It’s week five of our 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? Wondering what’s best? Every week, we ask the bakers themselves to tell you.
This week, Northside Bakery in Greenpoint recommends…their Kremówka aka Napoleonka (s.) at $1.75 per piece.
There is a ‘war of words’ in Poland about the name of this pastry—those from Warsaw call it napoleonka, those from Krakow call it kremówka, and those from Wrocław and Łódź distinguish kremówki (pl.) from napoleonki (pl.) by making each with a different type of cream filling.
Kremówki/napoleonki are traditionally made with two layers of puff pastry that encase a thick layer of cream (variations include whipped cream, butter cream, vanilla pastry cream, or egg white cream). The top layer is then usually sprinkled with powdered sugar, but can also be decorated with cream or covered with a layer of icing.
One of the most popular cakes in Poland, the dessert is actually a modification of the French mille-feuille, which is made of three layers of puff pastry and filled with cream or jam. The mille-feuille is also sometimes known as the “Napoleon.” Although the exact origin of the mille-feuille is unknown, a version of the cake is described in a cookbook now considered to be the founding text of modern French cuisine—Le Cuisinier françois (1651). The recipe is later said to have been improved by French pastry chef extraordinaire Marie-Antoine Carême, who was the personal chef of Napoleon Bonaparte at one point in his career.
In the 1920’s, napoleonki were sold by a Warsaw bakery called “Napoleonka,” whose storefront stood facing a square that had been renamed for the French emperor.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II famously recalled how he and his high school friends went to have a kremówka eating contest after they had completed their high school exit exams. The Pope claimed that he ate eighteen slices of the dessert, but still did not win the bet.
Northside Bakery is located at 190 Nassau Avenue between Jewel Street & Humboldt Street. The bakery accepts credit cards, and also serves tasty Polish soups, entrees, and sides made on location daily.