Spring and Easter Recipes From Poland and Polish Americans
Enjoying Ethnic Cuisine in the Spring
The recipes here are from a collection given to me by friends, teachers, and coworkers over the years since I was a child.
Some of my favorite memories are of gathering recipes from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania while in middle school. I did not know what Chinese food or a delivery pizza was until I was away at college, but I knew about these.
I recall at age 13, jumping up from a foreign languages banquet table we students prepared at middle school one Spring day.
This happened after tasting an Eastern European cake, because it had burned my mouth, even though it was cold. It had been soaked in some sort of beverage alcohol and I thought it was lighter fluid, shouting, "What IS this?" Everyone laughed.
Food we have not seen before is not the enemy. It can our friend when we get to know it.
Traditional Holy Week Babka
Polish friends have told me that "Babka" means grandmother and that the babka cake is usually made from a recipe handed down from grandmothers. I believe them and find this dessert delicious. Its aroma as it bakes reminds me of a grandmother's kitchen.
- 1 envelope dry yeast
- 1 Cup cream
- 1/3 Cup table sugar
- 2 Cups flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp freshly grated lemon rind
- 1 Tbsp melted butter
- 1/2 Cup dark raisins
- For frosting: ½ Cup powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Grease a bundt baking pan evenly or use cooking spray; and then flour it lightly.
- Carefully stir and dissolve the yeast completely into the cream.
- In a large bowl, pour half of the sugar, and then add the yeast mixture. Blend gently and then add the flour and mix well.
- Set the bowl in a warm place to rise to double-size.
- Add remaining ingredients, except the raisins, and knead the dough on a dough board or a clean counter top until smooth.
- Place the raised dough in the pan, cover it with a clean cloth, and leave it in a very warm, draft-free place until doubled in size again.
- Bake the raised dough 30 to 40 minutes until done (a clean knife blade inserted into center will emerge clean).
- Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a cooling rack, then and remove the cake from pan.
- In a small bowl, mix the two frosting ingredients until smooth and pour the mixture over the babka. If you want a thinner frosting, add some cream or milk. For thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar.
Horseradish Beet RelishClick thumbnail to view full-size
I have bought this in jars at the grocery and deli for years, having once seen it at my Ukrainian uncle-in-law's house as a child. Now I can make it myself!
The condiment is also traditionally Polish, according to Polish friends of mine. Eastern Europe and many of the peoples in and around Russia enjoy it.
- 1 pound of boiled or baked beets (either one is good and produces a different flavor, although boiled seems to be sturdier)
- 2 Tbsp of your favorite horseradish
- 1 tsp sugar
- Pour the three ingredients into a food processor or a blender and chop coarse. If you use a blender, please pulse a bit at a time in order not to make a liquid. If it processes too far into a liquid, use it for a soup or some other dish. An Iron Chef would make an ice cream or sherbet from it.
- Pour the chopped beet mixture into a glass container with a lid. If you use plastic, the mixture will likely stain red.
- Let the mixture age in the refrigerator for 2 days and serve as a relish or side accompaniment.
Polish Cream Cheese
This traditional homemade treat is also known as Easter Cheese. My grandmother in Eastern Ohio made it in the early 1900s, but she and her family were from the UK rather than Poland.
It is simple to make, though a bit time consuming, and it takes a whole dozen eggs, so get them on sale around Holy Week.
- 4 Cups (1 quart) of whole milk
- 12 eggs, beaten in a large bowl.
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp table sugar
- Heat the milk in a large pan over medium heat until you see bubbles forming, and then add the remaining ingredients.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly.
- Stir the pan until the mixture is thick and a clump or ball forms that is completely separated from the water and floating in it. This is the cheese.
- Pour the contents of the pot into a cheesecloth placed over a large bowl. Tie off the top of the cheesecloth and hang it over the sink or the bowl by a hook to drain. When ell drained, place it in the bowl on a refrigerator shelf.
- Allow the cheese to become cold and then slice it. Serve it with a meal or with crackers as a snack.
Pork and Easter Egg Soup
- 1 pound of your favorite bacon, fried and cut into 1" strips
- 3 dozen extra large hard boiled eggs, sliced into about ¼” thick slices
- 1 pound Polish sausage, cut into ¼” thick slices
- 1 pound ham, cubed into 1” cubes
- A gallon or more of hot water
- Horseradish, fresh or jarred, or use the beet horseradish recipe above
- Place all ingredients into a large soup pot and cover with hot water.
- Over medium high heat, bring the pot to the boil, reduce heat to the low setting, and then simmer until the egg yolks dissolve.
- Serve immediately with horseradish and optional sour cream or yogurt.
Polish Easter Basket Made of Bread
- 3 Cups all purpose flour
- 2 envelopes of dry yeast
- 1 Cup milk
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 well-beaten egg yolks (use whites for another dish or meal)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix flour and yeast in a large bowl.
- Heat milk until you see small bubbles and add the butter, stirring until melted.
- Pour the milk, the salt, and the sugar carefully into the flour.
- Mix with buttered fingers or a mixer and make a dough ball to sit and rise to double-size.
- On a bread board or clean counter top, roll out about ¾ of the dough into a 10” square.
- Cut this square into 24 strips, marking it first so you have the correct number.
- Place 12 strips beside one other, and weave the rest between them like a cloth or a basket.
- Wipe an ovenproof bowl with butter and put it upside down on a baking sheet.
- Carefully lift and put the woven strips over the outside of the bowl and cut off the ends that are too long.
- Brush strips with egg yolk.
- Bake the basket 45 minutes total: after the first 20 minutes, cover the strips with aluminum foil to prevent burning (they should be lightly browned at this point.
- After 45 minutes, remove basket from oven and cool on a cooling rack.
- Roll the remaining dough into a rectangle for the rim of the basket and cut it into 3 strips for braiding. Braid, place on flat baking sheet, brush with egg yolk and bake 20 minutes.
- Remove basket from a bowl carefully and anchor the rim on via toothpicks.
Note: If you want to make more dough, you can bake and attach a braided handle as well.
© 2009 Patty Inglish