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I’m not sure this is considered a traditional Polish recipe, but I do know that Poles love rhubarb. It is in season in late spring in Poland and you see a lot of it in fresh fruit and veggie markets and even at supermarkets throughout Poland.

Ciasto rabarbarowe z bezą [chyasto rah-bar-bar-oveh z beh-zow] is made from 3 layers: bottom layer is a buttery shortbread-like crust, then a layer of cooked down rhubarb and final layer: sweet meringue. I first had this while visiting our relatives in central Poland in early 90s. It is to die for. I had to create my own version and I’ve been making it on regular basis since.

Rhubarb Meringue Cake {Ciasto Rabarbarowe z Bezą}
  • Yields: 9 x 13 inch (25 x 35 cm) pan
  • Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
  • Cook Time: 15 min + cooling
Ingredients
  • Bottom crust:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 2 tbs of sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 14 tbs (2 sticks minus 2 tbs) / 200 g of cold butter
  • Rhubarb layer:
  • 2 lbs / 900 g of fresh rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • Meringue layer:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup / 90 g of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs of corn starch
Instructions
  1. To make bottom layer, separate eggs (keep yolks for meringue layer). Place egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and whisk until creamy, for about 4 min. Add sour cream and whisk until well incorporated. Add flour, baking powder and lemon zest and mix with whisk attachment.

  2. Finally, add cold butter cut up into smaller cubes. With your hands quickly mix and massage to form dough. Don't overwork. Butter does not have to be completely incorporated. It will help the crust to stay flaky and soft.

  3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

  4. To make rhubarb layer, wash rhubarb and cut into about 1/2 inch / 2 cm pieces. Place in a wide sautéing pan, add sugar and heat (covered) on medium heat until rhubarb softens (about 10-13 min). Uncover, stir well and continue cooking until all of the moisture evaporates. Stir occasionally. Set aside to cool.

  5. When rhubarb has completely cooled off, preheat oven to 350℉ / 180℃. Line a 9 x 13 inch (25 x 35 cm) pan with parchment paper and roll out the dough onto the bottom of the pan evenly (just the bottom, not the edges). Poke crust with a fork and bake for 15 minutes. Take out and let cool slightly.

  6. Once the curst has cooled off a bit cover it evenly with rhubarb layer.

  7. Finally, place egg whites in a mixing bowl and whisk. Add sugar and corn starch. Whisk for a few minutes, until stiff peaks form. Transfer meringue onto the rhubarb layer and place in the hot oven for 12-15 minutes at 350℉ / 180℃. Turn oven off and let cake cool completely before taking out.

  8. Once cool, take out, cut into squares and enjoy!

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Hope you try it!

Smacznego!

Anna


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This may be the easiest and the most delicious Polish dill pickle you will ever make. Ogórki małosolne [o-goo-rkee mah-wo-sol-neh] are making their way into our spring menus as soon as they are available, which is late spring in Poland. Małosolne literally means low salt, but what it really means is that they will hang out in salty brine for just 48 hours before they can be enjoyed. At this point, they are very crunchy and fresh and just tiny bit salty. Each day they will change flavor a bit, from tasting very horseradish-y to more garlic-y, and become more and more “pickled” as time goes. Test them daily to see the difference in flavor. It will change daily.

They can stay in this flavorful bath for as long as they want, or for as long as they will last before you eat them.

You will need a few essential ingredients to make this happen. Salt, dill, garlic and horseradish root are crucial, green onion, horseradish leaves and cherry/grape leaves are helpful but I understand how hard it may be to find them, so do what you can.

Depicted pickles have been “bathing” for about a week.

Polish 2-day Dill Pickles {Ogórki Małosolne}
  • Prep Time: 10 min
Ingredients
  • 3.7 lbs / 1700 g pickling cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of dill (if you can find, best for pickling are those with flowers and seeds)
  • 8-10 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 (about pencil size) sticks of fresh horseradish root
  • 1-2 green onion or a sliver of leek - white and green parts
  • 2-3 horseradish leaves, if you have
  • 3-4 grape or cherry tree leaves
  • A 4 quart pickling crock or a glass jar
  • 8 cups water*
  • 2 tbs of salt
Instructions
  1. Wash cucumbers. Peel horseradish root and wash the rest of the ingredients.

  2. Sanitize your crock/jar with boiling water and place all ingredients (minus the salt and water) in the crock. Be very diligent with sanitizing.

  3. Bring water to boil and add salt, stir until dissolved. Pour hot water over cucumber to fill the crock all the way. Cover with a small ceramic plate so everything is submerged.

  4. Leave on the counter to pickle. Start tasting after 24 hours of pickling. They will change flavor daily and can be kept on the counter until gone.

Notes

Test them daily to see the difference in flavor. It will change daily.

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Notice the recipe does not call for vinegar. This little detail makes Polish pickles unique and one of a kind. This kind of pickle will do great in a traditional Polish pickle soup, but let them pickle for at least a week before using them for the soup.

Happy cooking and smacznego!

Anna

* general ratio for pickling cucumbers in brine is 1 to 1 (1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup of water). You may adjust the recipe for larger containers using this simple rule.


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My mom tells me that when she was little, her and the neighbor kids would go out to this one area by the train tracks and the river to pick sorrel. They would eat some of this leafy and sour vegetable on the way home and with whatever was left, grandma would then make into this flavorful traditional Polish spring soup.

Zupa szczawiowa [zoo-pah shchah-vyo-vah] is also a soup of my childhood, as it was for most kids growing up in Poland. I like mine as presented below, with a hardboiled egg and garlic croutons.

You don’t have to send your kids by the train tracks and the river any more these days. When in season (normally mid spring) you can find sorrel at most fruit and veggie markets all over Poland. I will be making it as much as possible this season, and may even freeze some for the winter.

Polish Sorrel Soup {Zupa Szczawiowa}
  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 1.5 hrs
Ingredients
  • 1 lb / 500g of bone in chicken parts
  • 8 cups / 2 liters of water
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1/4 of a small selery root or a couple selery stalks
  • 1/2 of a small onion burnt in a dry pan or directly over gas stove
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 6-8 peppercorns and allspice each
  • *to cut down on cooking time you may substitute all of the above with 2 quarts / 2 liters of chicken stock or vegetable stock (for a vegetarian version).
  • 1 lb / 500 g of fresh sorrel leaves
  • 2 tbs of butter
  • 4 slices of bread (to make croutons)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Sprinkle of salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Place first 9 ingredients in a stock pot and bring to boil. Simmer on low for 45 minutes. If using boxed stock, pour into a medium pot and heat up.

  2. In the meantime, wash sorrel throughly, cut off just the thickest stem ends. Mince sorrel finely. In a medium pan heat butter, add sorrel and sauté for a few minutes, until all liquid cooks off.

  3. Boil eggs. Once boiled, peel and dice and set aside.

  4. Toast bread and peel garlic. Rub the whole surface of each tost with garlic clove. Dice and set aside.

  5. Once stock is ready, strain it but return parsnip and root selery back into the stock. Also, add 2/3 of sautéed sorrel into pot. With an emersion blender blend the soup with vegetables.

  6. Finally dice carrots and add to soup. Add the rest of sorrel and heat through. Stir and taste. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and a bit more salt, if needed.

Notes

Right before serving add diced egg and croutons.

Soup is also often served with white rice in Poland. Feel free to experiment.

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If you’ve never tried this unique soup before, I hope you do. I hope it makes it onto your list of regulars.

Happy cooking and smacznego!

Anna


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Babka drożdżowa z rodzynkami [babka droh-dgova z roh-dzyh-nkah-mee] is a treat that we would mainly enjoy around Easter. This soft and sweet bread-like cake is best right after cooling, sliced and served with butter. It never last more than a few hours in my home which makes it hard to make ahead of time (for a holiday for example). I will have to hide it, if I want to have some left for Easter dessert.

This babka, unlike my other babka recipes is made using yeast. This gives it a distinct tangy flavor, and creates large air bubbles in the cake. Lemon zest adds a nice touch. It is an absolute one of a kind dessert, and I guarantee that, once you try a home-made version of it, it will stay in your dessert repertoire for good.

Polish Yeast Babka with Raisins {Babka Drożdżowa z Rodzynkami}
  • Yields: One Bundt Pan
  • Prep Time: 30 min + raising time (2-5 hours)
  • Cook Time: 40-45 min
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup / 175 ml warm milk
  • 1.5 oz / 40 g fresh yeast or 0.7 oz / 20 g / 3.5 tsp of active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup / 150 g of granulated sugar
  • 11 tbs / 150 g of butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup / 100 g of raisins
  • 1 tbs of corn starch
  • 1/4 cup / 2 fl oz / 60 ml of water or favorite high volume alkohol (rum, whiskey, brandy, etc)
  • 4 cups / 500 g of all purpose flour
  • 1 egg + 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Additional butter to grease pan
  • Frosting:
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5-6 tsp of hot water
Instructions
  1. Place yeast, warm milk and sugar and 1/2 cup of flour in a mixing bowl and mix until dissolved. Cover and set aside for 15 min in a warm spot in the kitchen.

  2. Place raisins in a small bowl and add water (or alkohol). Melt butter and set aside to cool.

  3. Right before step 4, place raisins on a strainer and add corn starch. Shake it around to cover raisins and get rid of excess corn starch.

  4. After 15 minutes of yeast/sugar/milk/flour mixture raising, add raisins, remaining flour, butter, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt and mix to form dough. Transfer onto a clean, floured surface and knead for 15 minutes. I'm using my KitchenAid with the hook attachment, and letting it do the work*. Add another tablespoon of flour, if dough is too wet.

  5. Grease bundt pan with butter, place dough in pan, distribute evenly. Cover with a towel and set aside for at least 2 hours in a warm spot. The dough has to (at least) double in size. May take 2-4 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 350℉ / 180℃. Place babka in the middle rack and bake for 40-45 min. When done, let rest for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. PLEASE NOTE: this cake tends to burn quickly. To prevent it, place a piece of aluminium foil (loosely) on top of cake after 10 (or so) minutes of baking, and keep covered.

  7. To make icing, place powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl. Add a few drops of lemon juice and keep adding 1 tsp of hot water at a time. Mix until combined, it should create a paste. Adjust the amount of water and sugar for the desired thickness of the icing. Pour over cake once cake has cooled off.

Notes

Yeast dough needs a bit extra care. Take your time to properly knead it and let it rise. I've waited for 4 hours for it to get to the right size. Best to commit the day to it, and let it take rise properly.

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Let me know how it turns out for you!

Happy cooking and smacznego!

Anna

*check out the list of my favorite things to see what equipment I use and recommend.


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Kogel mogel [koh-ghel moh-ghel] was my favorite after school snack for many years when I was a kid. I’d get home, whip up a chocolate “kogel mogel” and indulge in this sweet, creamy and oddly delicious dessert. This portion was just large enough to satisfy the sweet craving and get a bit of something in my belly to hold me over til dinner.

Kogel mogel was a very popular Polish dessert when I was growing up. Sweets may have been hard to come by, but we always had eggs and sugar. With bakeries every other corner, serving up so many varieties of different sweets, cakes, breads and cookies these days, I don’t see people making kogel mogel much any more.  I do make it once in a while and, boy, does it take me back… sigh…

Polish Egg Dessert {Kogel Mogel}
  • Yields: 1 serving
  • Cook Time: 1 min
Ingredients
  • 2 egg yolks*
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • For the chocolate version:
  • Add 2 tsp of cocoa
Instructions
  1. Separate egg yolks from whites. Place egg yolks and sugar (and cocoa, if preparing the chocolate version) in a coffee mug. With a hand beater and single beater beat the egg with sugar (and cocoa) for 60 seconds on high.

Notes

* REMEMBER! Consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness. ENJOY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

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Let me know what you think!

Smacznego!

Anna

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Zalewajka [zah-leh-vahy-kah] is a traditional Polish soup made from whole wheat soup starter*, smoked sausage, aromatic thick cut smoked bacon and root vegetables. The sour soup starter thickens the soup as it heats, making it a hearty and filling meal.

I first tasted this soup while visiting the city of Łódź last summer. I’m surprised I’ve never had it before, considering that my family on my mom’s side comes from central Poland, where this soup originated. I re-created it at home and have been making it at home since. I love the slightly sour flavor mixed with the smokiness of bacon and sausage. It is really delicious.

Take your time and make the soup starter, you won’t be disappointed.

Polish White Barszcz and Vegetable Soup {Zalewajka}
  • Yields: 5-6 servings
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
Ingredients
  • 7 oz / 200g of smoked sausage (more is OK too)
  • 4 slices of thick cut, good quality smoked bacon
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 8 cups / 2 liters of water
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1/4 of a celery root
  • 6-7 medium potatoes
  • 10 peppercorns and allspice - each
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 can (15.5 oz / 440 g) white kidney beans
  • 2 cups / 500 ml of sour wheat soup starter*
  • 1/2 tsp of ground pepper
  • 2 tsp of dried marjoram
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
Instructions
  1. Dice sausage, bacon and onion and place in a heated a medium/large soup pot. Sauté on medium until fat has melted and onions cartelized (about 5 minutes).

  2. In the meantime, peel and dice carrots, parsnip, celery root and potatoes.

  3. Add water to meat/onion mixture and add diced vegetables, salt, peppercorns, allspice and bay leaves. Boil on medium until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.

  4. Add beans (rinsed) and bring to boil. Add sour starter, ground pepper, marjoram and garlic, bring to boil and heat for another 2 minutes. Soup will thicken.

Notes

Serve with bread.

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Happy cooking!

Anna

*to make whole wheat soup starter, use this recipe for rye soup starter, just use whole wheat flour instead.

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Fat Thursday – tłusty czwartek [twoosty chvartek] is fast approaching! In Poland it celebrates the last day of festivities before Roman Catholics start fasting, and it is always on the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Next opportunity to feast will not be until Easter. 

Tłusty czwartek is all about eating pączki [ponchkee] and faworki (aka chrust or chruściki). Pączki are fried donuts often filled with marmalade or pudding, and sprinkled with powdered sugar or glazed. Faworki are made of thin sweet dough, twisted in a signature twist, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. On this day you can eat all the donuts and sweets guilt free, and yes, I do. 

Bakeries go into overdrive the night before this unofficial holiday. Everyone can hardly wait for the day when you are expected to eat as much as you want, no judgements passed.

There has not been a year when I would not have indulged in this tradition. Frankly, its unavoidable. Employers treat their employees to varieties of these sweet pastries, and everyone is expected to eat at least a couple. Jelly or custard filled, glazed or powder sugar-coated, everyone can find their favorite.

Parents bring home an assortment of the sweet pastries and kids, extra excited for this tradition are often, allowed to skip dinner.

After “tłusty czwartek“, Poland will enter a period known as “ostatki” meaning last days of carnival. This will continue until Tuesday of following week, and end on Ash Wednesday. Lent will begin and last until Easter.

Until then, donuts for everyone!

Polish donuts {Pączki}
  • Yields: 50 small donuts
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 2 min each
Ingredients
  • 3.5 oz / 90 g of fresh yeast (or 4.5 tbs of active dry yeast)
  • 1 tbs of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups / 200 g of bread flour
  • 1 cup / 300 ml of warm (not hot) milk
  • 6 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 cup / 100 g of sugar
  • 6 cups / 800 g of bread flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup / 200 ml of warm (not hot) milk
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3.5 tbs / 50 ml of high proof alkohol (spirytus /
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 3.5 oz / 100 g of melted and cooled butter
  • 2 lbs / 1 kg of lard (for frying)
  • Powdered sugar (for garnish)
  • or to make glaze:
  • 2 cups / 250 g of powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 tbs of water
  • Candied lemon peel (if you like)
  • For filling:
  • 1 jar of favorite jam
Instructions
  1. Place first 4 ingredients is a bowl and mix well to combine. Place in a warm spot covered with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

  2. When the hour is almost up, whisk eggs yolks, 1 whole egg and sugar in mixer bowl with a whisk attachment until white and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

  3. Change whisk to a mixing paddle, add yeast starter and start mixing. Gradually start adding flour alternating with milk. Also add lemon zest and juice, alkohol, salt and vanilla extract. When it becomes too thick to mix with the mixing paddle, start kneading by hand. Knead until dough is smooth and it doesn't stick to your hand anymore (about 10 minutes).

  4. Finally, slowly add melted butter and keep kneading until incorporated.

  5. Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

  6. After 1 hour, divide dough in half and roll out to about 1/2 inch / 2 cm thickness. With a glass or a metal can cut out circles and place on a cookie sheet. Do this with all of your dough. Cover dough circles with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.

  7. About 15 minutes before the hour is up, start heating the lard. Place it in a rather narrow pot (we'll be frying only 2-3 at a time, and we need some depth of the oil) and heat on medium heat til grease reached 350℉/180℃ (or until a piece of dough place in grease starts bubbling immediately).

  8. Be very careful with placing donuts onto hot grease. I used a wire colander to place 2 or 3 donuts at a time. Fry donuts until they are golden brown (about 45sec - 1 min per side) and flip. Remove onto a paper towel lined sheet.

  9. If you'd like to fill them with jelly, let them cool first. Fill a pastry bag (with a long nozzle) with jelly. Insert nozzle into donut and push on bag to fill them with about 1 tsp of jelly.

  10. I like mine with powdered sugar only, but if you'd like to glaze yours place powdered sugar in a bowl, add lemon juice and add water 1 tbs at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Pour over donuts and garnish with lemon peel.

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My home-made donuts do not look perfect, but this makes them special. They are just slightly sweet, super soft and not greasy at all. It will be hard to eat only a couple.

Good luck!

Anna

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