Leśny mech – Forest moss

 

A Polish Heritage Day was held in the Leeds Polish Centre on the first Saturday after 3rd May in 2017 & 2018.

The 3rd will take place on Saturday, 4 May 2019.

May 3rd  is Polish Constitution Day – a National Holiday in Poland to celebrate – Konstytucja 3 maja 1791.

This was the first  written constitution in Europe and the second in the World with the American constitution in 1789 being the first. It was very progressive for its time.

There was a hugh table with Polish cakes for sale – I contributed the iced poppy seed cake – makowiec on a glass stand in the middle of the photograph.

One of the ladies brought a cake I had never seen before which she told me was called Leśny mech – which means Forest Moss and it looked amazing as it was bright green!

Others certainly knew this cake and it very quickly disappeared!

I was amazed to find that the cake is made with spinach!

I have tried to find the origins of the cake as it is certainly not one my mother ever mentionned – all that I have found is that it is based on a Turkish cake – called  Ispanakli Kek (Spinach Cake).

Short History of Spinach

Spinacia oleracea is spinach & the plant originated in Persia (modern Iran), ispanakh in Persian &  ispanak in Turkish and szpinak in Polish.

Spinach was found in China by the early years of AD, where it is called Persian vegetable.

There are records of spinach in Spain by the 12th century.

Spinach came to England in the 14th century and was popular because it grew in the spring and helped to break the monotony of the Lenten diet.

Catherine de Medici who was from Florence in the 16th century married into the French royal family. She loved spinach  and the term which is used till this day – à la Florentine, which is used to signify a dish with spinach, was coined in her honour.

Leśny mech

Forest Moss – this cake with its amazing colours is meant to look like the forest floor with red berries growing.

I made this cake with 250g of  baby leaf spinach which gives a light green colour. I have read that if you use full leaf older spinach this gives a darker colour and has more flavour – I have not tried this yet.

I also know that you can use frozen spinach -400g of frozen – squeezed out and patted dry – but I have not tried this.

I used frozen raspberries for the berries – when it is later in the year I will use fresh raspberries or alpine strawberries from the garden or whinberries(bilberries) from the woods. Many people use pomegranate seeds when making this in the winter months.

Ingredients

  • 250g baby leaf spinach
  • 240g of  granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 185 ml sunflower oil (3/4 of  a 250ml cup)
  • 400g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C.

Grease and line the bottom of a loose-bottomed (or spring formed) cake tin – 26cm in diameter.

  • Use a mini-chopper/blender to whizz up the spinach – most likely in batches to get it all done.
  • Mix the flour and baking powder together.
  • Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence into a large bowl and use an electric whisk to whisk them together for 4 to 6 minutes till it is pale and fluffy.
  • Gently stir in the spinach.
  • Fold in the flour mixture.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
  • Bake on a lower shelf of the oven for 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Leave to cool in the tin.

 

  • Lightly shave off any golden brown edges of the cake with a sharp knfe or fine grater.
  • Cut off the top third of the cake and crumble it by hand into a bowl.

Place the bottom piece of the cake onto the serving plate or cake stand.

Optional

A sweet poncz (sweet punch for moistening the cake) can be used on the bottom layer.  You can make one from 60ml of cold weak black tea, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 – 2 tablespoons of icing sugar. Mix the ingredients together and use a pastry brush to spread it on the cake.

Now add a white filling!

Some recipes use whipped double cream, sweetened with icing sugar and set with gelatine. Other recipes make a filling with mascarpone.

I used my own yoghurt cheese – you can use cream cheese.

Filling Ingredients

Approximate amounts

  • 500g yoghurt cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence or fine grated rind of a lemon
  • optional – a couple of tablespoons of soured cream – depending on the cheese and how soft you want the filling

Method

Mix the ingredients together – adjusting the sweetness and consistency to taste.

Assembling the cake.

  • Place bottom layer on a plate or cake stand.
  • Brush on the poncz – optional
  • Spread on the white filling
  • Sprinkle the cake crumbs over the top of the cake to cover filling
  • scatter red berries over the top (do this later if not serving straight away)

To decorate – red colours – raspberries, whinberries (bilberries) alpine strawberries, pomegranate seeds

 

Making this cake gave me a chance to use the beautiful Lead Crystal Cake Stand, which was a present from my cousin in Lanchester. It was just right for this large cake.

Made by Nachtmann in Germany  – Tortenplatte (tort/gateau plate/ stand) – style name – Venus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plates used are La Prune by Jet for Ter Steege in The Netherlands.

Cotton napkin with a design of rhubarb was bought from the Hepworth Gallery shop in Wakefield (Sadly – No longer in stock – as I wanted to buy some more!).

Sponge with Sour Cherry Jam

Wiśnie  is the Polish for sour cherries  which I have described in More Duck.

Having made sponge with sweet orange jam I thought I would try this with sour cherry jam – the one I used is from Lidl and is very good with a sharp sour taste. The taste goes really well with the  dark chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made an English style sponge for ease.

Ingredients

2 eggs

75g caster sugar

75g self raising flour

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C

Grease and line the base of  a round 18cm diameter  baking tin.

In a bowl whisk the eggs and caster sugar until they are pale and creamy.

Gently fold in the flour.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden.

 

You will need around 3 to 4 tablespoons of jam.

Warm the jam slightly to make it easier to spread.

Sandwich the cake halves together with the jam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a dark chocolate glaze as in mazurek  using yeast dough  and again in mazurek with oranges.

 

Here served on Royal Doulton – Counterpoint  1973 – 1987.

 

 

 

Sponge with Sweet Orange Jam

This cake was inspired firstly by mazurek with oranges and also by the very British Jaffa cakes.

Jaffa cakes were first made in 1927 by McVitie & Price (Established in Edinburgh in 1830)  – little sponges with orange jelly and a chocolate topping – named after the port (now called Tel Aviv) from where the Victorians and Edwardians imported oranges).

A fat-free sponge cake is cut in half and sandwiched together with a sweet orange jam and then covered  with a chocolate glaze or icing.

I have tried out several versions – and made a fat-free sponge using  the recipe with  potato flour   this time using a round 19cm baking tin which has been greased and lined with a circle of greaseproof paper on the base and baked for 20 – 25 minutes at GM4 – 180°C

 

A quicker version is to use a more English sponge recipe ( this has slightly less volume so a smaller baking tin is used).

Ingredients

2 eggs

75g caster sugar

75g self raising flour

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C

Grease and line the base of  a round 18cm diameter  baking tin.

In a bowl whisk the eggs and caster sugar until they are pale and creamy.

Gently fold in the flour.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden.

 

 

Leave to cool and cut the sponge in half

 

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Orange & Elderflower Jam from IKEA

Warm the jam slightly to make it easier to spread.

Sandwich the cake halves together with the jam.

 

Chocolate glaze – using the one from Mazurek – with Yeast Dough

 

 

 

Served on Bramble Rose by Duchess from the 1960s

 

The more milk chocolate icing below is the one from chocolate babka.

 

 

Served here on tea plates by Spencer Stevenson Co Ltd 1948 – 1960, design name not known.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Did My Sponge Become Sandy?

In Polish the word for a fat free sponge cake which is made with just eggs, sugar and flour is  biszkopt.

A sponge cake which uses butter or margarine which is creamed with the sugar is described as piaskowy – this adjective means sandy – hence the title of this post!

I have not managed to find an explanation as to why it is so described  but have found this term in all my Polish cookery books.

Pani Stasia’s Sponge Cake

This is a recipe which I learnt from my mother’s friend who we knew as pani Stasia*.

Pani Stasia made wonderful cakes but unfortunately I did not write many of them down – however I did for this one and it is the basis for many of my other cakes and buns.

This recipe is equivalent to the British cake –  Victoria Sponge – named after Queen Victoria in whose reign this became popular & who is said to have liked this cake very much.

Having been looking at recipes in my Polish cookery cooks I realise that pani Stasia adapted this recipe for England as self raising flour and caster sugar are not found in Polish shops.

(*Pani  translates as Madam, Lady or Mrs and is a polite form of address – it is like donna in Italian or for example  saying Miss Mary in the Southern States of America.

Stasia is the shortened form of the Polish name Stanisława. (The feminine form of Stanisław)

St Stanisław is the patron saint  of Kraków & Poland, he was a martyr, murdered by the Polish king Bolesław II the Bold in 1079 – a story which has much in common with St Thomas à Beckett and the English king Henry II  in 1170).

Ingredients

Eggs

Butter or Block Baking Margarine

Caster Sugar

Self Raising Flour

I usually use 3 or 4 eggs for this recipe – in the photographs below I have used 4 eggs to make 2 cakes which were then sandwiched together with jam and white chocolate butter cream.

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Method

Grease and line the base of 2 x 21.5cm  sandwich tins. – I find anodised aluminium tins are the best. (my old tins say 8 1/2 inch on the base – 21cm or 22cm would be OK)

Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180°c

The first thing you have to do is weigh your eggs – complete with their shells.

Weighing Eggs

You then weigh out the same amount of  butter or block margarine, caster sugar and self raising flour.

At first I thought this was very strange but now find that it gives a very good way of getting the right proportions no matter what size the eggs are.

I heard the late Marguerite Patten in an earlier recorded programme on the radio a few weeks ago saying that Victorian cooks often  used this method. 

Cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one by one whisking again until the the mixture is light and fluffy again.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon taking not to over mix the mixture and knock out all the air.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 prepared tins.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 25 to 30 minutes  – the cake should  be golden brown and be clean when a cake tester is used.

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Cakes cooling awaiting being sandwiched together

This cake is very versatile and here I have sandwiched it together with blackcurrant jam (given to me by my friend who had made it with fruit from her allotment) and white chocolate butter cream.

Sweet whipped cream is not found in Polish cookery – butter creams and similar are the standard fillings for layer cakes.

On the bottom cake first spread on the jam and then top this with the butter cream.

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This butter cream is sweet and needs the contrast of a tart jam, damson jam would be another alternative.

White Chocolate Butter Cream

Ingredients

60g White chocolate

40g Butter – unsalted is best

80g Sieved  icing sugar

 Method

Melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of hot water and allow to cool.

Cream the  butter and the icing sugar.

Beat in the cooled, melted chocolate.

Note

Take care  –  if the melted chocolate  is too hot then you will end up having to add more icing sugar and the  butter cream will be very sweet.

Dust the finished cake with icing sugar.

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Plates are Burleigh Ware – Burges & Leigh Ltd —– Blue Mist around 1930s

 

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