Friday, 18 December 2015

Poppy Seed Kołaczki

Sometimes, eating the same kinds of food every year for Christmas can get boring, so this year I decided to take last year's Polish experiment one step further and make some (almost) proper kołaczki (pronounced co-watch-key).

Of course, these aren't properly authentic: real ones are made with cream cheese pastry, of which I'm not a fan whatsoever. So, I make them with good auld shortcrust. Although, my shortcrust pastry is more like shortbread, with an addition of some icing sugar.

The poppy seed filling, called masa makowa in Polish, has an unusual flavour: it's somewhat peppery and aromatic. The filling is basically poppy seeds, milk, sugar or honey, dried fruits, and chopped nuts. It's not spicy in the sense that mincemeat is, that is with cinnamon and cloves and such, but it's definitely full of character.

☑ Soya
☑ Yeast
☑ Eggs

☒ Nuts
☒ Gluten
☒ Dairy (see ingredients for a dairy substitute)
☒ Refined sugar products

Makes about 30 kołaczki

For the pastry,

  • 12 ounces (340 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) butter, cut into cubes, or margarine
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) icing sugar,
  • Cold water, to bind
  • Optional: zest of half a lemon

For the poppy seed filling,
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) poppy seeds
  • 5 fluid ounces (150 millilitres) milk
  • 1½ ounces (45 grammes) caster sugar, or honey for a more authentic flavour
  • 1 ounce (30 grammes) raisins, cut roughly
  • 1 ounce (30 grammes) nuts of your choice, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essence
  • Zest of half an orange

The night before, make the filling:

  • Put the poppy seeds into a food processor, a blender, or into a pestle and mortar in small batches, and grind them until powdery. Chop the dried fruit and nuts up into small pieces.
  • Mix the ground seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and all the other ingredients in a bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight to allow the seeds and fruit to absorb the liquid.

First, make the pastry:
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix the icing sugar and flour together. Add the butter, and rub the butter and flour between your fingertips until it becomes a fine, crumbly mixture.
  • Using the tip of a knife, mix in cold water a teaspoon at a time until it become a soft dough.
  • Lightly sprinkle the work surface with more flour, and tip the mix out onto the surface. Gently squash the mixture together until it comes together as a dough ball. 
  • Wrap up in clingfilm, flatten into a disc, then put into the fridge. Chill for about an hour.
  • Once chilled,  preheat the oven to 170ºC (325ºF/Gas Mk. 3).
  • Sprinkle some flour on the work surface and roll the dough out to a quarter inch (3 millimetre) thickness.
  • Using a fluted pastry wheel, a pizza wheel, or a knife, cut the pastry into two inch (5 centimetre) strips down and across, to make squares.
  • Put three-quarters of a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each square, wet the edges, then squash opposite corners together to make a little parcel.
  • Place the parcels about half an inch (1 centimetre) apart on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling has dried and the edges of the pastry have turned golden brown.
  • Allow to cool and harden slightly on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

To serve, pile them up on a plate and dust with some icing sugar. Whenever I dust mince pies, I usually mix in a hint of ground cinnamon; you could do that if you like with any ground sweet spice you like.

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