Christmas Around The World: Poland

Makowiec (pronounced: Mak-ov-yetz) is a strudel-like, yeast poppy seed cake that’s one of Poland’s most popular desserts. Its main attraction is the filling spun inside, made of finely-ground poppy seeds, honey, butter, raisins and walnuts. When made right, the cake is absolutely delicious. It’s safe to say that many a poppy-seed cake lover would agree that the more the filling, the better.
That’s especially true in the case of those who prefer the variety Makowiec Lubartowski, made in the area of Lubartów, a town in eastern Poland. The cake consists of almost nothing other than poppy seeds.
Makowiec is definitely the most Polish of Polish cakes.
According to old folk tales, it was believed that eating poppy seeds on Christmas Eve would bring happiness. Moreover, young women who prepared poppy seeds for Christmas Eve were destined to marry soon.
Tradition aside, this is just a downright delicious cake that I will make again (and again!). It’s not very sweet and is perfect with a cup of coffee (the stronger and darker the better).
I realised as I was starting the recipe that I didn’t have raisins and so I used dried cranberries. These added a really nice tartness.

For the dough:
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons sugar
2 packets (14 g) yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the filling:
300 g poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons butter
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup raisins
1 egg
1 tablespoon oil
Cover the poppy seeds in boiling water and let sit for a few hours or overnight
Heat the milk to 43 degrees C, pour into a large bowl
Stir in the sugar and the yeast, let sit for 5 minutes
Stir in the flour, salt, egg yolk, butter, and vanilla, kneading by hand to work in all of the flour
Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
While the dough rises, strain the water from the poppy seeds using a paper towel lined colander
Grind the poppy seeds in a spice (clean electric coffee grinder) or a food processor, you’ll get the best results with a spice grinder, but you’ll have to process in batches
Mix sugar, butter, egg whites, honey, ground raisins (process in your spice grinder or just add to the food processor and mix) and almond extract
Punch down the dough, and divide in two
Roll each piece into a 30 x 20cm rectangle
Spread half of the poppy seed filling in each rectangle, avoiding the edges
Roll up (on the long side), pinching to seal the dough, tucking the end underneath and pinching to keep the filling from leaking out
Place the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down
Cover with dish towel and let rise 35-40 minutes
Preheat over to 175 C
Brush with egg beaten with oil, bake for 35 minutes
Allow to cool and slice
*If you are undergoing drug tests give this one a miss! The huge quantity of poppy seeds in this recipe will give you a positive test 😉

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