What are they?
Andruty (andruts in English) are Polish disc-shaped wafers. They are crunchy, slightly sweet, and almost as thin as a single sheet of paper. They may remind you of unleavened sacramental bread used during Christian masses.
The name itself probably originates from the German language: their anblatt refers to one of the varieties of wafers. As Zygmunt Gloger reports in his Encyclopedia of Old Poland, this dessert has been known on Polish soil at least since the 18th century. The most famous Polish andruty are produced in Kalisz. Further, they even received a Protected Geographical Indication from the EU!
The recipe for those humble discs has remained unaltered for centuries. The ingredients list is very simple and contains only four items: water, sugar, wheat flour, and canola oil. The mass is ladled onto “andrut-makers”, round or square iron molds that are heated to around 180-220 °C by electricity or gas. Although the baking period is very short, preparing andruty is not necessarily as easy as it may seem at first glance. Why?
Manufacturing them takes quite a bit of both effort and time since the process is entirely manual, and even nowadays only four discs are cooked at once. Furthermore, some masters of andrut-making claim that the weather might affect the daily number of baked waffles: the more humid it is outside, the thinner the mixture becomes. In turn, the thinner the mixture, the more andruts.
How unique, right? You never know how many exactly you will get. To paraphrase the Polish classic aphorism by Jan Twardowski, “let us love andruty now they leave us so fast”.
A crumb of history
The story of these iconic yet simple wafers with extraordinary taste may serve as a kind of testament to the interpenetration of culinary customs of a plethora of national and religious groups that have populated the city of Kalisz during the centuries.
As I have mentioned at the very beginning of this post, the name of andruty derives from the German Anblatt. This may be the result of the presence of a large German-speaking community in the city. However, they are not the only group that may have contributed to the present form of andruty.
Some researchers link those thin discs with Jewish matzah. To back their claim up, they cite the fact that Jews supposedly arrived in Kalisz in the 12th century already. If they are right, then the protoplast of today’s andrut could be even around 900 years old!
Nevertheless, you have to know that the origins of the andrut baking tradition and process are not discovered yet. As of now, the 1812 mold from a manor house in Wrząca, near Kalisz, appears to be its earliest trace.
At this point, you should have no doubts regarding the inextricable connection between andruty and Kalisz. However, if someone were to identify a specific place in the city that should come to mind when thinking about this dessert, it would be the city park. In the 19th century, it was there that andruts became one of the favorite snacks bought by adults and children alike in small stalls located in the park alleys.
Because andruty are so interconnected with Kalisz, it comes as no surprise that their packaging features an image of a trumpeter identical to the one from the city’s coat of arms.
What to eat it with?
Okay, so we know a bit about their history and ingredients. Nevertheless, a more important question seems to await an answer: what do you eat it with? Usually, only after tasting does the person trying it find out that there is absolutely no need for any additives. They are so tasty!
On their own, they make a delicious snack – they are so crisp and tender that you cannot really spread anything on them, which is the case with typical wafers. Speaking of which, we have to also establish one thing – andruts and wafers and waffles are all different creations. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, below you’ll find a small summary that should help you differentiate between them:
- andruty = very thin disc-like sheets of a tad sweet dough
- wafers (wafle in Polish) = crisp, sweet, thin but not as thin as andruty with a waffle surface pattern
- waffles (gofry in Polish) = leavened dough, fluffy, and with the characteristic shape and indents
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