By Kelly Jaggers
Poppy Seed Coffee Cake – Tender, Moist Yeast Bread with Poppy Seed Filling and a Sweet Lemon Glaze. Time-Tested Recipe.
My friend Kelly Jaggers is back with another wonderful family recipe! Her nostalgic memories behind this family recipe, beautifully expressed, make it taste even sweeter. ~ Tori
If you have ever traveled down Interstate 35 from Dallas to Austin you know that there is a vibrant Czech population in central Texas. Many Czech immigrants settled in the area after arriving from Europe into the Port of Houston. Leaving all they knew behind for the chance at a better life, these men and women worked hard, working on farms and ranches, and raised families. Their influence is still felt today. In the town of West, for example, kolaches are abundant and the highways are decorated with images of traditional Czech dancers.
I did not know until about 10 years ago that I was part Czech. On my mother’s side of the family Louis Kunschick arrived from Czechoslovakia in 1883. He started a farm and worked the land with his family until the end of his days. He married my great-great-grandmother, Minnie, who was a wonderful baker. I have been doing some work on my family history on and off for the past few years. It is fascinating to find out about the people who came before you. Sadly, I have not found anything about Minnie’s biological family. According to family lore she was orphaned at a young age and was adopted by a family from her church. Sadly, the details of her early life are a little vague, but we do know that she married Louis and raised a family of her own. We also know she was an amazing baker! Many of her recipes are among my most treasured.
Like most Czech families in Texas, we have an old world recipe for a poppy seed filling that can be used in a variety of breads and cakes. Minnie’s poppy seed filling is a favorite in my family. She loved to bake, and she passed that love down to her daughter, my great-grandmother Rosa, who passed it to her girls, my grandmother Lola and great-aunt Ruby, who passed it to my mom, who passed it to me. Talk about multi-generational!
Minnie passed away long before I was born, but many of her recipes are staples of my recipe box. One of my families’ favorites is her Czech strudel filled with poppy seeds. In Czech it is called makový závin, and it is delicate yeast bread that is rolled thin and coated with a sweet poppy seed filling. It is rolled up like a cinnamon roll before you slice it, and bake until golden. I like mine with a little lemon icing, but it does not really need it. While I never had the pleasure of having this hot from my great-great-grandmother’s oven, I have had it from mine, and it is splendid!
The dough for this bread is very, very soft. It is not a mistake; it is exactly what you want. It can be a little tricky to work with, so be sure you flour your work surface well, and keep some flour nearby for additional dusting. The benefit to this wet dough is tender, moist yeast bread that has an almost cake-like texture. The pleasure of eating it more than makes up for any difficulty you have working with it.
For the best possible flavor you should grind your own poppy seeds. Grinding them fresh will capture the almost floral aroma of the seeds. Of course, poppy seed filling is our families’ favorite, but you can also use other fillings. Anything you might use to fill kolaches would work, but please give the poppy seed a try. You can also add chopped nuts to the filling if you like. Walnuts or pecans would complement the flavor of the poppy seed well.
Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
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- 1 cup ground poppy seeds
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp dry active yeast, or 1 fresh yeast cake
- 1/2 cup water, heated to 110 degrees F
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
- 1/4 cup milk, scalded
- 1/4 cup butter or shortening, melted
- 3 eggs, divided
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- pinch kosher salt
You will also need
- medium saucepan, mixing bowls, stand mixer (or mixing bowl and wooden spoon), plastic wrap or damp tea towel, piping bag or heavy duty plastic bag, baking sheet, baking parchment, nonstick cooking spray, rolling pin
- Begin by preparing the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat add the ground poppy seeds, sugar, and 1 ¾ cups of the milk. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch with the remaining milk and stir into the poppy seed mixture. Cook until very thick, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool completely to room temperature. Filling may be made a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
- Next, prepare the dough. In a small bowl combine the yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Mix until it is combined and allow the mixture to stand until the yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes.
- In the work bowl of a stand mixer combine the yeast with the remaining sugar, flour, milk, butter, 2 eggs, and salt. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, or until just combined, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 8 minutes, or until a smooth ball forms.
- If mixing by hand, mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until they form a shaggy ball, then turn out onto a well floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough forms a smooth ball.
- Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel, and allow the dough to rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours.
- While the dough rises prepare glaze. In a medium bowl combine the powdered sugar, milk, lemon juice, butter, vanilla, and salt until smooth. The mixture should be roughly the consistency of honey. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag, or a heavy duty plastic bag, and set aside at room temperature.
- Prepare a baking sheet with baking parchment that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
- Once risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough out to roughly 10x12-inches.
- Spread half the prepared filling over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border along all of the edges. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling.
- Then roll the dough tightly along the short edge as you would for cinnamon rolls.
- Carefully transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and allow the bread to rise for 1 hour. Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Beat the remaining egg and use it to brush each loaf. Bake the bread for 25-28 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and firm. Let the bread cool for 20 minutes before glazing. Snip the tip of the pastry bag, or one corner of the plastic bag, and drizzle the glaze over the warm bread. Let the bread cool until it is just slightly warm before serving.