Grandma's Polish Sweet Bread

Discussion in 'Bread' started by Jean S., Sep 29, 2017.

  1. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Hi everyone! I sure could use some help to recreate my grandmothers bread.

    She and the other Polish women of the parish would get together and bake this bread in the churches kitchen once a year back in the 50's. The original recipe made 38 loaves! But my mother cut it down to 6 loaves. Every attempt I have made has failed. No large air holes.

    I don't know what container those women used but the bread was round, had a fluted/scalloped like bottom edges (like a quiche or tart) and then rose up to make a mushroom type head. They were BIG. And delicious. The other thing is that it had large air holes in it, which is something I can't figure out how they did that. Nor can I figure out what tin or pan they used to make them round and fluted/scalloped on the bottom edges. Bottom part was about 4" tall.

    I know there are many recipes for Polish Sweet Bread on the web, but they all look heavy, and don't have the lovely large air holes like grandma's. The butter used to melt in them when toasted. It was a real treat.

    Since they made it in the kitchen which I believe had large mixers since it took 50 lbs. of flour, etc. that that is the clue on how they got those air holes. The pan still remains a mystery.

    So do I need a mixer to knead the bread better than I can by hand? And would you use glass or tin pans?

    I even called the church, but no one knew how they did it or what pans they may have used. I'd really like to make it but this time be successful!
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
    Jean S., Sep 29, 2017
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  2. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Regarding pan: round with fluted sides, and a top shaped like a mushroom sounds like a brioche pan was used. While most brioche pans are just a few inches in diameter, they make then over 7".


    http://www.bakedeco.com/detail.asp?...MIo-HDqKPM1gIVS2p-Ch2m-QbsEAQYBSABEgKQZPD_BwE


    Regarding large hole in crumb: Not knowing the recipe, it's impossible to guess. But a high hydration dough and one that has not been over-worked will generally produce large holes. I assume it rises twice. Instead of punching it down after the first rise, try dividing and shaping. Then let it rise a second time.

    Not all flours are created equal. The percentage of protein in the flour will determine the rate of hydration. The higher the protein content, the higher the hydration rate. Pillsbury and Gold Medal brands have about 10% protein. King Arthur All Purpose flour has about 11.7%. The general rule in using a heritage recipe is to use the brand of flour that was poplar during that period. so you if you are not using Gold Medal or Pillsbury, you may want to give them a try.

    If you're using one of these brand, you might try increasing the hydration.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Sep 30, 2017
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  3. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    WOW. I am ever so glad you replied! Here is just the ingredients that I believe my grandmother used (its all I have, not how they did it, nor the type of flour). Grandma came from Poland spoke very little English and the Church was Polish as well (St. Stanislaus) but it is where they made it. The entire neighborhood was Polish.

    Maybe you can gleam something from it? As it sounds like you are a professional and really know your stuff!

    50 lb. flour
    2 gallons milk
    2 gallons water + 2 cans of Pet Milk
    3 dozen eggs
    9 lbs. sugar
    1/2 lb. yeast
    3 boxes yellow raisins
    3 handfuls salt
    2 lbs. butter

    350 degrees

    38 loaves

    That is all I have of the original. My mother wrote another recipe(6 loaves) as did her sister but they are not the same ingredients. I can post those if that would help?
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
    Jean S., Sep 30, 2017
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  4. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I do not bake professional. I've just baked for years and have been fortunate to have been able to attend a lot of professional classes over the year.



    Posting the ingredients helps. This is an egg bread. These types of breads are very popular throughout Eastern Europe, especially at Christmas time. The polish version is called chałka. These breads are usually formed into beautiful braids. Since your grandmother's bread was baked in a tin, may have been a regional adaptation.

    It's excellent that the ingredients list is in weights. If you want to re-create this recipe I strongly advise baking by weight. Volume measures are very in accurate. And those inaccuracies affects taste and texture.

    Weight measures means this recipe can be scaled up or down. I'll scale it to a single loaf. Experimenting with a single loaf batch is easier. And I'll post a method to try as well. It will be a few days as I'm working on several projects at the moment.

    I totally understand the desire to re-create a much love recipe from your grandmother. My oldest sister and I tried in vain to re-create several of my grandmother's recipes after if she died.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Sep 30, 2017
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  5. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Jean S., Sep 30, 2017
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  6. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    I checked out the brioche pan, but when I read the base measurement it isn't the pan. The bread was not 3 1/2" at the base. It was a lot larger and the fluting was smaller, more round like a tart pan but much taller (I think) and the fluting went up about 4-6" then the large mushroom top. Now please know this is a 50 yr. old memory! And it doesn't have to be round if push came to shove, but it does need those air holes.

    It would be WONDERFUL if you could break it down to a smaller recipe. I believe it was made as a Polish Easter Sweet bread, Paska. At least that is what I learned when I searched the web, talked to the church, and spoke to the old bakery back there. But theirs did not have large air holes, it sounded like all the ones I saw on the web.

    I can recreate my Grandma's Polish Garlic Pickles, they are to die for, & only take 3 days to be ready to eat. I also successfully made my other Grandma's (German) Brown Bread with dates, nuts, and raisins. Unique about that recipe is that you use tin cans (I remember the rings on the bread) and it is moist. And even though it uses white flour, it truly turns brown in baking.

    Here is the bread I found on the web, but it doesn't have the large air holes. Right golden raisins though!

    [​IMG]

    Sorry you couldn't recreate your Grandmothers recipe, hopefully you did recreate a few of her recipes? Childhood flavors and memories really stick with us for forever don't they.....
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
    Jean S., Sep 30, 2017
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  7. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Regarding the brioche mold: The link I posted is just an example of one brioche mold. They come in a variety of sizes. And the fluting varies by manufacturer. The attached photo of a couple of brioche molds I own shows that variation. The molds are the same height and diameter: 3" x 1 1/2". The bottom diameter is 1 1/2". But you can see the fluting difference is markedly different on the two molds despite the same diameter.

    Brioche molds are unusually listed for sale by the top diameter. If you're using the bottom as your gauge, look for a brioche mold that is marked twice the size of the bottom measurement. So if you want a 4" bottom, look for a 8" brioche mold. I don't think you will find a brioche mold much bigger than 8".

    Regarding the pic: the pic of thebread with its pale yellow hue and soft crust looks like a chalka baked in a loaf pan. Golden raisins or no raisins are the standard. Chalka originated from the Polish Jewish tradition of challah. So they share almost identical ingredients and methods.

    Your quest to recreate your grandmother's recipes are so important to personal genealogy. Food gives us our cultural identity. In a world with billions of humans, food creates a cocoon of familiarity. It gives us our place in our families and communities by instilling history and tradition. And it gives us comfort in a world if uncertainty.

    Regarding the recipe: having the weight makes it easy to scale. It only takes about two minutes to calculate ratios. The real challenge is figuring out the type of flour, type of yeast, and the amount of salt. Given your grandmother and her friend were Europeans, they could have very well used fresh cake yeast. Fresh cake yeast is commonly used throughout Europe. And there is a marked difference in the leavening power with fresh cake used. Fresh yeast has about 50% less leavening power than active dry yeast. Given the era, I feel pretty certain that instant yeast was not used. When I calculate the ratios, it should give me some idea of the type of yeast used.

    I'll post the ratios as well as explain how to use the ratios to scale. That way once you achieve the results you want, you can then scale the recipe to whatever number of loaves you want to bake on any given day.


    IMG_9299.JPG
     
    Norcalbaker59, Sep 30, 2017
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  8. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Jean S., Sep 30, 2017
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  9. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Well a huge Thank You for helping me. Math is not a subject that I do well in, so ratios are way over my head. The simpler the better. A baker I am not. I didn't even know about yeast cakes! So as you can tell this is way over my head and I am very grateful to have found this place and you. It means a lot to me. I do know that the recipe I posted is grandma's as it is written on her sons letterhead, who lived at home all his life. But it is in my mothers handwriting. It is a time gone by, the big holiday meals at her house with the long dining room table, grandpa at the head and the rest seated by age, I sat at the far end of the table for a very long time until my "younger" cousins were born! My grandma never sat at the table, she and her daughters spent the entire time in the (huge) kitchen. What a spread it was........grandma was a very sweet and giving woman. Mom told me that during the Depression grandma would feed the men knocking on her door looking for work. I remember her wring washing machine and dirt pantry where she kept her produce. In her broken English she once said to me "Boy walk up on down the street all day long, why you not marry one of them?".........I was in my early 20's, lol.

    So thank you for all your time, smarts, and effort!!!
     
    Jean S., Oct 1, 2017
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  10. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I'll be sure to break everything down in terms you will be able to understand. I'm assuming you do not have a stand mixer and dough hook. That this loaf will be kneaded by hand, yes?

    I'm happy to try to help you decipher and recreate her recipe. Keeping family memories and traditions alive is very important.

    Sweet memory of your grandmother trying to marry you off:) Sounds like my mother. She was Japanese, born and raised. Really strong accent and broken English. She was in the habit of asking any guy I dated how much money he made. If she determined it was a good enough income, she'd ask if he wanted to marry me. So before I introduced her to the man I eventually married, I told her he was just a friend and gay.

    At dinner, she keep saying in broken English that he didn't look gay, so I had a chance. Fortunately he couldn't understand a word my mother was saying. My brothers were all sitting at the table laughing so hard they couldn't eat. :D
     
    Norcalbaker59, Oct 1, 2017
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  11. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Jean S., Oct 1, 2017
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  12. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    That is too funny about your mother and her quest to find you a man.

    I don't have a mixer but a friend is willing to bring hers over to use. I'll invest in one when the time comes, as I know grandma used that large one at the parish church and I want to get it right! I don't have strong hands for kneading.

    Oh and my cousin found an antique fluted cake pan. After looking at the picture of it, I bet that is what she used. He found it on etsy.
     
    Jean S., Oct 1, 2017
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  13. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad to hear a mixer will be available. Given your grandmother and her friends were working with 50 pounds of flour at a time, most likely they were not buying flour at the grocery store.

    Rather, they must of sourced flour from a commercial bakery or industry supplier. 50 lb bags of flour and sugar are the standard for commercial bakeries.

    If that's the case, I'm thinking they used higher protein flour. Which would explain in part the open (holes) in the crumb.

    Regarding the antique fluted pan. I would strongly advise against baking in antique pans. Safety is an concern. Over the years the types of metal and coatings have evolved due to safety concerns. Some metals and coatings leech into food. The only antique pans considered safe for use are re-tinned copper and cast iron.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Oct 1, 2017
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  14. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Jean S., Oct 1, 2017
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  15. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    I understand about not using antique pans. But at least the base is larger than a bioche tin, so I do believe they used cake pans. Wonder if there are taller cake pans as far as the sides? I swear the fluting on the bread went up about 4". I don't have to have the fluting. But a cake pan sides as I think of them is too short. But then again they would have a lot of cake pans as the church used that kitchen often for weddings and funeral meals.

    And there is a small bakery called European Bakery, about 3 houses away from grandma's house and is still there today! I even called them awhile back. Maybe they got the flour from there? I used to walk to that bakery when we would visit grandma and buy Churst (Polish word for them), which I was told are called Angel Wings today. They cost a nickel a piece and I loved them. I was told by the bakery they don't make them any more and she laughed when I said they cost a nickel. Guess they would be more today....eh? Makes sense about that bakery as grandma's house was only a block away from the church as well, so that means the bakery was only a block from the church too.

    I heard from an elder cousin and he said we got the bread at Easter time. He would remember better as he was older than me by a few years. So it is Paska the Polish Easter Sweet Bread. But as you said the ingredients are almost the same as Chalka.

    By your posting name are you in N. CA? I lived in a few places there, Berkeley, Pacifica and San Mateo. Loved Pacifica!
     
    Jean S., Oct 1, 2017
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  16. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Chalka and paska are essentially the same. The differences is when it's served and the shape.

    Chalka is the Christmas bread. I mentioned earlier that it was adopted from the Jewish challah, thus normally braided. Both share the same ingredients: flour, egg, sugar, yeast, salt, liquid, and fat. Raisins are traditionally the only dried fruit used in both the Polish Christian chalka and the Polish Jewish challah.


    The difference between chalka and challah is the type of liquid and fat. Because most Jewish people keep kosher, they use water and oil for the liquid and fat. The Christian version uses milk and butter.


    Paska has the same ingredients. It is a sweet egg bread baked and served at Easter. It's baked into a tall cylinder, just like the Italian panettone. But the sides are not fluted. The sides of paska are tall, smooth, and straight.


    Paska traditionally has a very white glaze on top to symbolize heaven.


    Paska or some variation is baked on Easter throughout all Slavic countries.


    While panettone also has tall, smooth straight sides, they do make novelty panettone pans. Fante's Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia carries one. Fante's is ligit online shop. They have a brick and mortar store as well. They've been around for generations. They can be a bit on the pricey side, but they are one of the few places to stock those rare as unicorns kitchen items.


    https://www.fantes.com/fluted-panettone-pan-7-cup


    Yes, I'm in Northern California. I live in the Napa Valley. While I was born and raised here, I have also lived in Virginia and Texas. I also spent a lot of time in Florida as I had a second home there.


    I spent some years in Berkeley. My grandfather was born and raised in San Francisco. But he and my grandmother, who was a southerner, lived the entirety of their adult life in the Sierra Nevada foothills. After my grandmother died, he sold their place and relocated back to the bay area. But resettled in Berkeley instead of San Francisco.


    Even though I lived in both Berkeley and San Francisco I can't see myself living in such a urban setting ever again. I prefer the open space in the valley. But it is crowded here. The wine industry exploded in the three surrounding counties here. So the tourist season is now 12 months out of the year.


    But it's really beautiful here. And I like the attitude of the people here.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Oct 1, 2017
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  17. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Jean S., Oct 2, 2017
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  18. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Oh I agree being away from the "city" is so much better! There is a peacefulness out there that is good for ones soul/heart. I used to live out in country (had a small farm) and it was the best! I loved it, miss it. I can "do" city, but it isn't as enjoyable or good for the soul/heart. I was only a couple blocks from the Ocean when I lived in Pacifica and I did enjoy walking the dogs on the trail there, and just sitting in the sand searching for sea jewels. That was good for my soul/heart as well.

    I just got an email and my friend with the mixer had a family emergency and will be out of touch for several weeks. So I thought I would see what mixer might be good for me. But there are some factors that I could use your help with. I wouldn't be using it a lot so I don't need top of the line, just a well made basic one. I don't know what capacity/quart size to get, or power level, etc. I was always taught to not buy the cheapest nor the most expensive.

    Any advice would be appreciated.
     
    Jean S., Oct 2, 2017
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  19. Jean S.

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Poor Pacifica is falling into the ocean. Seems after every rain storm, the cliffs just crumble. Last year a family had just purchased a million dollar plus home that ended up being condemned by the city when the ground under it fell into the ocean.

    Sorry this respond regarding mixers is very long....

    If you were to purchase any one thing to bake, I would recommend a food scale. The three most important pieces of baking equipment are food scale, calculator, mixer. In that order. Baking is all science. It's all about the ratio of all ingredients to the flour. So a scale and a calculator are the two most important pieces of equipment.


    A good food scale like the My Weigh KD8000 runs about $45 - $50. So they aren't cheap. But a quality scale that is accurate is important to successful baking.


    A mixer is a really big investment. Unless you intend to bake regularly, I wouldn't encourage purchase of a stand mixer. Especially if it is solely to bake bread.


    When it comes to bread dough, nothing else a baker makes is more destructive on a home mixer.


    The KitchenAid is the workhorse of countertop stand mixers. But it is NOT designed for bread despite the dough hook attachment. Home bakers, even professional bakers for that matter, buy KitchenAids, fill them with a ton of bread dough and other heavy yeast doughs, then bitterly complain when the motor blows after a few months. Using a KitchenAid for bread is like trying to pull a semi-trailer with a Cooper Mini.


    My KitchenAid has been running strong for nearly 20 years with above average use. I bake about 3 -4 times a week. During the holiday season, I bake 6 days a week. The reason I have never had an issue with my KitchenAid is I use it appropriately. I do not use it to knead bread dough very often. I knead by hand.


    Serious home bread bakers use spiral mixers designed for bread dough. Home bread mixers are the Ankarsrum ($650) and the Haussler Alpha ($2,000). They are extremely expensive!


    I've been working on a few other baking projects, so I only copied and pasted your ingredients list to my notes. But just that cursory look tells me a few things. I believe someone in your grandmother's circle of friends was a professional baker. Not just because they were baking in weight and making 50 pound batches, but the use of both canned and fresh whole milk, and the high hydration level. You also mentioned the flavor of the bread. All of these things are big clues in figuring out how they mixed their dough.


    If you recall I mentioned that the open crumb is created in part by high hydration and protein content in the flour. The high hydration level in your grandmother's recipe leads me to believe that they were working with a poolish. A poolish is a mix of flour, water, and a tiny bit of yeast. It's what is known as a preferment. It's left to rest (ferment) anywhere from 4 to 16 hours. Then the rest of the ingredients are added to finish the dough. A poolish hydrates the flour better and helps produce that open crumb. The other characteristic of a poolish is a marked improvement in flavor.


    An open crumb is NOT normal for a chalka, paska, or challah. And the flavor is mild because the dough wasn't fermented. These breads always use direct mixing, meaning all the ingredients are mixed at the same time. A few advanced bakers will use a sponge, but that sponge is only rested for 15 minutes before the dough is made. So a sponge won't create that open crumb. And it adds very little in the way of flavor.


    Aside from the flavor and texture created with a poolish, it reduces the mixing time substantially. So a small batch based on 500 grams of flour per loaf should be easy to mix by hand. A loaf based on 500g of flour will give you a very large single loaf, or two medium loaves.


    500g should put you near the size loaves your grandmother baked. Divide 50 lbs by 38 = 1.31 pounds. Which is 21 ounces. 21 ounces = 595 grams.


    Kneading by hand is actually easy when done correctly. It's a pat flat, fold, roll, and 1/4 turn. It's not a smash, press, and push hard across the counter as most people do.


    Watch the teacher, not the student.

     
    Norcalbaker59, Oct 2, 2017
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  20. Jean S.

    Jean S. Active Member

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    Wow that is a lot to learn!! Very exciting though!

    I can use the mixer to mix all the ingredients though right? Or is a hand mixer the way to go? I have a hand mixer, and Wal Mart has a clearance sale on an Oster mixer, pretty good price when all I would use it for is this bread. Though maybe I'll think of other ways to use. I seem to have gotten into cooking a lot lately. I fail a lot, and some recipes are not as good as they read, but I like to try. Took me a month of tries to make this Cajun shrimp recipe, but I got right in the end.

    I sure hope you will change the grams into something I can understand as I am terrible with math! I didn't inherit the math gene like my dad, sis, and bro. My dad was an engineer, sis was a doctor, and brother a CPA. Me? Jack of all trades, bartender, actress, farmer, refinisher of furniture, etc...........

    And I probably was not kneading correctly after watching that video, geesh on me. So I will knead by hand as you say.

    Interesting about that poolish, a new one on me.

    Maybe that bakery I told you about was involved in this? Maybe the baker was part of that parish, part of the group,and that is why I have that recipe. And that is how they got their 50 lbs. of flour. Even more interesting, and sure is making a good story if I am guessing correctly. One of those women was Polish and Catholic and a BAKER. Wonderful that you can see all that in this recipe!!

    Yes the N part of Pacifica is falling. I didn't live that far up Pacifica. I was by the dog walk they have and a golf course.

    I know you have other projects, and I have a lot to learn! Thank you though, this is great and something I can be excited about. Wow.........you sure know your stuff lady!
     
    Jean S., Oct 2, 2017
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