November 22, 2018

Polish Blueberry Buns for All Occasions

“A few years ago, a woman from Toronto asked me if I had heard of shritzlach, a Yiddish word for currant cakes. She told me that Mimi Sheraton had written about them in her book 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. I had not heard of them, but immediately started digging on the internet and in cookbooks. I found that these oblong, buttery, scone-like sweet rolls brimming with blueberries and topped with streusel were popular in Southwest Poland among Jews and gentiles alike. The Jews called them shritzlach or yagedes, meaning blueberries in Yiddish, while the gentiles called them jagodzianki, also blueberries, in Polish.

Annie Kaplansky, a Jewish woman from Rakow, a village in western Poland, immigrated to Toronto at the early part of the last century, and opened the Health Bread Bakery, where she started making these oval pocket pastries during blueberry season. For Canadian Polish immigrants, biting into the breakfast buns and letting the juice spill out of the dough evoked a nostalgic memory of Poland. They either ate them at the bakery or brought them home for breakfast or an afternoon treat. In her memoir The Last Selection: A Child’s Journey Through the Holocaust, Goldie Szachter Kalib says these buns were originally served as a breakfast food, especially on the Sabbath.

The day I was testing my recipe, Sarah Weiner, founder of the Good Food Awards, was visiting. She tasted the buns as I pulled them out of the oven and told me that her grandmother who was from Bodzentyn, a 30-minute drive from Rakow, made them but they tasted better. So we made Sarah’s grandmother’s version, with more butter. Also, I added a little crystallized ginger to give the berries a modern punch.

Thanks to women like Kaplansky, Kalib, and Weiner’s grandmother, who were able to keep this prewar Jewish tradition alive in Canada and the United States, shritzlach (recipe here) have become a favorite in our family.”

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