Food

Papal Cream Cake

My dad and I used to buy these
at the local Polish bakery on
Kinnikinnic Avenue when I was
young.  I don’t make them myself;
just too rich and I end up making
a pig out of myself.  But really
quite yummy.

Home Poland: Kremówka Papieska / “Papal” Cream Cake
Poland: Kremówka Papieska / “Papal” Cream Cake

Kremowka papieska (Papal Cream Cake)


It was apparently during a visit to his old home town Wadowice in 1999 that Pope John Paul II mentioned casually how fond he was of the cream cake or kremówka that he and his school friends had often pooled their funds to buy from a baker in the town’s market square. More or less inevitably, the next day the entire town was coming down with kremówka, suddenly rebranded as Kremówka papieska, the “Papal Cream Cake.”

Before it went so high-profile, kremówka probably started out as a confection devised by some smart town baker as a way to thriftily exploit extra or unsold ingredients left over at the end of the day. Even a careful baker would occasionally wind up with unsold plain sheet cake, shortcrust pastry, and sometimes even the pastry cream also called custard cream or créme patissiére — which is full of egg yolks and way too expensive to just throw away. When the improvised sandwich of pastry cream and cake or pastry proved popular, someone undoubtedly started making it on purpose in flats and selling it by the square piece — which is one reason why the boy-who-would-be-Pope and his friends would have been able to afford it. (At least one Polish source says that kremówka sometimes might contain a local brandy called winiak, but the Pope apparently made it known that this wasn’t the version he was interested in, but the simpler version that came from the bakery run by the father of one of his friends.)

The version of kremówka which has become standard for professional Polish bakers is simple. It calls for sheets of baked puff pastry on top and bottom — or in the less formal or less expensive versions of the cake, just on the top: the bottom is sometimes just regular short-crust pastry. Of course, when the recipe started to migrate into the home baking repertoire, change started setting in. (Click here to see a sampling of the many ways kremówka can look.)

Some versions of kremówka don’t use puff pastry at all, just short-crust pastry on both top and bottom, the pastry often enriched with egg yolks as in this Google-translated version. Other versions substitute thin layers of a plain sheet cake. Some recipes use a fast version of the rich filling based on pudding mix — see one roughly translated here. You can even find the occasional rare double decker kremówka, with both whipped cream and créme patissiére. And on its home turf in Poland, the Gellwe people (among others) market a kremówka mix. (Their TV ad is here if you feel like taking a look at it.) In any case, the pastry-cum-cake is popular enough with Polish people to have been voted one of the two Polish “national birthday cakes” for the EU’s 50th birthday celebrations.

We give both the puff-pastry and cake versions of the recipe below. As regards the pastry cream filling, please note: the amounts given below result in a cream layer that stands about half an inch thick in a nine=inch=square baking pan. We wanted more cream in our own version, so we doubled the cream part of the recipe when making the kremówka you see in the photograph at the top.

Directions:

Preparing the puff pastry for baking: wire rack underneath,
another one on top to keep the puff pastry under control
If you’re making kremówka with puff pastry: buy (or make) enough unbaked puff pastry to cover the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch baking pan twice.

When ready to bake, trim each piece to fit your cake pan: then score lightly where you will be cutting it later for individual servings. Be very cautious about this, as if you score the puff pastry too deeply, it will split apart while baking. But don’t be tempted to omit the scoring: if you do, you’re going to have serious trouble when you try to cut the finished pastry into separate servings later.

(A note here to home bakers who might feel inclined to make their own puff pastry for this: EuroCuisineLady did, and her experience suggests that a “rough paste” puff pastry might actually work better for this than the more complex puff pastry version; the top and bottom layers of the kremówka would be a little more controllable, and the flavor won’t really be impaired. The full puff pastry we used for our example above actually rose too high, even under the rack weighing it down, and got all over the place when we were slicing the kremówka up. A word to the wise…)

Place each trimmed piece of puff pastry between two sheets of baking parchment, place on a wire cooking rack, and place another cooling rack upside down on top of the upper piece of baking parchment. (This will keep the puff pastry under control while it bakes.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F / 200 degrees C and put the puff pastry in to bake. After fifteen minutes, remove the top cooling rack and the top layer of baking parchment. Bake for another fifteen minutes until the puff pastry is golden. Remove from the oven, remove the second layer of baking parchment, and cool completely.

If you’re making kremówka with cake:

Grease well 2 8- or 9-inch baking pans / tins: coat with bread crumbs and set aside.

Then make the cake mixture:

8 ounces butter
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons water
3 egg yolks
A pinch of salt
Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender. Beat the egg yolks into the water: mix into the flour. Mix well. Divide in halves and spread/press each half to completely cover the bottom of one of the baking pans. Bake for approximately 30 minutes in a medium-low oven (325F / 160C): remove and let cool. Remove from pans when cooled.

…Whichever version you’re making, the custard cream filling is the same.

Custard cream:

2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
A pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
Scald the milk and vanilla. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and egg yolks. Stir until very well blended (ideally, whisk to make sure there are no lumps). Add milk gradually. Cook over low flame, stirring constantly, being careful to scrape bottom of pan.

Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 3 minutes, still stirring constantly. When finished cooking, remove from heat and pour cream into a bowl; allow to cool, stirring occasionally until cold.

When the custard cream is cold:

Whether you’re using puff pastry or cake, spread the custard cream thickly over the bottom layer. (If the custard is at all runny, put one baked layer back into a baking pan of the appropriate size and then do the spreading.) Then top with the second baked layer.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut and serve (possibly with thick whipped cream on top, if you like). A note about cutting: This is where calling this dessert a “cake” comes slightly into question, as it doesn’t handle like a cake at all: the thick pastry cream center makes that impossible. The kremówka will always squish down somewhat when you slice it. However, it tastes so good that no one’s going to care…

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Food, Old Diary

Finally, a Custardy Bread Pudding

I have shared, in the past, my love of bread pudding.  I mean, what’s not to like:  bread, egg custard, sweet & unctuous sauce, plump raisons.  It’s become a family joke that if there’s bread pudding on a restaurant menu I’m most likely going to try it out. Even if I’ve eaten too much to begin with .  NOT SMART — but that’s what compulsions are all about, aren’t they?  I really have to try living that saying,

Life’s Short, 
Eat Dessert First

My problem — and it’s been a problem — is finding bread pudding with enough  egg custard in the recipe to suit my taste.  Which is to say I like a bread pudding which has thoroughly saturated the bread, where the custard serves to hold the bread pieces together.  Of course any bread pudding is only as good as the bread, and too many recipes were designed to be made with cheap-white-bread — wonder-breadto borrow from my generation — the equivalent of WonderBread.  NO!  If you’re going to make a quality bread pudding you need quality ingredients — including quality bread — and any good,hearty, artisanal bread is going to soak up a good deal more egg custard than most recipes call for.

This bread pudding recipe is based on one from the famed Bon Ton Cafe in New Orleans with my own alterations.  

The sauce is loaded with bourbon, so you might want to use somewhat less. You might end up dazed and happy just thinking about it. 

Lacking a ‘normal’ household oven I like bread pudding because it’s something we can do in our micro/convection oven without difficulty — and it takes less than 90 minutes — the artificial limit Sharp imposes on the longest cook cycle.

  • Prep time: 10 minutesCook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

Bread Pudding:

  • 1 loaf French bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch squares (about 6-7 cups)  Please don’t use an ITALIAN bread in the place of the French.  We want the greater “chew” afforded by a quality French loaf.   If you are so inclined feel free to use a sourdough loaf — it’ won’t hurt the flavor at all!!!! 
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins (soaked two hours in 1/4 cup bourbon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Bourbon Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Place milk in a large mixing bowl and add the bread that has been cut into squares. Press the bread into the milk with your hands until all of the milk is absorbed.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, vanilla, allspice and cinnamon. Pour over the bread and milk mixture. Add the bourbon soaked raisins and gently stir to combine.
  • Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour the bread milk and egg mixture into the baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until the liquid has set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. Can also make in individual ramekins.bread-pudding-verticalb
  • While the bread pudding is cooing, make the bourbon sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add the sugar and egg and whisk to blend well. Slowly cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, then remove from heat. Do not allow the mixture to simmer! (Or the sauce will curdle. By the way, if your sauce curdles, just take it off the heat and blend it smooth in a blender.) Whisk in bourbon to taste. Whisk again before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.
  • Serve the bread pudding with bourbon whiskey sauce on the side; pour on to taste. Best fresh and eaten the day it is made.
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Food, Old Diary

Irish POTATO Bread

irishpotatobread1

I love bread!  I could live without many things, but living without bread hardly seems worthwhile.   I’ve been in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but somehow I never had this.  And I have to try it real soon now….

My Irish Friends

My Irish Friends

For what it was worth, I was over there for about two weeks on a speaking trip and the whole time I stayed with residents.  They made me a lot of Irish specialties but no one at any time ever made me Irish Soda Bread.  Sigh.   Alas, most of them are gone now.  Life moves on.

A few weeks ago I was commenting on the fact that being of Polish heritage our family made a lot of Pierogi — but that the pierogi we made always contained a sizable amount of mashed potatoes in addition to the flour — and that I had seen a lot of supposedly “authentic” Polish Pierogi recipes that were made sans potato.  I’m glad to see that this version of ‘bread’ from Ireland includes the hearty ‘tater and carries forward that part of their proud heritage — which is Peggy’s ancestral birthright.

irishpotatobread2Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cooked, mashed potato
  • 3/4 cup raw, grated potato
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp chives, diced
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (or you can use sesame seeds)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt 

Directions

irishpotatobreadPreheat oven to 375. Lightly oil an 8 inch cast iron pan or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
Mix the mashed potato with the grated potato. Stir in egg, egg white, oil, and milk until well combined.
In another bowl, stir together chives, caraway seeds, flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a soft dough forms. 
Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough out onto the flour and knead 6 – 7 times. Place dough into center of prepared cast iron pan and gently press into an 8 inch circle. Use a sharp knife to cut an “X” into the top.
As you can see, I cut a star into the top instead of just an “X”. Either works fine!
 
Bake at 375 for about 45 – 55 minutes. It should be nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped.
Remove from oven and let sit on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing. or it will be rather crumbly to cut. irishpotatobread3
 
Simple yet looks so impressive.
Oh…yes…..it tastes AMAZING too. When I made a second loaf I threw in 1/2 cup of shredded Mozza cheese and it was crazy good.
It can be a little hard to tell when it is completely cooked. If in doubt…leave it in a few minutes longer. If, perchance, you remove it before it is not completely cooked through.
Don’t panic. 
I’ve been there….done that…
What I do if this happens is slice the bread and toast it before serving it. Irish Potato Bread toast is just as tasty!
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Old Diary

Italian Sweet Breakfast Bread

I could live without many things, but the thought of living without …. BREAD…. seems hardly worth doing.  Yeah — it’s got carbs.  But there’s a reason it’s survived centuries as the staff of life.. A slight change of pace today.

And besides…. everything in moderation.  Right?

It would be nice if I could figure out ways to make some of these things in small enough batches that you end up with just the right amount for breakfast for two retirees, but I don’t seem to be able to do that.

Enjoy

P.S.:  any of these breads that use the technique of making the dough and then refrigerating it overnight or so-many-hours tend to have a more mature and hearty flavor.  I also do this with my pizza dough — making it today and then using it (I make enough for 2 pizzas) tomorrow and the day following.


Italian Sweet Breakfast Bread

Makes one 10-inch round loaf

INgredients
  • 2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbs. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped candied lemon peel

DSC_3354 - editedIn the bowl of a large stand mixer, combine yeast, water and sugar. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy.  (If yeast does not foam, discard and begin again with new yeast.)  Add eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix well. With the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, stir in flour ½ cup at a time, scraping sides of bowl down, until dough starts to form (after adding ~3 cups).  Switch to the dough hook and continue adding flour (about 1 more cup) until dough forms a manageable mass.  Continue kneading for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky (up to 5 cups).

Form dough into a large ball and coat all sides with vegetable oil.  (I like to lift the dough out of the bowl, pour a tablespoon of oil in, then turn the dough around in the oil until the dough, as well as the sides of the bowl, are greased.)  Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

DSC_3381 - editedPunch dough down in bowl, transfer to a floured surface, and knead in the dried fruits.  The goal is to get the fruits uniformly throughout the dough without any of them actually bursting out into the exterior of the bread (as they will burn if exposed in the oven).

Form dough into a ball and place in a greased 9-10 inch round pan.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and cool rise in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove pan from refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 1 hour before baking).  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F  for 45 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (If bread browns too quickly on top, cover with a piece of foil.)

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Old Diary

Clean Eating Barbecue Sauce

Last autumn when I was in Milwaukee getting my health taken care of the doctor encouraged me to a more “Clean Eating” lifestyle.  There are various definitions of ‘clean eating’ some of them relate to eating more-smaller meals, others focus on unprocessed ingredients, others focus on reducing the shear number of ingredients in your food (cutting out those words in the ingredient list that you can’t pronounce).

While looking into that I came across a basic ‘clean eating’ barbecue sauce.  I have used a couple varieties of this — in particular eliminating the garlic and the liquid smoke both of which I have a hard time digesting.

It’s amazing how many things can be improved by the addition of unsweetened applesauce!

Ingredients

  • clean-eating-bbq-sauce1 cup water
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 3 tbsp unsulphured molasses
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp onion powder (or diced onion)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder * (or smashed garlic)
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (I used hickory) *
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

  • In a small saucepan, add all ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  • Bring to a boil, cover half way with a lid to prevent splashing and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Transfer to a glass jar and let cool.
  • Use as you would use a store bought BBQ sauce.

Storage Instructions: Refrigerate in an airtight glass jar for up to a few months. Might be freezable.

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Old Diary

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta

Mushrooms are among my favorite foods / flavors.  I have played with using balsamic vinegar in a variety of dishes, but it’s not a flavor I use very often.  So, this recipe on Pinterest piqued my curiosity.  We regularly do a meal we call ‘American Spaghetti’ which is very similar to this without the mushrooms, cream or the balsamic.  Then again I also do a knockoff version of carbonara that uses the cream and egg yolks.  This is somewhere in between. Enjoy.

Remember, I am king of the 20 minute meal.  Most of what I cook is ‘designed’ as low-impact cooking: good flavor, but not a lot of time in the kitchen.

BALSAMIC MUSHROOM PASTA

PREP TIME 10 mins
COOK TIME 15 mins
TOTAL TIME 25 mins

Balsamic-Mushroom-Pasta2This recipe makes enough for 2 people with appropriate side dishes.  With a side of crusty bread you might squeeze three servings out of it.  If you’re a hearty eater and the pasta is all you’re having — you might need to multiply the recipe a little … some of us have been known to eat 3 or 4 ounces of pasta a person when in the right mood!

Get a big pot of salty water going for the pasta. While you’re waiting for it to come to a boil, prep the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms (or buy the pre-sliced ones!). Once the water is boiling, toss in the pasta and start heating the butter and oil in another pan and get going on the sauce. It comes together so quickly – just saute the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in the butter and oil, deglaze the pan with some balsamic, and then add in the cream.

(If you are a one induction burner guy like me, you’ll realize as you read through this recipe that you need to change things around a little.  The whole sauté, deglaze, and saucing thing if fine if you’re going to cook pasta in one container while you are making the sauce in another.  But i’m sure you’re smart enough to figure that out, First, do your sautéing and deglazing, the reserve those things in a bowl while you’re pasta is cooking.  After you have drained the pasta then pop your almost completed sauce back into the pan, add the cream, extra butter, and let the sauce come together.  Sometimes doing the single burner thing is easier, other times it’s not! — in this recipe it’s not!)

Some parmesan and parsley finishes the whole thing off.

INGREDIENTS

  • Balsamic-Mushroom-Pasta4 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup shallot, finely diced (if your RV’ing near some little town where you can’t find shallots, then use an onion instead — hey — gotta be flexible, right?)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar ( I might trim the balsamic a little, but that’s just me)
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus a few tablespoons for garnish
  • salt & pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook the fettuccine according to the directions on the package. While the pasta is cooking prepare the mushroom sauce.
  2. In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once melted, add in the shallots and garlic and cook for a few minutes or so, just until softened.
  3. Add in the sliced mushrooms and toss them around to get them coated in the butter and olive oil. If needed, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if the mushrooms get too dry. Let them cook and brown for about 8 minutes.
  4. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and stir everything together making sure to scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the other tablespoon of butter. Cook everything together for a couple of minutes and then turn off the heat and move the pan off the burner.
  5. Pour in the cream and parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
  6. Add the cooked fettuccine to the sauce and toss to combine. Add in the fresh parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper (about a ½ teaspoon of each).
  7. Serve with additional parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
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Food

One of the less common items that showed up on my parent’s dining table when I was young was a version of Dill Pickle Soup.  I know it sounds a bit bizarre but I loved it as a child and love it still as an adult.  It’s not something I normally make myself — I usually end up saving it as a special treat for evenings at a really good ethnic restaurant but I came across this version and it’s got all the right ingredients so I wanted to share it!

Dill Pickle Soup

Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak
Serves: Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 5-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1-3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (smaller dice)
  • 1 cup chopped dill pickles (smaller dice ~ about 3 large whole dills)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups dill pickle juice*
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Garnish (optional)

  • sliced dill pickles
  • fresh dill
  • black pepper

Directions

  • In a large pot, combine broth, potatoes, carrots and butter. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add pickles and continue to boil.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sour cream and water, making a paste. Vigorously whisk sour cream mixture (2 Tablespoons at a time) into soup. (This will also break up some of your potatoes which is okay. You might see some initial little balls of flour form, but between the whisking and boiling all will disappear. Don’t panic.)
  • Add pickle juice, Old Bay, salt (*see below), pepper and cayenne. Cook 5 more minutes and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
  • All pickle juice is not created equal. Some is saltier than others. Taste your soup after adding the pickle juice and final seasonings. It’s possible you will not need any salt or would prefer more or less.

You really need to serve this with a nice dollop of sour cream on the top that you can gradually blend into the soup at the last moment.

Enjoy — I know I do!Dill Pickle Soup served with rustic bread

Dill Pickle Soup

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