Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New bride kitchen disaster...

Laura Zeranski
Witamy! Getting married and starting a relationship with your in-laws is often a stressful time for any new bride.  You want to please them and show them you love and can take good care of their son.  But add to the mix a Polish mother-in-law that writes cookbooks and you up the stress level by about 1000%.  My heritage contains some Polish ancestry, but we only cooked a few Polish dishes at our house and certainly didn’t observe Polish holiday customs. So I had to learn Polish cuisine and customs pretty quickly.

The first Christmas Peter and I were married, my mother-in-law asked me to make the Honey Cake (Piernik).  The recipe was in her cookbook and I had baked enough to know how to follow a recipe, so I thought this would be a snap.  My collection of bake ware did not include the correct size pan for the honey cake, so I thought I would make the batter and go to my mom’s and bake the cake.  As a novice baker I didn’t understand that the baking soda used to make the cake rise has a short shelf life.  My mom lived 40 minutes away and during travel time, the chemical reaction created by the baking soda fizzled.

After the cake came out of the oven and cooled, I tried to split the cake into two layers as the recipe indicated but it is extremely difficult to cut a “brick."  Peter looked at it and said "I don’t think that’s the way it is supposed to be."  Of course, there were a few tears, but I was determined to make this work.  I borrowed Mom’s pan and made it again at home. This time it came out perfectly. What a relief!

There were several other attempts at making some of my mother-in-law’s recipes that did not work on the first try.  Most were just due to my inexperience. For instance, I did not know that the dough for the nut rolls did not rise when you put in the refrigerator overnight.  An entire recipe was thrown in the trash before Peter’s mom told me that was the way it was supposed to be. I persevered and eventually mastered the Polish cuisine much to the delight of my father-in-law. Over the years I eventually took over the preparation of all the holiday meals with excellent reviews from all.

Here is a delicious Honey Cake recipe that is a very traditional holiday favorite, but just as good all year round.  Just be sure not to make the same mistake I did. Bake the cake immediately after making the batter, so the baking soda doesn’t fizzle out!

Honey Cake
Serves: 12

¼ pound of butter, softened
5 egg yolks
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
4 cups flour
5 egg whites
2 tablespoons cocoa
3 ounces ground peeled almonds
Bread Crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter.  Add egg yolks, beating at high speed.  Gradually add sugar.  Beat 3 minutes more.  Add honey, baking soda, spices and orange rind.  Beat 2 minutes more.  Add 2 cups flour.  Beat 3 minutes.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Add to the creamed mixture alternating with the rest of the flour, chocolate and almonds.  Mix together lightly.

Butter a tube pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Fold the cake batter into the pan.  Bake for 70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes and remove from pan.  Cover and keep in a cool place for 3 days before serving.  Serve in thin slices.

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