My glorious Citizens! Apologies for going dark this last week, I have been traveling on business in New York City and while successful, it has left TFD Nation rudderless for far too long! As such: the Count of Constancy, YOUR TFD!, is climbing back into the saddle again today with several new recipes to get us caught back up to our standard post frequency!
This unique recipe for Polish garlic rye baked on a horseradish leaf – Chleb na Liściu Chrzanu – is a rare and fascinating dish I am excited to share with you all! Planting leaves under proofing bread loaves was a common practice in many historic villages. Leaves of horseradish, oak or cabbage not only protected the bread against dirt and drying, but also enriched its aroma, and supposedly even granted magical properties to it.
There is a centuries-long tradition of baking bread on leaves in the country, as noted in an article (in Polish, but translated here) by a renowned ethnobotanist on lukaszluczaj.pl:
When baking bread in the oven, leaves were formerly put on. They gave a beautiful pattern from below and a specific aroma appropriate for the plant species. And what were the leaves – it depended on the region.
The most common was baking bread on cabbage . This was done in almost all of Poland. Roasting on horseradish leaves is also frequent , especially in central Poland – in the Vistula valley, in Mazovia and in the west. Podlasie.
The specificity of northern Podlasie and the Suwałki region is the use of calamus leaves . They are very aromatic and give the loaf a specific, “cosmetic” smell. This custom is also widespread in Lithuania and part of Belarus.
Finally, in the Carpathians in some villages baked bread on a maple leaf. I met with the use of this last species even in my village – Pietrusza Wola.
In few villages, mainly in the Lublin region and southern Podlasie, the use of oak leaves has also been reported .
All these species were documented in the research of the Polish Ethnographic Atlas in 1964-69. A team of researchers led by prof. Józef Gajka traveled over 300 cities throughout Poland asking for hundreds of things in each of them. One was just putting the leaves under the bread.
Poles are renowned bakers – they even have their own unique classification system for different types of flour! As noted on stoislaw.com.pl:
In the Polish market, we can more and more often buy rye and wheat flour for baking bread at home. The best idea is to make your own bread mixture with the above mentioned proportions (⅓ of rye flour, ⅔ of wheat flour).
When you buy flour for bread, you should also pay attention to the type.
Rye bread flours are:
– type 2000 – very dark, coarse,
– type 1400 – dark, with medium texture,
– type 720 (750) – medium-dark, fine,
– type 580 – very light, fine.
Wheat bread flours are:
– type 1850 – graham, very dark and very coarse,
– type 850/750 – typical bread flour, very light and fine,
– type 500 – bun flour, very light and fine.
If you are making your own mixture, you should combine dark flours with dark flours and light flours with light flours. This matters also because dark flours are coarse, and light flours are fine. If you combine coarse flour with fine flour, your bread may be uneven and may crumble.
This means that you should combine:
• rye flour type 2000, 1400 with wheat flour type 1850.
• rye flour type 720 with wheat flour type 750, 850.
• rye flour type 580 with wheat flour type 500.
Use rye flour type 2000 to make sour soup.
Use wheat flour type 1850 to make white borscht.
Sadly, Polish flours are almost impossible to find outside of the E.U., so I have come up with the closest alternatives here in the U.S. To create the proper blend for this bread, you need dark rye flour from here plus spelt flour can be purchased here and dark spelt flour here. Top-quality pumpernickel rye can be easily purchased here.
Of course, you will need a sourdough starter and you should only use this one, straight from Poland! The last issue is finding horseradish leaves – not an easy thing at all in this country! If you grow your own horseradish, you are good to go – if you don’t, you have two alternatives. You can try and find fresh wasabi leaves which work nearly as well (Far West Fungi has a retail store in the San Francisco Ferry building that regularly stocks them, other Web sources are spotty on availability) or you can use mustard greens.
Citizens, this is a unique and ancient bread packed with heirloom grains and totally delicious in every way – I hope you see fit to try my version of this at your next opportunity! I would enjoy this with some delicious Polish Hunter Stew, known as Bigos.
Battle on – the Generalissimo
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