Bill Biega's
Here are Lili's Holiday recipes (click on the one you want to read).
Prepare ahead of time and enjoy your holidays.

Piernik - Honey Cake
Babka Rumowa - Rum Baba,
Grandma's Butter Bowtie Cookies,
Cwibak - Christmas Fruit Cake,
Barszcz - Clear Beetroot Soup (Borscht),
Uszka - "Little Ears" dumplings
Bigos - Hunters' Stew

Click here for a printable version.
How East Europeans celebrate Christmas.

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Piernik - Honey Cake
Set oven temperature to 350°F (175C) and preheat.
Grease three loaf pans. Piernik

Pour into saucepan:

  • 1 cup (240ml) honey
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix together and bring to a boil. Then set aside and allow to cool down to a warm temperature.

In a mixing bowl, beat 3 large eggs with 1 cup (240ml) of brown sugar and 3 teaspoons (15ml) of baking powder.
Slowly add the warm liquid to the beaten eggs, mixing at slow speed.
Add 4 cups (950ml) of plain white flour (NOT self-raising), and mix thoroughly.
Pour the final mixture into the loaf pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove pans from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Cut each loaf into 3 layers, spread jam (strawberry, raspberry or apricot) and then reassemble.

Prepare chocolate frosting as follows:
Place into saucepan

  • 2½oz (70g) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3oz (80g) sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) water
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) white granulatd sugar
Stir the chocolate, butter, vanilla and water together, gradually adding sugar. Bring it slowly to a boil, stirring constantly. Let it boil for 5 minutes.
Let it cool until it becomes a thick mass, easily spreadable with a knife.
Place cakes with flat side down and spread chocolate frosting evenly on top and sides.
Cool completely in refrigerator, until the frosting is hard.
Wrap in aluminum foil, then in plastic. May be stored in refrigerator, or cold place for four weeks before serving.

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Babka Rumowa - Rum Baba

Set oven temperature to 350°F (180C) and preheat.

Grease Bundt form - (some specialty stores will call it a Babka form) - Sprinkle ½ cup (120ml) chopped walnuts or pecans on bottom of greased form.
In mixing bowl, mix together: Rum Baba

  • 18oz. (500g) yellow cake mix
  • 3 3/4oz. (110g) Instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup (120ml) cold water
  • ½ cup, vegetable oil (Wesson or similar)
  • ½ cup Bacardi dark rum.

Pour mixture into form and place in oven. Bake for 1 hour.
Allow to cool. When completely cool, invert form on serving plate and remove cake.
Prick top of cake, all over. Slowly pour glaze mixture over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze.
Repeat until all of glaze mixture is used up.

Prepare Glaze as follows:

  • 3 oz (85g) sweet (unsalted) butter.
  • ¼ cup (60ml) water
  • ½ cup (120ml) Bacardi dark rum
  • 1 cup (240ml) granulated sugar
Melt butter in saucepan, stir in water and sugar.
Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in rum.

This cake is very moist and will stay fresh for a couple of weeks, if stored in a cool place, wrapped in plastic foil, or in a plastic bag.

Enjoy! May be served with whipped cream topping, if desired.

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Grandma's Butter Bowtie Cookies Buttercookies

Prepare ingredients:

  • 1 pound (450g.)sweet (unsalted) butter,
  • 1 cup (240ml) sugar,
  • 4 hard-boiled egg yolks, finely crumbled,
  • 4 ½ cups (1050ml) white flour,
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7ml) vanilla extract.

Thoroughly mix the butter, sugar, egg-yolks and vanilla extract, then slowly mix in the flour and knead. If the mixture appears to be too liquid, add a little flour.
Place the kneaded ball into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Roll out the mixture on a board until about ¼ inch thick (about 7mm) - this is the thickness of a standard pencil.
Cut strips about ¼inch wide (12mm) and 6 inches (150mm) long, and twist into a figure-eight, like a pretzel.
Break an egg, and smear the bow-ties. Sprinkle with colored sugar. (Alternatively, you may sprinkle with poppy seed instead).
Place on baking tray and insert into oven preheated to 400°F (200C) for 20 to 25 minutes.
Watch carefully towards the end as the cookies burn very easily.

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Cwibak - Christmas Fruit Cake

Set oven temperature to 350°F (175C) and preheat.
Grease three loaf pans.

Prepare a 1½ pound (700g) mixture of fruits and nuts - which should include raisins, figs, sultanas, candied orange peel, dried apricots, walnuts or pecans. Except the raisins and sultanas, all should be chopped into small pieces about half the size of your small fingernail, Then thoroughly mix up and lightly dust with flour, so that ingredients do not stick together.. Fruitcake

Prepare remaining ingredients:

  • 4 cups (950ml) powdered sugar,
  • ½lb (225g) sweet (unsalted) butter,
  • 8 fresh eggs,
  • 4¾ cups (1,100ml) white flour (NOT self-raising),
  • 4 teaspoons (20ml) baking powder.
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract.

Using an electric or hand mixer, thoroughly beat the eggs, sugar and butter together.
Then slowly add flour, baking powder and vanilla extract.
Finally, thoroughly mix in the fruit and nut mixture.

Pour the completed mixture in to the 3 pans and place in preheated oven.
Bake about one hour, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans. You may wrap in aluminum foil and plastic and store in a cool place up to four weeks.

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Barszcz - Clear Beetroot Soup

The following is the simple modern way:

Take 1 quart bottle (1 liter) of prepared Jewish Borsht (Manishewitsch or similar),
Pour into saucepan and mix with contents of 10½oz. (300g) can of Beef Consommé, bring to a boil and immediately turn off heat.
Taste and, if desired, to reduce acidity, add 1 teaspoon sugar; to increase acidity add 1 teaspoon vinegar.
Pour on to plates in which uszka have already been placed. Use 4 to 6 uszka per plate.
Above quantity is sufficient for 6 servings.

Here is the old-fashioned traditional way:
It does taste better!

A few weeks ahead of time, prepare fermented beetroot juice, as follows:
  • 2¼ pounds (1kg.) fresh, sweet beetroots,
  • 2 quarts (2l) boiled water,
  • 1 piece of rye bread crust,
Wash and scrape the beetroots, cut into thin slices, place in large jar.
pour boiled water into jar, throw in bread crust,
leave jar open or covered only with thin gauze and place in warm place.

On Christmas Eve, prepare soup as follows:
  • 2 large sweet beetroots,
  • 1 celery cut in small pieces,
  • 1 onion cut into small pieces,
  • 1 lb (450g) mushrooms,
  • 1 lb (450g). butter,
  • 1 teaspoon salt,
  • 1 piece garlic,
  • some parsley,

boil in water until beetroot just becomes soft.
Then pour into another saucepan through sieve. Retrieve beetroots and mushrooms.
Mushrooms may be used for making uszka.

Beetroots are grated fine and returned to the soup.

Shortly before serving,
Add 1 pint (½l) of fermented beetroot juice.
Keep hot, but do not allow to boil as this will destroy clear red color,
serve in plates over uszka.

Are you surprised that many working women prefer the simple, modern way? If you are really pressed for time, you may use prepackaged Tortelinni instead of making uszka. They are not as good, but will save you a lot of work.

NOTE. On other occasions than Christmas Eve, Barszcz may be served with cream as follows:
Take 2 tablespoons of Beetroot soup (made either way),
mix completely with 2 tablespoons of sour cream, then add to soup and stir thoroughly.

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Uszka - "Little Ears" dumplings

Pronounced USH-KAH, it is customary to serve these little tortelinni-like dumplings with the Christmas Eve barszcz, either floating in the soup, or as a side dish.

Prepare the stuffing:

  • 10oz. (300g) mushrooms, preferably wild varieties which have more flavor.
  • 4oz. (110g) sweet (un-salted) butter,
  • 1 medium-sized onion,
  • The white of one hard-boiled egg,
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) breadcrumbs,
  • Sprig of parsley,

Cook the mushrooms, then cut into very fine pieces, and fry (sauté) in the butter with onion.
Thoroughly mix with the bread crumbs, finely cut egg white and parsley and a pinch of salt.

Prepare the dough and make the uszka:
  • The yolk of one fresh egg,
  • 1½lb (700g) white flour,

Thoroughly mix the flour with egg yolk and a little water.
Knead into soft mass.
Roll out into thin layer, cut into 1½ inch (35mm) squares.
Place portions of mushroom mixture into center, fold over all edges, then fold and stick two opposite corners together.
Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes.

This quantity of ingredients will provide about 40 dumplings.

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Bigos - Hunter's Stew

After preparing the large Christmas Eve dinner, the lady of the house (and her staff if she was fortunate to have them) needed to relax. Bigos was prepared to be served on the following days as it only needed reheating. There are many variations as there are homes, but the following is the basic recipe, the ingredients listed provide 8 servings, adjust as needed.

    Basic ingredients
  • Pickled cabbage sauerkraut - 2 lbs (1kg)
  • Fresh white cabbage - 2 lbs (1kg)
  • pre-cooked or smoked pork and/or ham - 1 lb (0.5kg)
  • Polish sausage kielbasa - 1 lb (0.5kg)
  • Dried mushrooms - 2 oz. (50g) - (optional)
  • Prunes, seedless - 8
  • Onion - 1
  • Garlic, shredded - 1 tablespoon
  • bacon - ½ lb (250g)
  • flour - 1 tablespoon
  • peppercorns - 2 tablespoons, allspice - 1 tablespoon, bayleaf - 2,
NOTE: If dietary restrictions do not allow you to use pork or ham, substitute smoked turkey, preferably dark meat from legs.
Prepare at least three days before needed, as follows:
Rinse sauerkraut with cold water; drain well.
Cut pre-cooked pork and ham from bone (including fat). Cut it and sausage into bite-size pieces (about ½ inch cubes).
Shred fresh cabbage, slice onion into small pieces, cut prunes into small pieces.
In a heavy pot (preferably cast-iron or cast aluminum) place fresh cabbage, add water as needed and 2 teaspoons salt, bring to a boil, then cook uncovered over medium heat for about 1 hour, or until cabbage is tender.
Combine sauerkraut, ham, pork, bay leaves, mushrooms, prunes, peppercorns, allspice with the fresh cabbage. Stir well
Sauté bacon until crisp, drain off excess fat and add to mix. Stir thoroughly.
Cook, uncovered for 15 minutes on medium heat, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least one hour.
Remove and discard bay leaves. Set aside in cool place

The following day, add 2 oz. vodka or ½ glass dark red wine. Stir, taste, add seasoning as needed. Then cover and cook over slow heat for at least an hour.
Repeat following day and before serving.

Serve with fresh boiled potatoes or dark rye bread. Serve beer, ice-cold vodka or red wine.
Whatever is left over can be reheated and served on some later day. Reheat at least every other day.

NOTE: In older days every home in Eastern Europe had a barrel of pickled cabbage, prepared in the fall and used throughout the winter. Now you have to use the canned version.

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While you are waiting for the cakes and cookies to finish baking, you might like to look at some pictures from Poland:


Northern Poland.
Western Poland.
South-east Poland.
Southern Poland.
South-west Poland.
Photogallery Index.
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Copyright © 2002 B. C. Biega. All rights reserved.

Last update November 30, 2012