Snow and ice on the ground. It feels like winter. Short days. Sleepy skies. I had been traveling through some quietly impressive landscapes; the bald prairies had a long established Ukrainian contingent.
Time for a poppy seed roll. And past time to try out a poppy seed grinder that I had found on kijiji (I was actually looking for a meat or grain grinder to make some sprouted wheat bread and perhaps some sausages). The model I purchased was made in Czechoslovakia most likely in the 1950s. It was previously owned by a German woman who had moved to an assisted care facility.
I had seen canned ground poppy seed paste in German stores before. The cans seemed suspicious to me, probably too sweet I thought. Grinding the seeds with a specialized tool might produce a better paste where I could control the sugar and squish out the natural oils. If you don’t have a seed grinder you can try a spice grinder, or food processor, or mortar and pestle. Some people tell you to soak the seeds in hot water to remove any musty smell. You may do so however make sure your seeds are dry before you feed them through the grinder or the seeds will stick to themselves and not pass through the auger.
Some hints: Grind your seeds first before making the dough if you are using a grinder because it will take a while and require some elbow grease. The dough will be very sticky at first ( it is similar to a brioche dough) until the gluten in the flour develops; I recommend using a stand mixer with a dough hook. Don’t add extra flour to the dough, it will just make the bread dry and tough. This recipe will make 1 Very large roll, have lots of friends to share it with; or try freezing some of it for later.
Ukrainian Poppy Seed Roll*
1⁄2 cup warm water
1 tbsp yeast
1⁄2 cup + 1 tsp sugar
2⁄3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
zest of 1-2 lemons
3 1/3 + 1/3 cup flour
6 tbsp butter, softened
2 1/3 cup poppy seeds, ground
1 cup hot milk
6 tbsp butter, melted
2⁄3 cup sugar or honey (to taste)
1⁄2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup raisins, optional
2⁄3 cup almonds, chopped, optional
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk for brushing on top before baking
For the filling grind your poppy seeds. Combine the seeds with the hot milk, melted butter, sugar or honey, vanilla or almond extract, raisins and almonds, 1 egg, breadcrumbs.
For the dough, combine the yeast with warm water and 1 tsp sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes to make sure your yeast is active. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the yeast mixture, 1⁄2 cup sugar, milk, egg, lemon zest, 3 1/3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until a dough forms. Add the softened butter by the tablespoon and mix on low until the dough looks like it has incorporated the butter. Add the remaining 1/3 cup flour and mix until dough slaps the side of the bowl. Make sure you have kneaded it sufficiently, the dough should have some spring to it and will no longer be as sticky. Cover and rest the dough in a warm place until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes or longer if your room is cold.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle that is 1⁄4 inch thick. Make sure one of the sides of your rectangle will fit on the baking sheet. Spread on the filling, roll up and seal the seam by pinching it. I also sealed the sides of my roll by pinching it together. Transfer the roll to a lined baking sheet. Loosely cover the roll and leave to prove for 10 to 20 minutes. The roll is ready to bake when you gently poke a finger in the dough which leaves an impression in the dough that slowly springs back. Brush the dough with a beaten egg yolk and slash the top with a serrated knife. The slash marks prevents the roll from splitting open during baking.
Bake in the middle of a preheated oven at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes until medium to dark brown in colour. Cool before slicing. Keep the roll wrapped up to prevent drying.