You could be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a post about chocolate, at least if you just went by this first picture. In fact, the first time I had this oh-so-typically Eastern European filling (at a Russian bakery in Seattle’s Pike Place Market) I was a little surprised–it’s not that it looks exactly like chocolate, but that would be your best guess. To be sure, it’s quite disorienting to open your mouth, sure you are about to enjoy some chocolate, and find you are tasting something entirely different. When I got over the shock, I found I quite liked it.
Which was a good thing because the poppyseed plum combination is everywhere in Central and Eastern Europe, so I was in good shape when I was living there. To make this nearly black filling, the poppyseeds should be ground, and the plums come in the form of povidla (or powidl, povidel, and a host of other names, depending on the country) which is unglamourously (and surely for some, unappetizingly) translated as prune paste (or butter).
Besides my periodic urge to make something vaguely Czech, I have Mark Bittman to thank for inspiring this. I’ve been having so much fun with the How To Cook Everything app on my Iphone. (It’s really great to be able to plan meals while holding little H when he’s nodded off; no agonizing decision as to whether I dare to put him down). One of the Bittman variations on simple white bread is exactly this. You can use any enriched white dough recipe (by that I mean, a dough with a bit of sugar and butter). We often use this same method to make cinnamon swirl bread, and I’m sure the possibilities are unlimited as to what you fill your bread with.
But, digressions aside, this particular bread was, of course, poppyseed and povidla. More specifically, 1/4c poppyseed and 3/4c povidla. While you can find it here in the US, my povidla is directly imported from Austria. (My good friend Jen goes there every year with her husband and unfortunately for her, on her last trip I had a request list all prepared.)
As for my poppyseeds, they were out of your standard size spice jar (in contrast, in the Czech Republic these seeds come in pound-sized bags–I told you they love it). I was pleased to see that Bittman does not require you to grind them; something most recipes I’ve seen require . Andrea at Family and Food and I have discussed whether or not this grinding is necessary, so here was a perfect chance to put this to the test. Skipping this step would greatly simplify things, as I understand poppyseeds can be very difficult to grind. (Yes, there are even special grinders for this purpose, but I’d rather not have another single use kitchen gadget, nor do I have a coffee grinder which could do the trick). A good poppyseed grinder, in any case, may be hard to come by. Even in the Czech Republic, where such a tool is more commonplace, I heard the standard complaint that “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.” Who knows, but I sure don’t know how to pick one. I do know that you can even find tinned poppyseed filling in stores here, (perhaps even in the Kosher section!) but mixing up the povidla and poppyseeds sounds much better to me–canned filling seems like something that could go very wrong, though I’m speaking purely out of conjecture here.
Now, in the end, perhaps it’s a bit more authentic if you grind the poppyseeds, but I enjoyed this bread all the same. Good is good, after all.
The filling was slightly runny, so perhaps I could cut back a bit on the jam the next time, though I suppose it’s all a matter of taste. Drippingly sweet and rich filling is not necessarily a bad thing. The important takeaway is I need not shy away from other poppyseed-filled goodies (such as kolace or buchty) merely because I don’t have all the poppyseed processing accoutrements. And that is a good thing to know, wouldn’t you agree?