Tag Archives: Polish in America

Fat Thursday and Faworki always go together …

… at least in my home.

Fat Thursday –  is traditional Polish and German feast marking the last Thursday before Lent and is associated with the celebration of Carnival. Because Lent is a time of fasting, the next opportunity to feast would not be until Easter. (Wikipedia).

All Catholics know that – not that I am one, but I grew up in a very religious Catholic family with plenty of doughnuts and faworki every single year on Fat Thursday. More often we had homemade faworki than pączki (doughnuts). It was much easier to make for the family of 5 plus grandparents and, I think, we all liked them better than pączki.

These days, for me Fat Thursday is more like a cultural tradition not very much connected to religion. Being far away from my home country I take a thing or two from the religion I grew up with and make it a cultural thing. It kind of make sense even for Polish people living in Poland because Catholicism is connected very closely to the culture of our country, so even people that are not very religious still celebrate Fat Thursday by indulging themselves eating unlimited amount of doughnuts on that day.

In Warsaw, people waiting in line for doughnuts on Fat Thursday (source Thenews.pl)

I should’ve done this post yesterday but to the last minute I was convinced that I am not going to make anything for Fat Thursday this year. I went to bed last night thinking: I’m too tired to make something that it’s actually going to be just for me. My husband is not a big fan of deep fried foods. Of course he’ll eat french fries, fried onion rings, fried chicken and many different deep fried foods (all in the restaurant) but if I make something at home that is deep fried he does not want to eat it. Oh, and he has nothing against store-bought doughnuts – SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL HIM THEY ARE ALL DEEP FRIED!!!

Anyway, I got up this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about making faworki (chrusty, angel wings).

After making breakfast for everybody I put myself to work (I mean, my stand mixer). 

Those delicious little things are very easy to make and with all the ingredients that most of us have already in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp white sugar

4 egg yolks

5 tsp plain yoghurt (original recipe calls for sour cream) plus more if necessary

1 tsp vinegar

2 Tbsp. butter, softened

pinch of salt

orange zest (optional) – this is my twist to this recipe so actually it’s not necessary 

oil for frying

Put all the ingredients together in a big bowl and mix it in your Kitchen Aid or knead by hand until the dough is smooth and looks like that:

our little one burned her hand days ago and these days her favorite word is “hot”. She touches everything saying “hot, hot, hot” looking at me for the nod if she got that right. This time she didn’t 😉

If the dough is too dry and doesn’t want to hold together just add a teaspoon of plain yoghurt. If it’s still too dry add one more until the dough holds together, is nice and smooth and easy to shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap, aluminum foil or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. After that time take it out cut into four pieces, leave one piece out and put the 3 left back to the fridge. When you’re done with cutting, folding and frying that first part, repeat everything with the remaining 3.

On lightly floured surface roll the dough very thinly. The more thin the dough the more crispy the pastry will get after frying.

When done rolling with a sharp knife cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch wide and 4 inches long stripes. Make 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch long slit in the middle of each strip.

Working with your both hands open the slit in the middle. Take the top and fold it towards the slit. Pull the end through the slit.

Gently pull both ends and you made yourself a perfect angel wing 🙂

Repeat with the remaining strips.

Fry in hot oil. You can check the oil if it’s ready by putting one corner of the raw angel wing in the oil. If it starts to sizzle and bubbles appear it means that the oil is ready.

Fry on both sides until golden brown. The heat should be on medium high for the best results. Keep an eye on them as they tend to burn really fast.

You might want to put them on paper towel to soak the extra oil out. While still warm heavily sprinkle with powdered sugar. I mean, REALLY heavily 🙂

Keep it high enough so your Little Ones can’t get into it while you’re not watching.

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Creamy and Rich: Homemade Ricotta

As a kid, since I can remember to about when I was 14 I spent me entire Summer break in a small village in Poland with my dad’s family. They didn’t have running water (just a well). We bathed in a huge washbowl and…  the toilet was outside. I would eat wild growing berries and drank milk straight from a cow. For two months I would forget how processed food tastes like. During the last few years we visited them they had a store (!). That tiny place was mostly used for buying an alcohol and sodas by locals. It didn’t last long, though. That’s how self-sufficient that village was (as most of the villages anywhere else in Poland).

One of the best memories I have from that period is milking cows. I was never good at it and I gave up very quickly in trying to get better, but I tried it and it was fun. While my aunty was milking her cows I would pretend I’m a cat and I tried to drink that warm and fresh milk straight from a bucket to which my aunty milked the cows. Once, a friend of our family came from behind while I was doing so and pushed my head deep inside that filled with milk bucket. Everybody laughed and I was mad… . I’ve never drank milk straight from a bucket since.

Despite that accident and many more (like me being attacked by a “gang” of angry turkeys) those 2 months spent there every year were the best times ever. I will cherish them forever.

The food we ate there is my goal to achieve in the future: home grown, home raised, homemade.

Right now I just learn how to “home make” stuff from what I can get at the store 🙂

This time I learned how to make ricotta.

I’ll tell you something: I will never buy ricotta again. The homemade is creamy, rich and nothing like the store-bought. NOTHING! The recipe I got is not the original ricotta recipe. The original calls for whey from making another cheese (like mozzarella). Whole milk is never used. I cheated here a little 😉 It doesn’t matter, I think. The results are amazing and that’s what matters. Right?!

To make it I used:

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream*

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions that couldn’t be any easier:

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a saucepan. If you have a candy or deep-fry thermometer attach it to the pan and heat the milk to 190°F stirring occasionally. When it reaches 190°F remove from heat.

If you do not have the thermometer you should watch the milk-cream very closely until you see bubbles appearing around the edges of the pot. It means the liquid is ready to be removed from heat.

Add lemon juice. Stir couple of times (no more), very gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.

Line a sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. The bowl is to catch the whey. Later it can be used for baking breads.

Pour the milk mixture into the sieve and let the curds strain for at least an hour.

I didn’t have cheesecloth (but I do now) so I used an old t-shirt I don’t use anymore.

The cheese I got after 2 hours of straining was firm but very easy spreadable, it looked and felt almost like cream cheese. No curds just creamy and silky texture.

I am not sure for how long you can store it. I kept mine in airtight container in the fridge. It lasted for 4 days before I ate it all.

I ate it with fresh baked bread… .

You can’t beat that!

For an extra twist to this cheese visit Polish Mama on the Prairie… I’m definitely trying her idea the next time I’ll make it.

* the heavy cream in this recipe can be skipped. doing so you’ll get cheese with big curds and much more drier texture. 

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Homemade “Kisiel”

Sometime in the past I wrote a post about kisiel. The one that I had was a powdered kisiel I got from our Polish store.

To make it you just need to add the powder to a boiling water and voila! I found it in our Polish store but I’ve never bought it again since.

What’s kisiel?!

It’s a European dessert. Its consistency is like a thick syrup. Often made from kompot – at least in our family we used to use it to make kisiel. Sometimes it’s made from fruit juice. To get the thick consistency, in Poland, we use potato starch (flour). Corn starch is very rarely used in cooking in Poland. Instead of those two, lately I discovered that arrowroot is the best to use.

If there is no kompot  or fruit juice kisiel can be made with water, sugar and fresh fruits. I’ve never tried to make it using frozen fruits but I think it might work, as well.

The one that you can get from the store doesn’t have any fruits in it. Just like a pudding it’s a flavored powder, nothing else. These days they make those weird flavors that have nothing to do with fruits. The last time I had one was “cola” (coca-cola) and it was terrible!!! 

Homemade it’s a totally different story. To make it you can get creative as much as you want, but stay with the fruits only 😉

For example a few days ago I made a bueberry-pear-apple kisiel from fresh fruits.

It was delicious. 

Have you seen “Julie and Julia”?! I love love love this movie!!!

It might be serve cold or hot. I prefer to eat kisiel hot. The same is with pudding. I think that serving those two desserts cold is a sin against taste buds. Seriously!!! I’m getting angry just thinking about it.

Anyway, many recipes that you will find on Internet call for huge amounts of sugar. It’s really not that necessary if you use fresh fruits. The fruits will give it the natural sweetness and, at the end you could serve it with a whipped cream. 

This is my recipe

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup apple (I always use granny smith), peeled and chopped into small pieces

1 cup pear, peeled and chopped into small pieces

3 cups cold water (divided into 2 1/2 and 1/2)

3 TBSP. sugar (or more if needed)

3 tsp. corn starch (or arrowroot or potato starch)

Cook chopped apple and pear in sugar and 2 1/2 cup of water for about 5 minutes – until the fruits are soft but not mushy. Add blueberries and cook another 3 minutes stirring often. In the remaining 1/2 cold water dissolve the corn starch (or whatever starch you’re using). Mix it with the fruit-sugar mixture. Stir until it thickens.

Done! 🙂

As I said, you can serve it cold, hot or slightly warm.

In my opinion the dessert tastes the best on the next day. You can store it in fridge for a few days. Whenever you’re ready to eat it just heat it up again (or not) and enjoy.

If it’s not sweet enough you can always add sugar.

If the consistency is not thick enough for you add more starch (first dissolve it in a tiny bit of cold water). I remember my mom used to make it almost like water. She would add almost no starch. She liked to drink it from a cup like it was a tea. I like mine somehow thick but not too thick.

… at the end enjoy watching your kids gobbling it up!!!

 


The joy of eating fresh pastry

I think I mentioned it before that the only good thing in my pregnancy is that it makes me think about all kinds of Polish food I haven’t cooked for ages or simply have never tried to cook/bake it at all but, remembering it from Poland I crave it like crazy these days. If I crave it it means that to eat it I need to make it myself.

There is only one Polish store near where we live and it’s not very well equipped in Polish (Eastern European) pastry.

Eastern European pastry is totally different from what’s here. Of course we have cookies and candies that are all the same but those particular sweet buns called “drożdżówki” are something unique. There is countless kinds of those in Poland. With white cheese, with jams, with all kinds of fresh fruits, with poppy seeds paste, raisins, cinnamon, and there is a countless combination of using those ingredients in those pastries. The best thing is that they normally are very big, and one of my favorite memories from Poland is getting one or two for breakfast from the nearest bakery, fresh and packed with fruits…

If you’re interested in some pictures of those buns this is link to google gallery. I’m drooling right now just looking at them… .

So instead of just drooling and thinking how good they were in Poland I decided to try to make them. I found very easy and fast recipe on Every Cake You Bake blog.

My first attempt was about 2 months ago (and I have no idea why I didn’t blog about it then). I’m actually happy I didn’t because today it seems like it’s a perfect day to do so and I explain it why. I made those a few weeks back when our friends from East Coast were visiting Bay Area. The day they were leaving I gave them a bag with those buns.

The next day I saw a few pictures my friend posted on fb:

It’s always nice to know that people like your food. Isn’t it. 🙂

Yesterday I got an email that one of them was injured at work and was rushed to the emergency room and had to get stitches on his hand, and that he is in a lot of pain. Ouch… .

Yesterday as well, before I got that email I baked a new batch of those sweet buns.

So, today thinking about how much my friend liked them I decided (to send the recipe to them so they can make it at home hoping that it might put a smile on my friend’s face) and to post a few pictures and the recipe here on my blog hoping that making and eating it could bring a smile on somebody elses face.

It works that way in my and my husband’s case.

From this recipe you’ll get a family portion, so I recommend to make the first batch from half the dough and freeze the rest of it in a plastic bag for further use. That’s what I do. I actually split the dough in 3 parts. 1 part equal about 12 or 14 buns.

Ingredients:

8-9 cups all-purpose flour

0.17 oz active yeast (I used one envelope of active dry yeast)

1 cup of sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

2 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk

14 Tbsp (200 g) unsalted malted and cooled butter.

Filling:

A LOT OF FRESH FRUITS YOUR CHOICE

1 egg beaten

Crumbs:

10 Tbsp cold unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

pinch of salt

Directions:

In a big bowl pour 8 cups flour (reserve one cup for if the dough is too loose at the end), make a hole inside it and put yeast inside that hole. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on it and pour 1/2 cup of warm milk over the yeast. Let stand for about 15 minutes until the yeast is bubbly. Meantime in a different bowl beat the eggs and yolks with salt, add sugar, vanilla and milk. Pour the wet mixture over the flour and yeast. Knead the dough. It should be fairly loose. Add melted butter and knead it more. If the dough is too loose gradually add more flour.

Let it stand covered for an hour or until doubled in size.

After the dough is ready take 1/3 of it and put on well floured surface. Roll it in a large rectangle about 1/3 inch thick. With a sharp knife cut 4×4 inch squares. Diagonally lay a line of your fruits. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of it 🙂 If you use apples cut them into small cubes and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Seal opposite corners over fruits (like on one of the pictures above). Place them on baking sheet and let it stand for about 15 minutes.

In meantime make crumbs. Rub with your fingertips the flour mixed with sugar, salt and cold butter cut into small pieces until formed into lumps.

Brush buns with beaten egg, sprinkle with crumbs. The more crumbs the tastiest the pastry!!!

Bake in 350 F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Eat warm or cold. They are delicious both ways 🙂 They are great for breakfast with a cup of coffee or after dinner for a sweet dessert. They are so good with any kind of fruit. The first time I made them with strawberries and blueberries. Second time with apples sprinkle with cinnamon. Yesterday I used raspberries and blueberries. With raspberries they have extra sour kick which really surprised my husband when he took his first bite. lol

 

THE BEST APPLE PIE E.V.E.R

I’ve got a story about apple pie.

Polish apple pie is a little different from the American. When I asked my husband if he wants apple pie, I had a Polish version in mind. He was very surprised that we have apple pie in Poland. Also, he though that Polish is the same as American… you know… “as American as Apple Pie”… he thought that apple pie is from America so Polish must look and taste the same. Oh… those Americans… they all think that almost everything was invented in US, or if it wasn’t it was improved by Americans… I’m just kidding, not. 😉

So… For the first time I made him an apple pie, the Polish style, and I ended up eating it myself.

From that day I’d been looking for a pie that we both would like. I’ve tried a few different recipes. Sometimes he liked it, and I didn’t, sometimes I liked it but he didn’t.

And finally one day! I did it! I found a pie that we both really liked! I can’t say it’s the American version, but it’s deliciously awesome and the best part of it is the crunchy toping.

I changed the original recipe a little, and today I call it THE PERFECT APPLE PIE.

Since then, every time I make it my husband says: “this pie is better than the last one.”

The first step is to make the topping:

TOPPING:
1/2 cup sugar (white, brown, or turbinado)
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup butter

Cut butter into flour and sugar for topping. Knead it untill smooth. Make a ball from the dough and put it into to the freezer.

Next step is to make the crust:

CRUST:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup UNSALTED butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. water

Cut butter into dry ingredients. Add water gradually until just moistened. Roll and place into a 9-inch pastry dish. I use my hands to do that. It’s quick and very easy.

I place the ball of dough in the middle of the dish and then just press it down and spread all over the dish until the bottom and the edges are covered.

FILLING:

1/2 cup sugar
5 whatever apples you like/have, or enough to fill crust (I like the granny apples the best).

fresh cherries (OPTIONAL)
Cinnamon to taste (about 1 TBSP)
1 tsp. corn starch

Normally I do not mix any fruits with apples but for the last few times I mixed in some cherries and that pie was really DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!

In a measuring cup mix sugar, cinnamon, corn starch.

Fill the pie with half of the cut into small pieces fruits, pour half of the sugar-cinnamon-corn starch mixture over the fruits. Add the remaining fruits and the rest of the sugar-cinnamon-corn starch mix. IT IS OK TO NOT TO USE ALL THAT DRY INGREDIENTS MIXTURE if you don’t want that pie to be very sweet. For example for this pie I used only 1/3 cup. I knew that the cherries will give it extra sweet kick…!

So, it looks like that:

and just like that bake it at 450°F for 15 minutes. Take it out. Wait for the oven to cool down – about 10 minutes. Preheat it again. This time to 350°F. In the meantime take the topping dough from the freezer and grate it over the fruits.

Bake at 350°F degrees for an additional 45 minutes, or until the pie filling is bubbly, and the topping is light golden brown.

ENJOY!!!

I need to add that this pie is crazy easy and fast to make. The topping is so crunchy and not too sweet as well as the filling.

It is the perfect pie!!

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Polish b-day in Polish restaurant…

…and I’m not trying to write a review in here, but it might look like it.

I’ll start from the fact that I’d been craving a real Polish food for a while. In addition to that particular craving I didn’t want to have to cook it myself. I wanted to feel like I’m in my childhood home. You know: my mom cooks and I just wait for her voice calling: dinner is ready!!! 

I thought that my b-day will be the perfect time to go and try out one (and the only one) Polish restaurant in the area This place is about 30 minutes drive (one way). My husband made a reservation a week before. When we got there we found out that we got lucky doing so. The place was packed, and more people were coming – no wonder, it was a Mother’s Day as well!

First of all when we got inside one particular thing hit me very hard! Yep it was almost like something slap me in the face! Very strong scent of women’s perfume. OMG it was strong! It was the woman’s perfumes who welcomed us! ugh!!! Ok, now I’m in Polish restaurant. That’s for sure!!!

This place is not spacial. It could seat about +/- 30 people. To be comfortable, to walk comfortable or to eat comfortable it should have 10 people less. All of their tables are “movable”. If you know what I mean. 1,5 by 2 feet little tables. If they have a party of two they use only one table. If they have party of 4 and more they rearrange them as they need. I understand that business is a business. The more people you serve the more money you earn. But I really wasn’t enjoying having had to move every time somebody tried to walk behind me.

Imagine when they served us the food everything was at the reach distance for our daughter [sigh]. As a free starter they serve bread that I really didn’t care about, because it wasn’t good. It didn’t taste like Polish bread. It tasted like a fresh beaked bread in a bakery near by from the basic bread recipe. Nothing special. Really. At least it kept our daughter occupied for the entire time we were there 🙂

Their menu was good I would say. Focused on the few main Polish dishes. I was happy to see on their list: Tripe Soup! That’s right TRIPE. If you want to have a real Polish cuisine experience you’ve got to try that soup. They have Barszcz, Mushroom Soup, Pickle Soup, and żurek. Maybe I’ll send you to the website if you want to see what they have. It doesn’t make sense for me to write about it.

BONA

My husband had Pierogi Ruskie (russian pierogi) :

I had Silesian Dumplings in mushroom sauce:

I like to eat my dumplings just with… hm.. my dumplings. When my mom would make them I ate them with ketchup or some meat sauce she had made for dinner. That’s it, but normally you use them as a substitute for mashed potatoes. The conclusion is that you eat your dumplings with some kind of meat. My point is that it looked like our dinner is not going to cost us an arm and leg but we won’t buy it for a song or our daughter’s cute dance either ($45!). So I skipped the meat (since I’m not meat-eater, and it would have cost us more) thinking about the dessert (a huge eater of that 😉 ).

Poppy Seed Cake:

and before I even had chance to snap a picture my husband was already trying it. I mean he has never seen or eaten a poppy-seed cake so he was very eager to try it. It was strange since he is not a big fan of new foods.

The dessert was the best part of my dinner. Normally I’m not a big fan of poppy-seed cake, but not eating it for years made me LOVE it! I have to admit that this cake was very tasty and fresh!

At the end I want to say that I didn’t mean to say anything bad about this restaurant because I’m planning to go there again, and I don’t want them not to let me in. It’s the only Polish restaurant in the area and actually I really liked the food. I tried my husband’s pierogi and they were surprisingly good. Very homemade like.

My husband really enjoyed that place. He thinks it original and he understands that they try to pack it as much as it’s possible. Most of the people eating there are Polish (from what I could hear around me) or have Polish heritage. People who, for some reason know Polish food. I think there is not that many of them around here. We are not in Chicago or New York. As much as I don’t want to live in Chicago or New York sometimes I wish I had bigger access to Polish products. It seems like what we have around here is very expensive.

Being honest: Polish food is not very elaborate. It’s simple, made from very cheap ingredients, so going to a Polish restaurant, ordering two dishes where:

– non of them includes meat,

– one of them is made from left over mashed potatoes and flour and mushroom sauce (a few mushrooms, milk and flour)

– one of them is made from flour, water, egg, mashed potatoes, fried onion, sprinkled with a bit of bacon

– a small dessert

We paid $45 for a food that in Poland you would get in Bar Mleczny! Don’t get me wrong. I had lived on food from Bar Mleczny for 5 years while I was a poor student 😉 in Poland, and I loved it. The food served there is actually really good, and the portions are generous. But if you want to represent Polish cuisine abroad you don’t pick that kind of restaurant. Maybe 30 or 20 years ago it would be accurate… but gosh… NOT TODAY!

I think I prefer to stick to cooking Polish food at home, and to visit this restaurant once in a blue moon.