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The Sweet Polish Kitchen by Ren Behan

Posted by Nigella on the 29th February 2024
Image of Ren Behan's Karpatka
Photo by Nassima Rothacker

I know was predisposed to welcome this book to my overcrowded shelves, for when it comes to cakes and bakes, my tastes certainly run along Eastern European lines, taking in — there are overlaps — the Germanic and Austro-Hungarian canon, too. But truly, the delight The Sweet Polish Kitchen has been giving me is something no realistic person could really expect, which makes it even more of a treat. The recipes are the immediate attraction, to be sure, but Behan’s relaxed, chatty and engaging voice brings them to life with charm and intelligence — she is just such good company on the page. Not that you will want to spend that much time lolling about just reading: if you’re anything like me, you will almost immediately feel yourself propelled into the kitchen.

And this book provides a welcoming and accessible introduction to Polish baking for those as yet to savour it: Lemon and Poppyseed Bundt; Szarlotka — as in Charlotte — which is indeed an apple cake, but with a pastry base, and a meringue and crumble topping; Napoleonka, also known as Papal Cream Cake in honour of Pope John Paul II whose favourite it is said to be; Double Plum Crumble Cake; Stefanka, a chocolate and honey layer cake; the glorious-sounding Layered Raspberry and Lemon Cloud Cake; the classic Polish doughnuts, Paczki; Easter Babka; Poppyseed Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze, a newer innovation of Behan’s; Seromakowiec, the gorgeous Polish cheesecake with poppyseed paste; Pierogi with Sweet Cream Cheese; Knedle (much like the Austrian Knödel) which are butter-and-sugar-dressed potato dumplings, stuffed with plums or apricots; and the latke-like potato pancakes, Placki.

I had no hesitation in choosing a recipe to share with you today, as it is a real favourite of mine, introduced to me some years ago by a Polish friend, and it’s the wonderful Karpatka — two sheets of choux pastry, the top one rumpled and dusted with icing sugar, sandwiching a filling of thick pastry cream. It’s a honour to have it on the site!

From The Sweet Polish Kitchen by Ren Behan, published by Pavilion Books, 2024.
Photos by Nassima Rothacker.

Try this recipe from the book

Image of Ren Behan's Karpatka
Photo by Nassima Rothacker
Karpatka - Carpathian Mountain Cake
By Ren Behan
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