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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

The drug seed that won’t drug you: Poppy Seed Roll aka Makowiec

ByDominika Margolt

Dec 7, 2022

What and where?

The poppy seed roll is a pastry which consists of a roll of sweet yeast bread with rich, dense, and bittersweet filling of poppy seeds. It is popular in Central Europe and some parts of Eastern Europe, where it is commonly eaten during Easter and Christmas time. It is considered as a traditional dish in several cuisines, including Polish (makowiec), Kashubian (makówc), Slovak (makovník), Czech (makový závin), Austrian (Mohnstrudel or Mohnstriezel), Ukrainian (pyrih z makom пирiг з маком), Belarusian (makavy rulet макавы рулет), or Yiddish (mohn roll).

Are poppy seeds narcotics?

Poppy seed is an oilseed which is obtained from the opium poppy. Those tiny seeds in the shape of kidney have been harvested from dried seed pods by various civilizations for thousands of years. The seeds are used, either whole or ground, as an ingredient in a number of dishes, and they are also pressed to yield poppyseed oil. Poppy seeds are less than a millimeter in length. 3,300 poppy seeds are needed to make up a gram, and a pound (0,45 kg) contains between 1 and 2 million seeds.

The majority of poppy seeds used for cooking come from the opium poppy, know also under the scientific term as Papaver somniferum. Although these seeds do contain opium, the amount used for cooking purposes is extremely small. Interestingly, consumption of poppy seeds can produce a positive result on drug tests.

Before being used as an ingredient in baking, the poppy seeds are cleaned and processed but are still highly likely to contain traces of opiate residue. The concentration is not enough to feel any morphine-like effects, but it can be enough to cause a positive result on a sensitive test.

What is the poppy seed roll made of?

The dough is made of flour, sugar, egg yolk, milk or sour cream, butter, and yeast. Except ground poppy seeds, the filling may contain raisins, butter or milk, sugar or honey, rum and vanilla. It may be flavored with orange or lemon zest.

The dough is at first quite heavy, dry and stiff, but with repeated kneading and resting it becomes very elastic and strong. It is rolled out into a large sheet, thick or thin depending on preference. One aesthetic and primary principle is that the dough and filling layers are of equal thickness. Another is that the more layers the better. The poppy seed paste is spread over the dough, which is then rolled into a long cylinder or log.

Traditional recipes typically involve brushing the log with the egg white leftover from the yolk used in the dough. Various recipes use glaze or icing added after baking, sometimes with the use of dried fruit and nuts for decoration.

Popularity

The reason why the poppy seed rolls are not wildly popular is that they are a bit fussy to prepare. The pastry is made of an enriched dough. It takes quite some time for the dough to get kneaded into a silky smooth mass. It also takes time for the dough to rise, and finally, the focus and care needed to shape and form the rolls is also time-consuming.

The poppy seed paste also requires some work. Alternatively, you can buy pre-made poppy seed filling in a can if you want to cut corners. If you want to be a master chef of the poppy seed filling yourself, you have to grind the poppy seeds in batches, heat up several ingredients, and be patient with the chilling time. A lot of patience will be needed during the process.

Recipe for the poppy seed roll

Ingredients:

Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 200 g of poppy seeds
  • 200 g of white sugar
  • 100 g of raisins
  • 150 ml of hot milk
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Bread:

  • 150 ml warm water (around 38 °C)
  • 2 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 400 g of all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 1 large egg, separated – white reserved

For decoration:

  • dried fruit and nuts

Instructions:

  1. In order to prepare the filling, place poppy seeds into a mill and process it until the seeds are ground.

  2. Mix poppy seeds, sugar, hot milk, raisins, melted butter, lemon zest and lemon juice together in a bowl until combined. Cover with a cloth and refrigerate while making the bread. The filling will thicken during chilling.

  3. In order to make the bread, first, pour warm water into a small bowl, add sugar and sprinkle yeast on top. Let it stand about 5 minutes, until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam.

  4. Mix flour and salt together in a bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then, add yeast mixture and egg yolk. Stir to make a soft dough.

  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until it becomes smooth and slightly elastic. Cut dough into 2 equal pieces. Afterwards, roll each piece out into a rectangle of 30×40 cm.

  6. Spread half of the poppy seed filling over each rectangle, leaving a 2,5 cm border. Fold the 1-inch border back over the filling on all sides and press down. Pick up the shorter side of a dough rectangle and roll it like a jelly roll. Repeat the action with the second rectangle. Pinch ends together under to prevent filling from leaking out.

  7. Place filled loaves seam-side down on the baking sheet and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 175 °C. In the meantime, beat egg white in a bowl until frothy, and brush the loaves with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle dried fruit and nuts on top.

  8. Bake in the oven until golden brown on top, about 35 minutes. Remove loaves from the oven and cover with a kitchen cloth until it cools in order to keep the crust soft. Remember to cool the poppy seed rolls completely before slicing.

Enjoy!