Polish Easter Fragrances
A Guest Blog by Laura and Peter Zeranski
Laura and Peter Zeranski are co-authors of the globally acclaimed heritage Polish cookbooks: Polish Classic Recipes and Polish Classic Desserts. They will be at PolishFest this year, presenting programs about Polish cuisine and signing their books. More information about the authors and their books can be found at: www.polishclassiccooking.com.
Wesołego Alleluja (Happy Easter)
Traditional Polish Easter celebrations are very fragrant. Beautiful pink and purple hyacinths are partnered with stately Easter lilies and their spring perfumes reach every room. The dining room table, hidden beneath grandmother’s delicate, snow white lace and linen tablecloth showcases a traditional butter lamb, and is heavy with all the heritage Easter dishes which we enjoy decade after decade, generation after generation. The scents of chocolate, vanilla, yeast, almonds, rum, candied fruit, reach every corner of the room. We take great comfort in this traditional setting which changes so little over the years.
Our menu has been pared down over time. We just can’t eat as much, nor do we want to. But the core dishes are always there: classic clear Beet Soup (Barszcz, pg 29 in Polish Classic Recipes), Vegetable Salad (pg 22), spiral ham slices, two or three varieties of the best kielbasa we can find at our favorite Polish deli, the classic garnish called Cwikla – which is chopped beets with horseradish (5 parts chopped beets, one part horseradish and a pinch of sugar), Polish dill pickles and occasionally deviled eggs. Except for the Barszcz, which is sipped hot from fine china tea cups, the rest of the meal is traditionally served at room temperature because no cook has the time to prepare a hot meal right after coming home from Easter Mass. For dessert, we often have a light, fluffy and citrusy cheese cake (see pg 61 of Polish Classic Desserts), a beautifully decorated Mazurka (as on pg 13) and maybe a yeasty tall Baba similar to the one below.
These are many of our favorite flavors. These are many of our favorite foods. And even though we may prepare them during the year separately, when placed together on the same table once a year at Easter, it becomes magical and incredibly fragrant.
Rum Baba For Easter
Serves 10 to 12
½ cup butter, or margarine, melted
¼ cup sugar
1½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons milk
Grated rind of one orange
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup light rum
Batter: place all ingredients in a bowl, beat for 5 minutes with a mixer at medium speed. Pour into a well buttered 8-inch fluted ring pan and bake at 350 °F for 45 minutes. Check to see if done by inserting a toothpick into the middle – cake is done if toothpick comes out dry.
Syrup: mix the sugar to water in a heavy pot cook over medium heat until it turns into a heavy syrup. Mix in the orange juice and rum.
Remove the warm cake from the pan onto a serving platter and immediately pour the syrup slowly over the top, letting it run down the sides. Cool completely before slicing.