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Feb 26, 2024

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Favorite Polish Cakes & Pastries

By The Polish Chef
Robert Strybel

EASY BABKA (babka wielkanocna łatwa):
Mash 1 cake yeast with 1 c sugar. Add 3 whole eggs, beaten, 3/4 c butter dissolved in 1 c very warm milk, 3 c flour, 1 t vanilla and ½ c raisins. Mix well to blend ingredients, but do not knead. Fill well-greased babka pan with dough, but it should be only ⅓ full. Cover with cloth and let stand in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 2 hrs). Bake about 1 hr in preheated 350°F oven. It is fully baked when a wooden pick comes out clean. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or glaze with icing (mix together ⅔ c confectioner’s sugar, 1 t rum or vanilla extract and 2-3 T boiling water).

RUM BABKA (babka z rumem):
Heat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream together ½ lb (2 sticks) softened butter and 2 c sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 4 room temp eggs one at a time until well blended. In separate bowl, combine 3 cups all-purpose flour and ½ t baking soda and add to butter-sugar-egg mixture, blending well. Add 1 c room temp buttermilk and 1 t vanilla and incorporate completely. Transfer to babka pan and bake for 1 hr or until toothpick tests clean. Cool on wire rack for 20 min, then invert. Meanwhile, for the rum syrup in saucepan combine 1 c sugar, 1½ c water, 4 t lemon zest and 2 T orange zest and cook over high heat stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved (about 5 min). Set aside to cool. When cool, stir in 1 t vanilla and 2//3 c rum. While babka is still warm, poke holes all over it with wooden skewer and slowly pour some of the rum syrup over it, letting it seep into the cake. When it has been absorbed, pour more syrup over and repeat until syrup is used up. After syrup has been absorbed, prepare glaze by melting 2/3 c sugar, 1/4 c butter and 1/3 c orange juice in a saucepan over med heat until sugar dissolves. Set babka on cooling rack and pour glaze over it, letting it drip down the sides.

POLISH LOG CAKE (sękacz):
Beat 1 slightly heaped c unsalted butter with 1⅛ c sugar until fluffy (app. 5 min), Add 7 egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until fully absorbed before adding the next, and beat until fluffy and lemony. Stir in 2 t vanilla extract. Separately, combine 1⅛ c instant flour, ¾ c potato starch and 2 t baking powder and stir into egg mixture. Beat 7 egg whites until they peak and carefully fold into batter. Heat overhead broiler in oven. Grease a tube pan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Ladle some batter into the pan to cover bottom and place under broiler 2 min or until golden brown. Ladle in another portion of batter and repeat process. Keep repeating until all batter is used up. Check for doneness with wooden pick. If it does not come out clean, bake in hot oven a while longer.

EASY POLISH CHEESECAKE (łatwy sernik):
Line bottom of ungreased 9 – 10 inch round baking pan with parchment paper and cover it tightly wall to wall with Polish biszkopty, Lorna Doones, vanilla wafers or other plain cookies.. Beat 5 egg yolks with 1 c sugar and 1 t vanilla until fluffy. Process 2.2 lbs farmer cheese (twaróg) to a powder and add in small batches to yolk mixture beating constantly until well absorbed. Finally beat in 1 pkg vanilla pudding mix. Separately beat 5 egg whites until stiff and gently fold into cheese mixture, Transfer to baking pan and bake in preheated 150°F oven 50-60 mins. Remove from oven, cool to room temp and refrigerate.

CRUMBLE-TOP PLUM MAZURKA (mazurek powidłowy z kruszonką):
Cut ½ lb butter into 3 c flour, add 4 egg yolks and 1 scant c confectioner’s sugar. Quickly work ingredients into a smooth dough, wrap in foil and refrigerate several hrs. Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll out one half and fit it into square or rectangular baking pan. Spread with powidła (Polish plum butter). Coarsely grate the remaining dough, evenly covering the entire surface. Bake in preheated 390°- 400° oven about 20 min or until nice and golden. When cool, cut into squares.

ANGELWINGS, BOW-KNOTS (faworki, chrust, chruściki):
In Polish tradition these pastries are mainly a pre-Lenten Mardi Gras treat, but many PolAms also enjoy them at Easter. If you are among them, sift 2 c flour onto board. Make well at center and deposit therein 5 egg yolks, 1 T butter, 2 T sour cream, a pinch of salt and 1 T 190-proof grain alcohol or 100 proof vodka or distilled vinegar. (Optional: ½ t vanilla extract may be added.) Work into a dough and knead well (about 15 min) until dough is glossy and full of small holes when cut in half. Beat dough vigorously with heavy, wooden rolling-pin on all sides – the more air forced into the dough, the lighter the pastries will be. Roll out as thin as possible on lightly floured board, sprinkling top of dough sheet with a bit of flour. With pastry-wheel or knife cut dough sheet into 1½” strips, then cut strips at an angle into 5” pieces. Cut a 1½” vertical strip down center of each piece and gently pull one of the ends through the slot to form a bow. Heat at least 1½ lbs lard, shortening, or oil in deep pan or electric skillet to 350°. Deep-fry to a light golden-brown on both sides and remove to absorbent paper. Fry in batches so they are not crowded. When slightly cooled, dust with confectioner’s sugar.