The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lenten Baking: paczki, hot cross buns, king cakes, Vastlakuklid, pretzels??

tabasco's picture
tabasco

Lenten Baking: paczki, hot cross buns, king cakes, Vastlakuklid, pretzels??

Hi, TFLers,

Perhaps the Lenten baking enthusiasts among us can help me?

I am writing an article about Lenten baking traditions and I am hoping bakers on Fresh Loaf who bake anything in particular for the season might share your story, what is popular in your local,  perhaps your family tradition, a pic or/and a recipe?  Breads, cookies, pastries, etc., are what I have in mind.

Here in Cincinnati the bakeries advertise their 'paczkis', but I don't really know exactly what they are...they seem very popular though.

And at our house we bake hot cross buns on Shrove Tuesday and during Holy Week; and my husband likes his Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, although we don't always get the timing right--sometimes we serve those on Lenten weekends.. I've been baking Hamelman's Hot Cross Bun recipe in recent years, but I can't resist tweaking it to suit my tastes of the day.

Any other suggestions from your experiences?

Thanks so much.  J.

 

 

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Pączki are a Polish treat that are similar to  jelly doughnuts but in its true form is much much better than any jelly doughnut ever hoped to be as it is made with an enriched dough.

Jeff

owlsprings's picture
owlsprings

Hi J. In the predominantly German community where I grew up in Eastern Iowa, one  favorite  treat made around lent was called "fasnachts".  There are many variations available online, especially recipes from the Pennsyvania Dutch traditions. In Germany, one version was called, the Berliner or Faschingkrapfen. These are almost always filled with fruit or jam. Here in America most would call these "Berliners", bismarks. In my community the version that was popular was called a "fried cinnamon".  These were not filled, but rather, had a fondant glaze and toasted coconut topping applied after deep frying the raised dough. I have made these by tweaking a fasnachts berliner recipe that I found online (www.mybestgermanrecipes.com). The basic formula is an enriched-yeasted dough that is bulk raised, rolled out and cut into rounds, set to rise a second time, and then deep fried. I use a top grade of canola oil, but most recipes say that you should use lard to fry them in, thereby avoiding any oily residue on the surface of the treat. Anyway, you'll want to use something with a high temperature threshold.  The legend is that fasnachts were made right before lent in order to use up the lard, sugar, and other ingredients in the pantry. As far as I am concerned, the fondant glaze and toasted coconut topping really brings this treat together. My friends are always after me to make these. They probably are not the healthiest treat, especially if you fry them in lard. But, very yummy! If you try these I'm sure you will enjoy them and you will have another "Lenten" recipe for your box. Best of Luck, Thomas.

bobdrob's picture
bobdrob

 Growing up a Polish kid in a non Polish neighborhood, Shrove Tuesday was a unique event. 'Babci" was from "the old country" and kept the traditions such that strange and wonderful (to me anyway) smells wafted from her upstairs apartment.  For as long as she was able, she'd make paczkis (pronounced punch-kees by us kids) using an enriched yeast dough recipe that I still use. For the doughnuts (likened to beignets by some of my friends) she'd fill them with either a fresh banana or a chunky fresh apple filling.  Fried in Crisco, drained on  brown bags and sprinkled with sugar, her paczkis were sublime! We'd line up at the kitchen table and stuff ourselves until the dough ran out. I didn't go to the Polish school but we still went to the Polish church. After Mass  we'd all huddle together and await an unsuspecting victim for the only Shrove Tuesday prank we  knew:  roll up on a kid, ask him what day Tuesday was, before he could answer we'd wallop him on the arm and yell "It's Punch-kee day!"

tabasco's picture
tabasco

It's fun to look back on some of the simpler pleasures from childhood!  For me, too, many of them focus on food, although we didn't have any Shrove Tuesday fun with Paczkis on our school yard since were were mostly of German descent and very stoic.   I did Google paczkis images and it definitely is a very popular treat and looks to be much like the jelly filled donut whereas the Danish Shrove Tuesday sweet bun is split and filled with fruit and cream.  Similar ideas.  I did notice that one site explained that the proper pronunciation was "punchkee' or 'poonchkee' just as you said--I don't see where they got the 'n' sound, but it enabled you to have a good joke with a good 'punch line' with your school mates.  Ha. ha!

The Sisters at our grade school years ago did organize a Mardi Gras party in the school cafeteria on Shrovve Tuesday (during school hours!)  and the proceeds went to 'The Missions" but I can't remember what our 'sweet treat' was but we did have soft pretzels, another Lenten symbol and snack. And they served real turtle soup and pies on Lenten  Fridays in the church basement.  This was in ancient times before anyone was aware of ecology and turtle conservation but we were certainly part of a community of friends and family and that is rare these days and even extinct in some places. 

bobdrob's picture
bobdrob

the punchkee prank dates back to my late mother's grammar school days circa the Roaring 20's. She went to the Polish Catholic grammar school & spoke fondly of the punchkee punch. AFAIK the sinus/nasal "n" tone is not uncommon with various Polish vowels in certain  words.  The "Irish" bakery in the neighborhood did make a heck of a good hot cross bun with golden raisins with an enriched yeast dough.

 

tabasco's picture
tabasco

Thank you Jef f and Thomas for your tips.  I looked up the German Lenten treat ‘Berliners’ or aka "fasnachts" and I’m determined to check out our local bakeries for these since Cincinnati (where I live) boasts a strong German heritage.  They sound as if they are very similar to the Paczki’s from Poland (and which are very popular in Chicago too, I’ve found out), although I am sure purists would take umbrage at the comparison! 

Your tips did send me on a google search for other Lenten baking traditions and after a cursory review, I found out there is much beyond those common Shrove Tuesday pancakes and Hot Cross Buns baked all around America. One neighborhood in Southern California features a Danish Lenten favorite that sounds similar to the German ‘fasnachts’ called ‘Fastelavnsboller Buns’ baked for ‘Fastlavn’ Sunday which many Danes celebrate, apparently even here in the States.  This Sunday is actually a pre-lenten celebration similar to Mardi gras in the days just before Lent but the pastries seem to carry through during Lent.

Bringing up the Danish, reminded me of my mother-in-law and her Norwegian Wisconsin heritage.  She would recount stories of the Church Ladies serving 2000 lefse and lutefiske suppers at the church hall  to mark the Lenten season.  For those who haven't tasted it, lefse is a soft flatbread made with potato and lutefisk is translated (I think) as 'lye fish' and there are many Scandinavian jokes about it (at least in our family).

After bringing this topic up on TFL and talking about it at home, others have mentioned a number of Lenten baking traditions from their distinct heritages and I know there must be other TFLers who can think of even more ideas.

Thank you for telling me about yours and please let me know if you can give me some other ideas to look into.

J.

owlsprings's picture
owlsprings

Hi J. 

It looks like you are starting to roll with this topic. Maybe the article will turn into a book. I think that the anthropological/cultural aspects of this topic are fascinating. I think you are probably correct about the similarity of  these "treats." The European immigration probably created great opportunities for "cross pollination" of traditions. I remember reading something recently on the topic of the origins of the "poolish" starter procedure. The author challenged Peter Reinhart's attribution of this method to Poland (hence, poolish). The author stated that if the method did come to France from Poland, it would have done so via Austria, since evidence of this procedure pre-dates anything found elsewhere in Europe. Like quilting and other "folk" arts, the spread of formulas, techniques, and traditions, was probably transferred primarily through oral histories. Modernization brought less community involvement with preparing and preserving foods and more individual reliance on "Cook Books" that emerged from "food science" literature. Consequently, I think that by the '50's, the idea that there was one "perfect" way to prepare and preserve food became prevalent. The huge success of sources such as the Betty Crocker series of cook books seems to suggest less reliance on oral history. I'm just making all this up, of course, but something that I find wonderful about the Fresh Loaf, is that it seems to represent a rebirth of the oral history tradition. Anyway thank you for sharing your research, I am certainly going to stay tuned to see where this takes you. And, if someone goes to all the trouble to name something "Fastelavnsboller," I think it deserves to be baked.  Enjoy, Thomas.

tabasco's picture
tabasco

I love to delve into the cultural/anthropological aspects too and it would be fun to turn it into a book especially  if enough material surfaced from TFLers.  I'm listening for more stories!

You mentioned the poolish and its doubtful origins and it reminded me of our last summer vacation in Hungary and Austria when we heard the story of the origin of the  croissant and how it was (perhaps) originally from the Turks who made a phyllo version and who occupied parts of Europe in history, then thru the Austrians to Paris.  I don't know if the exact history is important, but it was interesting to hear about the food rivalries between the Hungarians, Austrians and French and how food and cooking shaped their national cultures and even politics.

Back to Lenten observances,  I forgot to mention above that we do like to have our "Fish Pie" on a Lenten Friday.  We make a combination of steamed carrots, peas and potatoes, herbs and fishes--maybe chunks of cod, some scallops, etc., and envelope them in a (light) white or seafood stock sauce in a baking dish and cover them with a pastry crust to bake in a very hot oven.  Tonight I just made a regular pie crust, but when we get fancy we make a rough puff pastry or even a real puff pastry if we're having company.  Or a croissant dough would be lovely too. We first learned to like these savoury pies when we lived in England in the 70s when the Grimsby fish monger would drive his van down our street and sell us whole fish from his trunk.  He was always so kind to de-head my fish because I was a naive American and didn't know a thing about real fish.

I looked Fish Pie up and found out that savoury pies became popular in England around the time of Henry I when he would request his his favorite "Lamprey Pies" from his sheriffs as a token of loyalty durng Lent.  It was said that Henry so loved his Lamprey (eel) Pie that he succumbed to the 'ever after' from the effects of over-indulgence in an especially fine one after a royal hunt.  The Fish Pie became very popular in medieval England during the Lenten fast, and they even made them from porpoises and whale.  But what a surprise to them when they found out those 'fish' were really mammals, banned for eating during Lent, and so To Hell! with all of those pie eaters!  I love that story.

I am interested to hear more stories and observations on Lenten baking traditions from your families and neighborhoods. 

Maybe this weekend I'll bake a Fastelavnsboller.  There is a nice you-tube video by 2 Danish girls that I could follow.

Cheers!  J.