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.

 

 

Herbata – Tea

Legend has it that in nearly 3,000 years BC the Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, was sitting outside when leaves from the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis fell into some boiling water which he then tasted – and so tea was born!

Traders from the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie)(VOC)  first brought tea from China to Holland at the beginning of the 17th century where it became very popular & it was Dutch traders that brought tea to Poland.

Tea is mentioned in the mid 17th century by King Jan Kazimierz II (1609-1672) in a letter to his wife Ludowika Maria(1611-1667) and the drink became very popular with the nobility.

Tea in Polish is herbata which comes from the Dutch Herba thee  & which earlier may have been from the Latin Herba thea.

Cza (cha) – is a Chinese word for tea and in Polish the word for a teapot is czajnik.

Poland – a country of tea drinkers

I think tea could be classed as Poland’s national drink and per capita per annum the Polish consumption is the 4th in Europe (figures from 2014) following Ireland, the UK and Russia & in 9th place globally, ahead of Japan and Saudi Arabia.

A typical Pole drinks a glass of tea for breakfast, lunch, dinner & supper and in between as well.

Serving Tea in Poland

Tea is served as “black” tea – though in fact it is very light weak tea – it is never served with milk. It is served on its own or with slices of lemon or  a small amount of fruit syrup  such as cherry or raspberry.

The syrup  in the photographs below is raspberry malina 

Tea was often served with honey although nowadays it is more likely to be served with sugar.  However I usually  drink my  tea without sweetness, except when I  add some fruit syrup.

Polish honey from the lime tree also know as the linden tree.

Note

The Polish for July is lipiec  – meaning the month of the linden blossom – many Polish cities have parks and avenues with linden trees & in July the air is heady with the scent.

 

Porcelain lidded sugar bowl by TCM Germany – bought in a second hand shop in Krakòw

 

 

 

 

 

The tradition way is to brew  a  very strong solution of tea  called  esencja (essence) and this is poured into a glass or cup and boiling water added to make a very light coloured – weak tea.

Often a samowar was used  with the  strong essence of tea kept in the little teapot (often this could be a little enamel pot) and the samowar is used to boil the water and keep the essence warm.

Samo means by itself  …. war means to heat or to boil.

The photographs are of my samowar which is electric – It was made in the 1980s.

My father talked about their samowar in Poland which had a tube in the centre into which you put hot charcoal to heat the water.

Tea Bags

Nowadays tea bags are often used and a very popular brand is Yellow Label from Unilever Polska – Liptons .

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Thomas Lipton(1848-1931) was from Glasgow, Scotland and Lipton Yellow Label has been sold since 1890 when the first version of the Yellow pack with a red Lipton shield was used.

Strangely enough this brand of tea is not marketed in the UK – I used to bring it back from Poland – now I can buy it in all the Polish shops.

Tea Glasses

Tea was always served in tall glasses often with a holder of metal or straw .  Many years ago I had a big clear out and got rid of my straw holders – I so regret that now!

Images below from photos on the World Wide Web

 

 

Last Saturday, I went to the second hand market in Huddersfield and found 2 pairs of tea glass holders, 1 pair in stainless steel & 1 pair in silver plate.   They have cleaned up very well – I am so pleased I found them.

Glass handled mugs are a substitute.

 

China cups and saucers are also used on many occasions –

Herbata & Sernik (Polish Cheesecake)

Royal Albert  tea set – Primulette from the 1950s

Tea is often used in baking, it can be used to soak dried fruits before making a cake or as part of a poncz (punch) to drizzle over a cake such as a yeast babka.

 

Tea & Chocolate babka

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.

 

 

Oats & Cranberry Biscuits

These biscuits are not at all Polish in origin – I like to think of them as a Scottish & Polish Alliance!

 

Cranberries & Lingonberries

Cranberries and lingonberries grow wild in acidic bogs around many forests in Poland and especially in the countryside where my father lived, in what was North East Poland before the war.

Cranberries & Lingonberries belong to the genus Vaccinium and the plants are small,  low growing, evergreen shrubs

Cranberries in central  and northern Europe are Vaccinium oxycoccos , whilst Vaccinium microcarpum or  Vaccinium macrocarpon  are to be found in the USA.

Lingonberries are Vaccinium vitis-idaea .

The berries of the cranberry are larger and oval.

The berries of the lingonberry are round and much smaller than the cranberry, about a third or quarter of the size.

Image result for lingonberries

Image of lingonberries taken from Wikipedia

The Polish for cranberry is żurawina, the word comes from żuraw which means a crane – so the same as the English word, as parts of the plant reminded people of the bird.

The Polish for lingonberry is borówka or borowina,  both these names  contain the part bor which means (from) the forest.

Notes

1 -There are dozens of different names in English for lingonberry which in facts comes from the Swedish name.

2- The commercially grown dried  cranberries used in this recipe  were grown in the USA.

Oats

Oats (Avena sativa) – owiec in Polish, are grown in Poland  but for this recipe I have considered them Scottish!

Rolled Oats
Royal Scottish – Polish Alliance!

The mother of  Bonnie Prince Charlie(1720-1788) was  – Maria Klementyna Sobieska(1702-1735) – she was the granddaughter of the Polish King Jan III Sobieski(1629-1696) and she married James Stuart(1688-1766), The Pretender.

In March 2016, The Scotsman printed an article titled

Scotland and Poland a 500 year relationship.

Some of the facts & figures below are taken from this.

More Polish nationals now live in Scotland than any other group from outside the UK and the two countries share a rich history.

The links were forged back in the late 1400s when trade agreements were established between Aberdeen and the old Baltic seaport of Gdańsk.

Under King Stefan Batory(1533-1586), Scottish merchants became suppliers to the royal court in Kraków and grain and timber  from Poland was traded with Scotland.

Many Scots moved to Poland to seize new business opportunities and buried in St John’s Archcathedral in Warsaw is Alexander Chalmers  (written as Czamer) , from Dyce near Aberdeen, a judge and four times mayor of Warsaw between 1691 and 1703.

There are many surnames in Poland which are Scottish in origin such as:  Machlejd (MacLeod),  Makolroys(MacElroy)  and Szynklers(Sinclaire).

Around 38,000 Polish soldiers were stationed in Scotland after the fall of Poland in WW2 and many of those who were unable to return to their homeland after the end of the war stayed and it is estimated that around 2,500 Polish-Scottish marriages took place around this period.

There was a wave of immigration in the 1980s with the declaration of Martial Law in Poland and then again after 2004 when  Poland  joined the European Union.

One of the most popular brands of tea sold in Poland is Yellow label which was created by Sir Thomas Lipton( 1848-1931) who was from Glasgow, Scotland.

Since 1995 Krakòw has been twinned with Edinburgh.

Ingredients

100g butter or block margarine

100g granulated sugar

5ml of golden syrup

5ml of boiling water

100g of self raising flour

100g of rolled oats

50g of dried cranberries

 

Dried cranberries

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 – 190°C.

Grease at least 2 baking trays – (you will have to take the biscuits off when they are cooked and re-grease these tins.)

Place the butter or margarine in a pan with the granulated sugar and heat slowly so that the butter is melted.

 

Add the teaspoon of golden syrup and then the teaspoon of boiling water and mix well together.

Take the pan off the heat, add the flour and oats and mix this together.

Then mix in the cranberries.

Using your hands, make small balls and place them on the trays, leaving space around them as they will spread.

 

Place in the oven and bake for around 8 – 10 minutes, watch them carefully as they suddenly seem to catch & burn.

I often look at them half way through and flatten them with a spatula.

Take them out of the oven and leave them to cool a little before you use a spatula to take them of the trays and leave them to fully cool on a wire cooling rack.

 

 

Plate is by Royal Grafton – no pattern name – made in England

American Crescent Cookies

These cookies were made for me by my aunt on my visit to America, many years ago.

She said that she often made these for Christmas.  I have adjusted the recipe to weights rather than cups as I find that easier.  Also below I have the ingredients for  just half the original amount which will  make around 12 largish cookies … so you can try them out .

Ingredients

110g butter

2 and 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1/2 tablespoon of water

130g plain flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

120g chopped pecans  (or you can use walnuts)

Icing sugar for finishing.

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 – 160ºC

Grease 2 baking sheets.

Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla essence and water together.

Add the flour and the salt.

Stir in the chopped pecans.

 

Take amounts of the mixture larger than a walnut and press this together in your hands – it will stick together easily –  shape it  into a crescent.

Place them on a greased baking sheet.

Bake for around 25 minutes.

Let them cool for a few minutes and then dredge or roll them in icing sugar.

 

 

Served on a tea plate by Royal Grafton – Woodside –  1950s

Whilst I have been writing this post I mentioned it in an email to my cousin who wrote

“Do you know we still use that recipe particularly at Christmas but I can eat them any time. I like them as crescents but also as thumbprint style with a dab of perhaps raspberry, strawberry or apricot preserves–and then powdered sugar sifted on top.” 

and also

“As you know, the recipe calls for butter and my feeling is, anything is better with butter! My best friend gave me a little kitchen plaque that says, “I believe in the unparalleled power of butter!”

So I tried these out using raspberry jam – delicious!

 

Plates are an unnamed Waterlily design by

Taylor & Kent, Longton, England

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.

Keks

Keks is the word for a light fruit cake which is baked in a loaf tin or even more so a long narrow rectangular tin.

I am not sure how or when the word keks came into the Polish language but I am certain it comes from the English word “cakes” –  however the word keks is singular in Polish and means cake, and the plural is  keksy which is cakes.

It is thought that the keks originated from recipes for cakes from ancient Rome with the cakes being baked with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and dried grapes and  using barley flour and then later in the middle ages honey was used and other fruits.

Keks is mentioned in a Polish cookery compendium from 1682 by Stanisław Czerniecki.

Nowadays keks is made using wheat flour and bakalie.

Bakalie is usually translated as dried fruits – however it has more varied fruits than the English version of dried grapes (raisins, sultanas, currants) & mixed peel.

Bakalie can be a mixture of the following:

  • Apricots
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Mixed peel
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Sultanas
  • Nuts – almonds, hazel & walnuts

Of course you can vary the mixture every time you make it.

The use of  sweet dried fruits came into use in Poland through the influence of Turkish cooking where most of these fruit and nuts grow.

Traditional keks is baked in a long narrow rectangular tin, however I also use the English style 2lb loaf tins especially as you can get greaseproof cake tin liners which make life a lot easier.

NOTE

I have tried these out several times and have found two things that you must do to make turn out well:

  1. Toss the fruit in flour so it does not all clump together.
  2. Bake the cake at a low temperature so it cooks through.

Keks

Ingredients -1

Amounts for a long narrow tin

300g butter or block baking margarine

300g granulated  sugar

6 eggs

2-3 drops vanilla essence

300g plain flour

80g potato flour

2 teaspoons  baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

400g  bakalie (dried fruit  & nuts – see above) & 1 tablespoon plain flour

butter & dried breadcrumbs to prepare the tin or greaseproof paper

Ingredients -2

Amounts scaled down amounts for a 2lb loaf tin

200g butter or block baking margarine

200g granulated  sugar

4 eggs

2-3 drops vanilla essence

200g plain flour

60g potato flour

1.5 teaspoons  baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

300g  bakalie (dried fruit  & nuts – see above) & 1 tablespoon plain flour

Butter & dried breadcrumbs to prepare the tin or greaseproof paper or liner

Method

Prepare the baking tin by either coating with butter & dried bread crumbs or cut a sheet of  greaseproof paper to line the long side and base of the loaf tin or use a liner where appropriate.

Pre heat the oven to GM 3 – 160º C

Prepare the bakalie (dried fruit & nuts) by chopping the larger fruits into smaller pieces.

Place them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of plain flour and mix thoroughly so all the fruit is coated.

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Tip the coated fruit into a large sieve and shake well to remove excess flour.

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Mix the baking powder and cinnamon with the flours

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In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy

Add the vanilla essence

Add the eggs one by one, each with a tablespoon of flour

Fold in the rest of the flour

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Carefully mix in the bakalie

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Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and put in the oven

 

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Bake for around 1 hour 30 minutes for the long tin & 1 hour 20 minutes for the smaller loaf tin

Check at around 1 hour & cover the top with greaseproof paper if it starts to brown on top too quickly

Test the cake with a cake tester or wooden skewer near the end of the cooking time to check that it is baked throughout

Leave the cake to cool in the tin before turning it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aynsley, Las Palmas from the 1960s

Colclough 4212, Art Deco 1930s, Blue Violets/Pansies

Keks – using fruit mincemeat

At Christmas time I make English fruit mincemeat using the recipe from Delia Smith but without the chopped nuts.

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If I have any mincemeat over after the Christmas period  when I make mince pies,  I make a fruit loaf which which is very much a keks.

I bake this in a 2lb loaf tin.

Note

You can also use 2 small 1lb loaf tins or even a round 22cm tin – adjusting the baking time.

Ingredients

150 butter

100g soft brown sugar

75g sultanas or currants  and mixed peel

225g self raising flour

450g jar of mincemeat (exact amount is not critical)

3 eggs

Optional 25g flaked almond to sprinkle on top

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM2- 150ºC

Prepare the loaf tin by greasing it, lining the long sides or using a greaseproof liner.

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Lightly cream the butter and sugar

Beat in the eggs, one by one

Stir in the mincemeat and the  extra dried fruit until it is an even consistency – a wooden spoon is good for this

Stir in the flour.

If the mixture seems a bit dry add a tablespoon of rum or similar

Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the top

Sprinkle nuts on top if using

Bake for around 1 hour 15 minutes

Leave to cool in the tin before turning it out.

Beetroot & Chocolate Cake

I had a request from the 93 year old mother of one of my friends to make her a cake that included beetroot in the ingredients – maybe a red velvet cake.

Now I had never seen one of these cakes and certainly never made one and I did have doubts about it.

I did some research and found lots of recipes for red velvet cakes but nearly all of them used just red food colouring.

I then found a recipe for a cake using beetroot and tested it out and surprisingly it came out very, very well. The recipe uses sunflower oil and is an easy to make batter cake.

This is not a traditional Polish recipe at all but it does contain a favourite Polish vegetable – namely – beetroot.

Ingredients

250g cooked beetroots (I used ready cooked vacuum packed beetroots  – 1 pack is more than enough)

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

300g caster sugar

250ml sunflower oil

3 eggs

225g plain flour

1 & 1/2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

Method

Grease and line a  21 x 31 cm baking tin.

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 180ºC

Drain the beetroots from the water and place in a sieve for a while to ensure they are dry – you can dry them with some kitchen roll as well.

Purée the beetroots – using a food chopper or blender

In a large bowl combine the puréed beetroots, eggs, vanilla essence, oil and sugar.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa.

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Add the dry ingredients to the other bowl and beat well together.

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Pour the batter mixture into the prepared tin.

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Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Test if done with a cake tester or wooden skewer.

Leave to cool in the tin.

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The cake is delicious and moist – it has a slightly red tinge to the very dark nearly black colour.

Here I have just served it plain.

Served on Royal Doulton, Counterpoint, 1973 – 1987.

You can dust the top  with icing sugar if desired.

The cake is delicious on its own but many versions have a topping of some description.

I made one using butter, cream cheese ( or yoghurt cheese), icing sugar and lemon.

Ingredients for Topping

50g butter

100g of full fat cream cheese, twaróg or yoghurt cheese

Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

250 – 300g icing sugar

Method

The butter needs to be at room temperature.

Cream the butter, lemon rind, lemon juice and the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Slowly add the icing sugar and mix well in until it is smooth and firm enough to use as a topping.

You can make the topping ahead of time and keep it in a container in the fridge – topping the cake later when needed.

Take care not to get too many brown cake crumbs in the icing when spreading it on the cake.

Served on Colclough, Enchantment, tea plates from the 1960s

with Portmeirion, Crazy Daisy, pastry forks.

The cake was voted delicious!