whenever i encounter any baked good item with poppy seeds i seem to slip into a dorothy like opium induced daze. i don’t know what it is about them — those small faded ultramarine bits of goodness, but i just can’t turn them down. i’ll take em in my bagel, my muffin, my bread, my cupcake, my cookies, my bread rolls. all of which makes me well on my way to becoming the next elaine benes. but who cares if i also test positive for opium on my next drug test, swapping out my urine sample for that of a post-menopausal woman is worth the risk to keep these seductive specks in my diet.
it’s hard not to think of poppy seeds without thinking of my mom’s famous poppy seed bread, christmas poppy seed roll cookies, and the poppy seed bread my grandma would pickup from the neighborhood polish bakery. my love for poppy seeds is as much a part of me as my polish child-bearing hips. it’s definitely genetic.
so now i understand why ukrainians excitedly claim ‘you’re one of US!’ after explaining my polish roots, as though i finally figured out the secret club password. they, too, love poppy seeds (ukrainian: мак). mak this, mak that, mak ice cream (SO GOOD!) and i can’t help but want them all. i often find, through my (very scientific) exploration of ukrainian deserts, that ukrainians love two things: rasins and poppy seeds. often times together. they’re geniuses i tell you. and why i’m happy to be called ‘one of them’.
ukraine has many a poppy seed treat, but there’s one out there that rules them all — for me at least. it’s a moist mini puff pastry poppy seed raisin roll that’s just the right amount of sweetness, bread, price, and overall deliciousness. and i often go mahazine to mahazine in search of just one of these perfect-end-to-my-day treats. and while i may know where to find puff pastry, and i just recently realized i can buy the mixture inside from a can at the store, i’m still in search of a ukrainian to teach me how to make them from scratch. though, after inquiring and no one knowing their name beyond simply ‘pechevo’ (treat), i’m not sure i’ll have much luck. but i’m not quitting yet!
in the mean time i’ll continue buying them by the shtook (piece), gaze longingly at all the other poppy treats, relish in that awkward moment after eating poppy seeds wondering if they’re now stuck in your teeth, and bake some poppy pretties of my own.
my mom’s most famous (and most loved: by neighbors, family, my HS home ec. teacher, and me) poppy seed bread (adapted for ukraine)*:
makes 2 loafs
3 cups flour
2 ¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cup milk
1 ½ tbs poppy seed
1 cup oil
1 ½ packets (or tsp.) of vanilla sugar
1 tsp almond extract (optional and if you can find it)
¾ cup sugar
½ packet vanilla sugar
½ tsp. almond extract (again only if you have it)
¼ cup orange or lemon juice (or a lil bit of both if you’re feeling crazy)
· mix all of the bread ingredients for 2 minutes. (yea it’s that simple). divide batter into 2 greased and floured 8½ x 4½ loaf pans. bake at 350ºF (175ºC) for 1 hour.
· mix all ingredients for glaze and heat. pour glaze over hot bread. let cool before removing from the pan.
and that’s it! you can freeze one loaf and eat the other, or be super martha stewart by baking and freezing both for ‘just incase you have guests’. just wrap in foil after completely cooled, place in ziplock gallon bag and freeze. take out day before to let thaw.
it’s super easy and i guarantee your ukrainian friends and co-workers will love it. that is if you don’t eat it all yourself. not that i’m speaking from experience…
* i can’t give you the original recipe cause it’s the closest thing i have to any kind of dowry. just kidding. maybe. ; )
these require a little bit more work and time than the poppy seed bread but are definitely worth the effort. oddly enough i made these in a feverish rage while i was sick with bronchitis (well i also painted my living room when i had mono…so i guess it’s not that odd for me) but don’t worry NO ONE got sick from eating them. at least not that i know of…sorry if you did…
poppy seed thumbprint cookies with jam and glaze:
makes 3 dozen
1 cup margarine/butter softened
1 tbs honey
2 egg yolks
1 packet vanilla sugar (1 tsp extract)
2 ½ cup flour
2 tbs poppy seeds
1 tbs water (if needed)
⅔ favorite jelly or jam
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbs + or at least enough kefir/milk to obtain right (drizzle worthy) consistency
· preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC)
· in a medium sized bowl beat butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla sugar until well blended.
· in separate bowl mix together flour and poppy seeds.
· stir in flour and poppy seeds to butter sugar mixture and stir just until dough holds together.
· use a small amount of water if dough doesn’t stick together.
· roll 1 tbs sized balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
· bake for 2 minutes then remove from oven press thumb (or floured bottom of a wine cork) to make an indent.
· place back in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
filling and glaze:
soften jelly/jam by heating it for a few seconds or leaving out at room temperature. use a small spoon and fill (but not overfill) the well in the cookies. you can add the jam while they are still warm. wait until cookies have cooled to add glaze.
in a small bowl measure out powdered sugar and slowly add kefir while stirring. it doesn’t take much kefir to make the icing. you want the consistency to be like a thick syrup. either place in plastic baggie and make small cut in the corner to pipe drizzle over cookies, or simply use a small spoon and carefully drizzle it that way.
you can put these in the fridge to harden the glaze a little. store by layering with parchment. or just eat them all.