Mazurek

Most people know that a mazurek (mazurka in English)  is a Polish folk dance. It is also the word for someone or something from Mazur (the region known as Mazowsze in Polish) in North Central Poland.

A tasty meaning of mazurek, is a flat Polish cake made with different bases and toppings. The varieties are seemingly endless and vary from region to region and family to family. They can be made with yeast doughs, crumbly shortbread-like doughs  (ciasto kruche) or flaky, puff-pastry-like doughs.

The mazurek is usually baked in a rectangular or square shape.

The topping varieties include: almond paste, dried fruits, fresh fruits, nuts, meringues, kajmak, jam or poppy seed paste.

There is often an icing of some sort poured over the topping.

A mazurek is  rarely over 2.5 cm (1 inch) in height.

It is thought  that  the mazurek, was inspired by sweet Turkish desserts that came to Poland via the spice trade routes from Turkey in the early 17th century .

Mazurek  is traditionally served at Easter when it is considered an Easter treat after 40 days of fasting for Lent and this is maybe why this cake is so sweet.

Another reason is that Holy Week, the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, is a busy one in a Polish household as the interior and exterior of the house is cleaned from top to bottom so any baking  that could be prepared well in advance of Easter Sunday without getting stale was good and the mazurek, often made with an over-abundance of dried fruits to keep it moist  is well suited to this.

When the top of an Easter mazurek is  iced , it typically is emblazoned with the words “Alleluja” or “Wesołego Alleluja (Happy  Alleluja or Happy Easter).

 

 

 

Mazurek made with jam topping

I used ciasto kruche for these, using the versions in pastry-ciasto kruche

I liked the one using hard boiled eggs the best.

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 – 190°C

I used a Mermaid shallow tin, 31cm x 21cm, which I greased and lined – to make it easier to get the mazurek out of the tin.

Using around 1/2 to 2/3rds of the pastry dough, roll out a rectangle for the bottom of the tin – if it is too crumbly you might have to piece and press this in.

Using the rest of the dough make stripes about a finger thickness and place these around the edge of the tin.

Use a sharp knife to make a cut pattern in these strips.

 

 

Bake for 25 -30 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Leave to cool completely.

Fill the mazurek hollow with jam.

You will need around a whole jar of jar and you can heat the jam slightly to make it easier to spread.

Make some icing with beaten egg white, lemon juice and icing sugar and drizzle this over the jam.

Mazurek with blackcurrant jam

 

 

Served here on a bamboo board and  Las Palmas tea plates by Aynsley from the 1960s

Mazurek with raspberry jam

 

 

 

Served here on a bamboo board and tea plates with a violet design by Colclough from the 1930s.

 

 

Pisanki – Polish Easter Eggs

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the spring equinox, which is the 21st of March. So the earliest date for Easter is the 22nd of March and the latest date is the 25th of April.

In English the word Easter comes from the name of the pagan goddess of dawn or spring – Eastre or Eostre and her festival was in spring time and hence this old word has stuck.

In Polish the name is Wielkanoc – which translates as Great Night – as it is the night of The Resurrection.

Eggs at Easter were originally a pagan tradition as symbols of fertility, rebirth and the revival of nature and heralded in the start of spring.

The tradition was absorbed by Christianity and the egg is now the symbol of the tomb and as the chick hatches from the egg with life so it symbolises the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Pisanki are the decorated eggs you find in Poland. The word comes from the Polish verb pisać which nowadays means to write,  however in old Polish it also meant to paint.

There are many different ways of decorating eggs and each of these has its own specific name  –  one method uses beeswax and dyes are used to give wax resist patterns – another scratches away the dye to revel the original shell colour.

In Kraków there is the Museum of Ethnography, founded in 1902, which has  superb displays of intricate and beautiful pisanki through the ages – well worth a visit.

Below are photographs of an egg which was decorated using the beeswax and dye method – onion skins in this case.  It belongs to the Director of  the Leeds Polish Saturday School and was one of many made two years ago with instructions from a visiting tutor at a workshop session for the teachers and pupils at the school.

 

 

I make very simple coloured eggs by hard boiling eggs with onion skins.

Boiling eggs with brown onion skins dyes the egg shells a rich brown colour.

 

Boiling eggs with red onion skins dyes the egg shells a dark red-brown colour.

 

 

You can buy sheets of coloured paper dyes which give a range of colours   – safe edible dyes of course – I have tried these in the past but now just use onions as they are always in my vegetable basket.

Tip

When hard boiling eggs use eggs that are at least three days old as very fresh eggs are hard to peel.

These hard boiled eggs form part of the basket of food which is taken to church on the Saturday before Easter to be blessed see Palm Sunday & Holy Saturday.

The blessed eggs are peeled and cut into quarters to be shared at the Easter Breakfast with all the people present.

 

 

Other non- blessed hard boiled eggs are used in a game of tapping  eggs together to see which one cracks first.

A wooden imitation of these lovely decorated eggs is now a very popular item for sale throughout the year in Poland.  It is a something that many tourists buy to take home.

 

Picture45

Pisanki for sale in Kraków

Picture48

 

 

My Wooden Pisanki

 

 

Wooden Eggs belonging to my friend in Leeds

 

In these the wooden eggs have been painted and carved to expose the pale wood imitating the method of scratching with a fine tool the paint or dye and exposing the egg shell colour of real eggs

Easter Greetings

The photographs are taken from recent Easter cards from Poland.

Wesołych Świąt

IMG_20160307_122736836

 

Happy Holy (Holiday) Day

 

IMG_20160307_122818233

Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych

Happy Holy (Holiday) Day at Easter

Wesołego Alleluja

Happy Alleluia

 

Because of the egg theme you may also hear

Smacznego jajka 

May the eggs be delicious.

 

 

IMG_20160307_122641469

PS

After posting the above I received an Easter card from Poland with the following stamp.

IMG_20160331_155207810

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday & Holy Saturday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Palms are blessed in church on this day to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.

Of course palm trees do not grow in Poland and so other plants are substituted. Often pussy willow  is used as the catkins are usually out around this time. My mother always called pussy willow – palma – the Polish for palm.

 

Picture12

 

Twigs For Sale in the Old Square in Kraków

 

Picture11

Palms are also made from  dried grasses and corn which are often dyed to make them colourful or from coloured paper which is rolled and the edges cut to make a fringe.

IMG_20160317_084252377_HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160317_085832182

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160317_084304081

In many villages the farmers would make huge palms for the procession completing with each other to see who had the biggest and best.

The Main Square in  Kraków – Decorated with Large Palms

 

 

It is still Lent in Holy Week so the food eaten is simple and often meat, butter and egg free. Most baking and cooking done now is to make food to eat at Easter.

As well as going to church services it is a time for houses to undergo a massive clean-up especially inside.

Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent – the day before Easter.

This is the only day in the Catholic year on which Mass is not celebrated.

In Poland there is the tradition on this day to have the food for Easter blessed.

This has its roots in the early medieval church in the 12th Century and the food would have originally  been just bread and eggs.

In times past in villages the priest would have gone around to people’s houses and blessed the food there. Nowadays people bring a basket of food to the church and the food is blessed with Holy Water and is then taken home and not eaten till the Easter Sunday Breakfast.

Once blessed this basket is called święconka meaning  that which has been blessed

The basket is lined with a cloth – often white linen and sometimes embroidered.  A white linen cloth is used to cover the basket. These cloths represent the white shroud in which Jesus was wrapped.

What goes into the basket depends on several factors but hard boiled eggs and bread are usually present. Everything in the basket has a symbolic meaning.

Eggs –  Christ’s Resurrection – a symbol of life.

Bread – Christ as the Bread of Heaven.

Salt –  Preservation & Purification & Zest for Life

Horseradish – The Harsh & Bitter sacrifice of Christ.

Cooked Meat & Sausage – Joy & Abundance of God’s mercy.

Babka – The risen  dough  – this represents the Risen Christ.

Shaped Lamb (butter/cake/bread) – Christ – The Lamb of God -(see Lamb Bread)

Cheese – Moderation.

Butter – End of Lent.

Getting a basket ready to take to Church

IMG_20160317_091427426 IMG_20160317_091412273

IMG_20160314_121021117

IMG_20160314_121012463

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160209_170105296

IMG_20160302_063114078

 

 

 

IMG_20160314_121030337

 

 

 

IMG_20160301_080227533

 

 

 

Picture33 Picture23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Babka

 

IMG_20160314_121136387

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160314_121150500

 

 

 

 

 

People coming & going to church in Kraków with baskets of food.

 

 

 

Food for sale for Easter in Kraków.

Picture17

Picture22

The special meal at Easter in Poland is the Easter Breakfast –  although it is a lot later than a normal breakfast being usually around 11am

This meal is a cold buffet and includes the food that was blessed in church on Easter Saturday.

The hard boiled eggs are cut up into quarters or eighths and they are shared between everyone present  at the start of the meal.

POSTSCRIPT

Since posting I received the following photographs from my friend in Leeds who is The Director of the Polish Saturday School.

Sugar Lambs to go in the basket for blessing.

 

Salt Dough Lambs – made for the Easter Fair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polish Easter Lamb

The Lamb is a symbol of Christ Resurrected  – The  Lamb of God – The Saviour of the World.

In Poland there is a tradition of having a Lamb  on the table at Easter.  This would be made out of moulded butter or sugar or baked as a cake.  There are moulds available for making a lamb-shaped cake into which you pour the cake mixture before you bake it.

My auntie in America sent me the instructions for making a lamb using bread dough. I think the result is super.

I used my basic enriched bread dough (click here for link to the recipe).

You can use this or your favourite bread dough recipe using 500g of flour.

Make the dough until it is ready for shaping.

Shaping the Lamb

Grease a large baking sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 – 200°C.

Prepare an egg white wash by whisking an egg white in a bowl or an egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.

Divide the dough into 3 parts.

IMG_20160228_104453014_HDR

Use 1 of the pieces and shape it into a large oval – this will be the “body

IMG_20160228_104701414

 

 

 

 

Chop 1 of the pieces into 4 parts

IMG_20160228_104805952

 

 

 

 

Shape 1 part into an oval “head

Shape 1 part into an oval “tail

Shape the remaining  2 parts into long oval “legs

Attach these to the body by pinching them slightly together.

Cut a vertical slit in each leg.

IMG_20160228_105018714(1) IMG_20160228_105157040

 

 

 

 

 

Using the remaining pieces of dough, pinch off small amounts to make around 24 x 2.5 cm balls and 11 x 1cm balls by rolling the pieces in your hand.

Arrange the larger balls over the body leaving a border of around 1cm uncovered.

Arrange the smaller balls between the larger balls and on the top of the head.

Insert a currant or a raisin for the eye.

 

IMG_20160228_105821648 IMG_20160228_105830553 IMG_20160228_110240522

 

 

IMG_20160228_110236026

 

 

 

 

 

Brush with egg white wash and bake for 10 minutes.

Quickly brush on more egg white wash and sprinkle sesame seeds over the head and body.

Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or slightly longer until lightly browned on top.

IMG_20160228_113024233

IMG_20160228_113007450

 

 

 

IMG_20160228_122343641

 

 

 

IMG_20160228_122357093

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160228_122327553

 

Karnawał – Carnival

The official end of the Christmas & Epiphany season is February 2nd which is 40 days(inclusive) after Christmas and is the feast of the Presentation of Christ in The Temple also known as Candlemas Day.  In Poland it is called Święto Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej – The feast of Our Lady of the Thunder Candles (as the blessed candles are used during thunder storms)

February 2nd is the start of karnawał  – carnival and the festivities leading up to the beginning of Lent which starts on Ash Wednesday.

During karnawał there is lots of dressing up in costumes such as beggars, chimney sweeps, goats, bears, horses or storks and going from farm to farm or house to house and there the revellers would be given food and drink.

The date of Ash Wednesday varies as it is based on the date for Easter which is calculated according to the Paschal full moon.

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the spring equinox, which is the 21st of March. So the earliest date for Easter is the 22nd of March and the latest date is the 25th of April.

Ash Wednesday is six and a half weeks before Easter – calculated as 40 days but the Sundays are not included so it is in fact 46 days before Easter Sunday.

Therefore the earliest date for Ash Wednesday is the 4th of February and the latest date is the 10th of March.

In a year when Ash Wednesday is very early – I am sure that  karnawał  festivities would begin a little early!

After Christmas with all the wonderful food it seems like only a few days and it is time to prepare for Lent. All the rich food is used up before Lent, especially on the last day before Ash Wednesday.

In England it is Shrove Tuesday, in France Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday), in Poland tłusty wtorek (Fat Tuesday) and in some parts of Poland there is also tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday) and then the last Tuesday can also be be called ostatki (last remnants).

In Poland chrusty and pączki (doughnuts) are made (pancakes are eaten throughout the year and do not feature here.)

My mother always made chrusty, doughnuts we got from other Polish ladies in the neighbourhood.

I was in Kraków once on tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday) and bought some doughnuts  – I found that these were very special ones made for that day made with rose petal jam.  I am afraid I did not like these – I am used to Polish plum jam or raspberry jam in Polish doughnuts and found theses too perfumed for me. (I have recently seen many English recipes made with rose petal jam – so maybe it is an acquired taste)   

Chrusty

Chrusty are deep fat fried, sugar dusted pastries.

These must be my favourite pastries which my mother would only make once or twice a year before Lent began.

When I was little before I started to help, I could never understand how she made these amazing shapes.

The name chrusty means “dry twigs” which may describe their appearance but not their taste!

You could call them ribbon shaped and in some parts of Poland they are called faworki from the French word  faveur which means  favour as in the coloured ribbons given by ladies to Medieval knights.

My aunty in The United States told me that nowadays they are popular there for weddings and other big parties not just during carnival and that Americans call them Angel wings.

I remember that my mother always fried these in vegetable oil.  During my research I have realised that originally they were fried in lard, and the books say that this makes them very tasty!

They taste best a few minutes after cooking, straight from the pan, when still slightly warm and dusted with icing sugar.  So being in the kitchen when they are being made is the best place to be!

Ingredients

300g plain flour

100g self-raising flour

50g butter

50g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of rum (or vodka and 2 drops of vanilla essence)

2 – 3 tablespoon of soured cream to mix (use double cream if not available)

Sunflower oil to deep fat fry

Icing sugar to dust

Method

Mix the flours together and rub in the butter to make fine crumbs and then mix in the sugar.

Mix together the eggs, yolks and alcohol together. Make the decision on how much cream to use or not as you start to mix later.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid.

Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients to make a  soft dough.  You can use a knife at first and then your hands.

If the dough needs some extra liquid then add the soured cream bit by bit.

Take about a third of the dough and roll it out on a floured board as thinly as possible.

Using a sharp knife cut strips which are strips 3 to 4 cm wide and about 15cm long, you can cut the short edges diagonally.

In each one cut a slit down the middle long ways and pull the short edge through to make a twist.

Repeat with the rest of the dough, try to use as much as possible in the first cutting but you can mix and re-roll the off-cuts.

Try not to add too much extra flour when re-rolling.

You can brush of excess flour with a pastry brush.

In a pan or fryer heat up the oil and deep fat fry the chrusty, about 2 or 3 at a time till they are golden.  They will rise to the top as they cook, turn them over using bamboo or wooden tongs.

Remove from the hot oil, using the frying basket or bamboo/wooden tongs.

Place onto kitchen roll and dust with icing sugar.

If you have any left put them in an airtight container when they are completely cold and add extra icing sugar when you serve them.