Chef and author Olia Hercules creates dishes and recipes that explore the people, landscape and traditions of her native Ukraine. As part of our Time to Make series, Olia shares with us a recipe for a sweet bread filled with poppy seed and nut paste, similar to the strudel traditionally eaten at Easter in Ukraine.
“My mother Olga and her sister Zhenia have always made a very traditional version of this bread during Easter. It’s called makoviy rulet,” Olia tells us of the recipe passed on to her family by her great-grandmother. “Different versions of it are cooked all over Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. I have always felt that my family’s was the best I’d ever tried, because they never skimp on the filling!”
Traditionally made using walnuts, Olia has added apples to her addition of the ammonite shaped sweet bread. “You can use the filling with other types of dough, and even shop bought filo to make a wonderfully intense strudel,” Olia explains. “But I implore you to try this yeasted dough version - it’s a pleasure to make. It’s mindfulness, or, as we call it - cooking with intention - at its best.”INGREDIENTS
For the dough
200ml warm whole milk
10g yeast (7g will work too if you use sachets)
60g demerara sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
400-450g plain flour
For the filling
200ml whole milk
100g poppy seeds
100g pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted
100g sugar (any will do, I used demerara)
2 tsp vanilla extract
80g lightly salted butter
2 egg yolks for glazing
2 tbsp of milk for glazing METHOD
To make the dough, mix the yeast with the warm milk and the sugar in a large bowl. Leave for 10 minutes or so to make sure the yeast works. It should develop a kind of a frothy ‘hat’, as we call it in Ukraine. Now whisk in the eggs, the salt and the vanilla. Make sure the eggs have broken up properly.
Sift in 400g of flour. The dough will be sticky and wet. But if you feel it’s too wet to handle, add another 20g of flour.
Now wet your hands (it will help the dough not stick to them) and work the dough a little in the bowl to bring it together. Then do a stretch and fold action for a little while - a few minutes will do. Your dough will look pretty rough still, but don’t worry. Pat it down and cover it, leave for about an hour somewhere warm to rise.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Simmer the poppyseeds in the milk for about 20-30 minutes over a low heat. Do keep an eye on it as the milk has a tendency to run away. If it starts doing that, take it off the heat. Do give it an occasional stir to prevent a skin forming. The milk will get absorbed and will evaporate too, the seeds will soften. Let them cool down and then blitz in a food processor with the nuts, sugar, vanilla and butter. You will end up with a thick, beautiful, black paste.
Core and dice the apples and mix them through the paste, it will make it easier to dot it around the rolled out dough.Scoop out your dough onto a well-floured surface. The dough will be sticky but if you flour your hands, that will make it easier to work with. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or so. The dough will be soft and airy, a real pleasure to work with. Finally, shape it into a smooth ball.
Leave it on your lightly-floured work bench for about 15-30 minutes. It will be easier to roll out if the gluten relaxes.
Now make sure your work surface is well-floured and start rolling out the dough. You are aiming roughly for a 30cmx40cm rectangle.
Now dot the apple and poppyseed paste filling all over the dough and roll the dough into a log shape. Cut this log lengthways so you will have two long pieces of dough with exposed filling.
Put a baking parchment over a flat baking sheet and dust it with some semolina or flour.Take the first piece of dough log and twist it around itself into a snail shape, exposed filling side facing upwards. Now wrap the other piece of dough around the snail and pinch the ends together to secure. Cover and leave to prove for about 30-45 minutes, and preheat the oven to 180C fan.
Once proved, brush with the egg and milk glaze all over the bread and bake for 30-40 minutes. Check on it half way through, if some of it is becoming too dark (my oven definitely has hot spots!), cover those bits with foil.
As soon as it’s out of the oven, slip the bread gently off its tray and paper on to a wire rack to cool down. Enjoy with an unsweetened lemony tea or, a glass of dry white wine!Images by Joe Woodhouse.