It’s week three of the Greenpointers Polish Pastry Experience—a behind-the-counter look into the traditional pastries that you can find in Greenpoint’s Polish bakeries.
Looking to try something new? Curious about what’s best? Every week, we ask the bakers themselves to tell you.
This week, Star Deli & Bakery recommends…their Makowiec (s.). These sweet treats cost $11 per whole roll, or around $5 per half roll (the exact price depending on the weight of the poppy filling that day). A whole roll can serve 10-12.
Makowce (pl.) are as familiar as they are mysterious. Although these poppy seed rolls appear in many Eastern and Central European countries, Poles still consider them a traditionally Polish dessert. But where does makowiec really come from? History books are unclear. The earliest poppy seed findings in Poland date back to around 4,000 B.C. when they were used for food, anesthesia, and ritual purposes (in the form of opium).
As a modern dessert, a makowiec consists of two parts: The dough (flour, butter, yeast, cream, sugar, and eggs) and the filling (ground poppy seeds, milk, butter, honey, vanilla, walnuts, raisins, and egg yolks). The poppy seeds are washed and steamed or left to soak in water overnight, and then quickly boiled for a few minutes until they reach a soft consistency. After steaming/boiling, they are ground through a mincer machine until fine. The resulting poppy seed mixture tastes dense, rich, and bittersweet.
Makowce are available in most Polish bakeries year round, but are eaten especially during Christmas Eve dinner, which is called Wigilia in Polish (from the Latin vigilia, meaning “to guard” or “to keep watch”). Polish tradition says that poppies bring fortune, thus the Wigilia dinner must not run out of foods made with poppy seeds, otherwise bad luck can fall upon the household. In fact, the “fortune” symbolism of poppy seeds goes all the way back to ancient times, when the poppy symbolized both fertility and harvest. For this reason, ancient Greek goddesses like Demeter (the Goddess of Harvest) and Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love) wore wreaths made of poppy flowers or were depicted carrying poppy bouquets.
Star Bakery & Deli, which has been a Greenpoint fixture for 19 years, makes their makowce on location each morning, starting at 8 a.m. Because prep time is a little extensive, and baking time takes 30-40 minutes, you can start buying makowce fresh from the oven at Star around 10 a.m. most mornings. They sell out quick!
Star Bakery & Deli is located at 176 Nassau Avenue, between Diamond & Jewel Streets.