.

In a large bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, yoghurt cheese, flour, pinch of salt, vanilla essence and around half the milk.

Keep adding more milk and mix well until you have a thick batter – like double cream.

With a metal spoon fold in the stiff egg whites.

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Use a griddle or thick cast iron frying pan and use oil to grease it lightly and heat it up.

You need to try and keep a low to medium heat so as not to burn the pancakes.

Place tablespoonfuls of the batter on the frying pan and cook until the base is set and golden then turn them over and cook the other side.

 

Ciocia* Pola’s Apple Racuszki 

*Aunty

Many years ago I went to stay with my one of mother’s sisters (Apolonia) who lived in the area called mazury – the Masurian Lake District in North East Poland.

With apples from the garden she made  racuszki – using a thick yeast risen batter and roughly chopped apples – a cross between a pancake and a fritter. They were delicious.

I have made them here many times using her recipe. Whilst researching and checking other  variations I saw that several recipes used grated apples – these came out stodgy  with little taste of the apple – you need to keep the pieces fairly large.

Ingredients

125 ml of milk (full or semi-skimmed)

25g caster sugar and 1 teaspoon

10g  fresh yeast or 5g  dried yeast

25g  butter

1 egg

125g plain flour

pinch of salt

2 Bramley apples

Icing sugar, caster sugar or cinnamon  sugar to dust.

Method

Warm half the milk and add a teaspoon of caster sugar and the yeast and mix it all together and leave it to froth up.

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Melt the butter and leave it to cool.

Whisk the egg with the sugar until it is thick and creamy.

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl.

Use a wooden spoon (one with a hole works really well) and beat in the yeast mixture, the egg & sugar mixture and then the melted butter.

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Slowly add the rest of the milk, mixing until the mixture has the consistency of double cream.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave this to rise.

Peel, core and quarter the apples and cut them into small chunks or slices cut in half.

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Add the apples to the risen batter and mix them well in to coat them.

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Use a griddle or thick cast iron frying pan and use oil to grease it lightly and heat it up.

You need to try and keep a low to medium heat so as not to burn the pancakes.

Place large tablespoons of apple and batter onto the pan and cook them so that they are golden brown on both sides.

 

Remove them from the pan and dust them with icing sugar, caster sugar or cinnamon sugar.

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Eat them whilst they are hot & as they say in Poland – Smacznego! (may they be delicious!)

Yoghurt and Yoghurt Cheese

Soured Milk – 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 from this. However you cannot make soured milk from pasteurised milk (of course you can in a dairy where they will have the starters).

My mother had this on the go all the time, mainly to make the curd cheese which is used in lots of Polish recipes – savoury and sweet.

Yoghurt – 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 could say that yoghurt is soured milk’s cousin.

It is a relatively new dairy product for sale in Poland but is now very popular.

You can make yoghurt at home because you can use some bought yoghurt as a starter and then continue using your yoghurt as a starter and so on.

I go through phases of making yoghurt – it is easy to do – you just need a little bit of time and a supply of milk and some bought yoghurt as a starter.

Two Very Good Books

The Yoghurt Book Food of the Gods by Arto der Haroutunian – first published in 1983.

Mine is an old copy.  I think it might be out of print but there are second hand copies available for sale  eg on Amazon.

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Eat Well The YoChee Way by Nikki & David Goldbeck – 2001

This book is American & YoChee is the authors name for yoghurt cheese.

My Method For Making Yoghurt

  • I use a wide-necked vacuum flask, it holds about 750 ml (it must be wide necked or you will have difficulties cleaning it). I fill it with boiling water to sterilise it and heat it up. I leave this with the water in whilst the milk is cooling down – then I pour out the water and add the yoghurt mix.  I often make this at night and it is ready  in the morning. You can make it in the morning and it should be ready in the evening.

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  • Now that milk is pasteurised you need a yoghurt starter, Greek yoghurt is good, once you have made some of your own, you can then use that to start the next batch.
  • You need milk –  you can use whole milk or semi skimmed – you can use skimmed milk but I prefer the others.
  • I have a tall milk pan which is very useful as there is height for the milk to rise without spilling all over the cooker top.

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  • Bring the milk to the boil and then let it cool to 37 to 40 degrees o C, if you dip in a finger tip it must feel just lukewarm, no hotter than body temperature, and you should be able to keep your finger there for a count of 10 without it being too hot or you can use a cook’s thermometer.  This is important, too hot will kill the bacteria, too cold may not be warm enough for the bacteria to grow.
  • Mix a large tablespoon of yoghurt into the milk, about 1 tablespoon to 500ml of milk.
  • You then have to leave the mixture in a warm place to grow.
  • You can put the mixture in a clean, sterilized with boiling water, bowl and cover this with a cloth and leave it overnight  or about 12 hours. This is the easiest method in the summer or if you have a warm but not too hot spot in the house.
  • I empty the hot water from my vacuum flask and pour in the milk & yoghurt mixture,  put on the stopper and the lid and leave for around 10 hours.
  • I have used a thermostatically controlled yoghurt maker in the past and you put the mixture into little pots and left them.  I found this did not make much yoghurt in one go and there was a lot to clean out and sterilise. I started to use the vacuum flask method and have stayed with that but some of the new electric makers now have just one large pot and I think they may be easier to use.
  • Once it is made, pour it into a bowl or tub and refrigerate the yoghurt,  it tastes so much better and fresher that any bought ones.  I bought some plastic food storage tubs with lids specially for this.

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At this point you can start again and when you have loads you will start to think “maybe I will make some yoghurt cheese from this” and on it goes!

With the yoghurt, sometimes I eat it plain, or use it instead of milk with muesli or other cereals, dried fruits and nuts. Mostly though I add fruit to it, chopped fresh fruit sprinkled with a bit of icing sugar, stewed fruit or tinned fruit. I love it with stewed prunes! It is super with just a spoonful of runny honey.  Sometimes I use it as a salad dressing on its own or mixed with mayonnaise.

Making Yoghurt Cheese

Also known  as YoChee  and in the Middle East as labna  or labneh.

Traditional Method

The yoghurt cheese is made by putting  yoghurt into a muslin cloth and tying it up and letting the whey drain off from the curds. This will take many hours and is best done in a cool place.

Modern Straining Method

I bought a little device from Lakeland Plastics which is a modern version of the hanging muslin cloth. It is a plastic tub with a stainless steel fine mesh sieve which hangs in the box.  You then put on a plastic lid and then put the tub in the fridge.

I leave this to strain for at least 24 hours  – often up to 48 hours.

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Sometimes I buy a 1kg tub of Greek yoghurt to make the cheese if  I do not have any of my own – this is more than enough for the tub.

Yoghurt Cheese as it comes out of the pot.

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It is a soft, fresh tasting cheese.

I eat it uncooked either plain or with chopped onions, chives or garlic, with chopped dates and banana or jam and so on, the list is endless.

I use yoghurt cheese in Polish recipes instead of twaróg – Polish curd cheese  to make baked cheesecake or Polish style ravioli with either sweet curd cheese or savoury with potatoes, onions and curd cheese and much, much more.

I would use this home made cheese within a week as it does not of course have the shelf life of commercially, often vacuum packed, cheeses. 

This morning for breakfast I had some freshly made yoghurt cheese on toast with some morello cherry jam which my friend had made a couple of weeks ago from cherries growing on her allotment.

It was delicious!

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The cheese is wonderful with other slightly tart jams such as blackcurrant or damson.

By the Way – Whey is a useful by-product

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Tub of whey you can keep in the fridge.

The liquid whey that is in the bottom of the tub can be saved and used instead of water, milk or buttermilk in making scones and soda bread etc or you can add it to soups.

Polish Cheese

The origins of cheese pre-dates recorded history but one of the earliest archaeological evidence of cheese production in 5,500 BC is from Kujawy in Poland.

Ser is the Polish word for cheese.

Unlike in France, Poland does not have dozens of varieties of cheese.

There are basically three types of cheese in Poland – white, yellow and smoked.

White cheese is made from curd cheese.

Twaróg is the name for curd cheese and is the most important cheese for cooking in Poland both for savoury and sweet dishes.

It is often known as ser wiejski  – village cheese.

This is the cheese that both sets of my grandparents would make on a very regular basis.

Twaróg

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Twaróg is made from soured milk and can be classified as a fresh acid-set cheese or as a fermented milk product. The soured milk is poured into muslin clothes and then hung up to separate the solid curds from the whey.  This results in the traditional wedge shape.

Rennet is not used in its production.

In German it is called Qwark, in Dutch it is called  Kwark and is similar to the French Fromage frais.

It is similar to yoghurt cheese which is made from strained yoghurt.

Science note

Soured milk and yoghurt are both produced by the action of bacteria in milk.

However it is mesophile (moderate temperature loving) bacteria which produce soured milk and thermophile(higher temperature loving)  bacteria which produce yoghurt. What that means is that soured milk is naturally prevalent in cooler climates than yoghurt.

Historical note

There is evidence of soured milk production in 10,000BC and yoghurt production in 6,000BC.

Twaróg  is used extensively in Polish cookery both savoury & sweet.

Recipes using Twaróg will feature in many of my future posts.

Yellow cheese is hard cheese and although there are several varieties they are very much like the Dutch cheeses such as Edam and Gouda.

Smoked cheese – the most famous is from the Tatra Mountains and it is made from sheep’s milk – it is called Oscypek.

This cheese has been made from the 15th Century.

The curds are pressed into wooden decorative shapes.

It has a protected trade name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin.

Some scenes of the Tatra Mountains

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Zakopane is a much visited town in the Tatra mountains. Its name means dug in and it is in at the bottom of a valley surrounded by mountains.

Wooden houses typical of Zakopane

House in Zakopane

My beautiful picture

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Oscypek – smoked cheese – from the Tatra Mountains – is often served grilled with cranberry or lingonberry jam.

Oscypek for sale in the streets of Zakopane

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Lady selling Smoked Cheese
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Smoked Cheese made with Sheep’s Milk
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Some cheeses are made with Goat’s Milk

Górale – Highlanders – Shepherds from the Tatra Mountains

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Folk Dancing
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Folk Dancing

World Cheese Production

Some Very surprising Statistics

If anyone had asked me about world cheese production before I started this post, I would have guessed that  the biggest producer in Europe was France or maybe The Netherlands.  I would have been very wrong!

Looking at the figures for 2011 & 2013 for World Cheese Production in metric tonnes I found that –

The top 6 in both these years are as follows:

  1. United States of America
  2. Germany
  3. France
  4. Italy
  5. Netherlands
  6. Poland.

Also the United Kingdom  does not feature in the top 10 at all.

Thinking about this,  I of course realised that here in The United Kingdom  many of the cheeses for sale are imported many from France and The Netherlands.

In recent years Polish cheeses are appearing not only in the many Polish shops in the United Kingdom but also in some of the regular supermarkets.