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A Polish Christmas
Piernik - Honey Cake
Set oven temperature to 350°F (175C) and preheat.
Grease three loaf pans.
Pour into saucepan:
1 cup (240mL) honey
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5mL) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix together and bring to a boil. Then set aside and allow to cool down to a warm temperature.
In a mixing bowl, beat 3 large eggs with 1 cup (240mL) of brown sugar and 3 teaspoons (15mL) of baking powder.
Slowly add the warm liquid to the beaten eggs, mixing at slow speed.
Add 4 cups (950mL) of plain white flour (NOT self-raising), and mix thoroughly.
Pour the final mixture into the loaf pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove pans from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Cut each loaf into 3 layers, spread jam (strawberry, raspberry or apricot) and then reassemble.
Prepare chocolate frosting as follows:
Place into saucepan
2½oz (70g) semi-sweet chocolate
3oz (80g) sweet (unsalted) butter
1/3 cup (80mL) water
½ teaspoon (2.5mL) vanilla extract
1 cup (240mL) white granulatd sugar
Stir the chocolate, butter, vanilla and water together, gradually adding sugar. Bring it slowly to a boil, stirring constantly. Let it boil for 5 minutes.
Let it cool until it becomes a thick mass, easily spreadable with a knife.
Place cakes upside down and spread chocolate frosting evenly on top and sides.
Cool completely in refrigerator, until the frosting is hard.
Wrap in aluminum foil, then in plastic. May be stored in refrigerator, or cold place for four weeks before serving.
Babka Rumowa - Rum Babka
Set oven temperature to 325°F (165C) and preheat.
Grease Bundt form - (some specialty stores will call it a Babka form) - Sprinkle ½ cup (120mL) chopped walnuts or pecans on bottom of greased form.
In mixing bowl, mix together:
18oz. (500g) yellow cake mix
3 3/4oz. (110g) Instant yellow pudding (Jello brand or similar)
½ cup (120mL) cold water
½ cup, vegetable oil
½ cup Bacardi dark rum
Pour mixture into form and place in oven. Bake for 1 hour.
Allow to cool. When completely cool, invert form on serving plate and remove cake.
Prick top of cake, all over. Slowly pour glaze mixture over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze.
Repeat until all of glaze mixture is used up.
Prepare Glaze as follows:
3 oz (85g) sweet (unsalted) butter.
¼ cup (60mL) water
½ cup (120mL) Bacardi dark rum
1 cup (240mL) granulated sugar
Melt butter in saucepan, stir in water and sugar.
Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in rum.
This cake is very moist and will stay fresh for a couple of weeks, if stored in a cool place, wrapped in plastic foil, or in a plastic bag.
Enjoy! May be served with whipped cream topping, if desired.
Grandma's Butter Bowtie Cookies
1 pound (450g.)sweet (unsalted) butter,
1 cup (240mL) sugar,
4 hard-boiled egg yolks, finely crumbled
4 cups (920mL) white flour,
1 ½ teaspoons (7mL) vanilla extract.
Thoroughly mix the butter, sugar, egg-yolks and vanilla extract, then slowly mix in the flour and knead. If the mixture appears to be too liquid, add a little flour.
Place the kneaded ball into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Roll out the mixture on a board until about ¼ inch thick (about 7mm) - this is the thickness of a standard pencil.
Cut strips about ¼inch wide and 6 inches (150mm) long, and twist into a figure-eight, like a pretzel.
Break an egg, and smear the bow-ties. Sprinkle with colored sugar. (Alternatively, you may sprinkle with poppy seed instead).
Place on baking tray and insert into oven preheated to 350°F (180C) for 20 to 25 minutes.
Watch carefully towards the end as the cookies burn very easily.
Cwibak - Christmas Fruit Cake
Set oven temperature to 350°F (175C) and preheat.
Grease three loaf pans.
Prepare a 1½ pound (700g) mixture of fruits and nuts - which should include raisins, figs, sultanas, candied orange peel, dried apricots, walnuts or pecans. Except the raisins and sultanas, all should be chopped into small pieces about half the size of your small fingernail, Then thoroughly mix up and lightly dust with flour, so that ingredients do not stick together..
Prepare remaining ingredients:
4 cups (950mL) powdered sugar,
½lb (225g) sweet (unsalted) butter,
8 fresh eggs,
4¾ cups (1,100mL) white flour (NOT self-raising),
4 teaspoons (20mL) baking powder.
2 teaspoons (10mL) vanilla extract.
Using an electric or hand mixer, thoroughly beat the eggs, sugar and butter together.
Then slowly add flour, baking powder and vanilla extract.
Finally, thoroughly mix in the fruit and nut mixture.
Pour the completed mixture in to the 3 pans and place in preheated oven.
Bake about one hour, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans. You may wrap in aluminum foil and plastic and store in a cool place up to four weeks.
Barszcz - Clear Beetroot Soup
The following is the simple modern way:
Take 1 quart bottle (1 liter) of prepared Jewish Borsht (Manishewitsch or similar),
Pour into saucepan and mix with contents of 10½oz. (300g) can of Beef Consommé, bring to a boil and immediately turn off heat.
Taste and, if desired, to reduce acidity, add 1 teaspoon sugar; to increase acidity add 1 teaspoon vinegar.
Pour on to plates in which uszka have already been placed. Use 4 to 6 uszka per plate.
Above quantity is sufficient for 6 servings.
Here is the old-fashioned traditional way:
A few weeks ahead of time, prepare fermented beetroot juice, as follows:
2¼ pounds (1kg.) fresh, sweet beetroots,
2 quarts (2L) boiled water,
1 piece of rye bread crust
Wash and scrape the beetroots, cut into thin slices, place in large jar.
pour boiled water into jar, throw in bread crust,
leave jar open or covered only with thin gauze and place in warm place.
On Christmas Eve, prepare soup as follows:
2 large sweet beetroots,
1 celery cut in small pieces,
1 onion cut into small pieces,
1 lb (450g) mushrooms,
1 lb (450g). butter,
1 teaspoon salt,
1 piece garlic,
boil in water until beetroot just becomes soft.
Then pour into another saucepan through sieve. Retrieve beetroots and mushrooms.
Mushrooms may be used for making uszka.
Beetroots are grated fine and returned to the soup.
Shortly before serving,
Add 1 pint (½L) of fermented beetroot juice. Keep hot, but do not allow to boil as this will destroy clear red color, serve in plates over uszka.
NOTE. On other occasions than Christmas Eve, Barszcz may be served with cream as follows:
Take 2 tablespoons of Beetroot soup (made either way), mix completely with 2 tablespoons of sour cream, then add to soup and stir thoroughly.
Uszka - "Little Ears" dumplings
Pronounced USH-KAH, it is customary to serve these little tortelinni-like dumplings with the Christmas Eve barszcz, either floating in the soup, or as a side dish.
Prepare the stuffing:
10oz. (300g) mushrooms, preferably wild varieties which have more flavor.
4oz. (110g) sweet butter,
1 medium-sized onion,
The white of one hard-boiled egg,
1 tablespoon (15g) breadcrumbs,
Sprig of parsley,
Cook the mushrooms, then cut into very fine pieces, and fry (sauté) in the butter with onion.
Thoroughly mix with the bread crumbs, finely cut egg white and parsley and a pinch of salt.
Prepare the dough and make the uszka:
Take the yolk of one fresh egg, 1½lb (700g) white flour and thoroughly mix the flour with egg yolk and a little water. Knead into soft mass. Roll out into thin layer, cut into 1½ inch (35mm) squares. Place portions of mushroom mixture into center, fold over all edges, then fold and stick two opposite corners together. Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. This quantity of ingredients will provide about 40 dumplings.
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