The undeniable symbol of Kraków is associated with the city's history, probably from the time of it was first settled. It appears in historical records in the 15th century among the privileges granted to Kraków bakers by King John I Albert, and its traditions and recipes have been adopted by contemporary members of the bakers' guild in Kraków and the Kraków and Wieliczka districts. For years, it has invariably been baked in the same way as a dough boiled in water, giving rise to the name of this unique product listed in the EU's 'Protected Geographical Indications' register. Obwarzanek consists of spirally rolled strips of dough shaped in a circle, baked golden brown and covered with a crispy crust generously sprinkled with salt or poppy and, more recently, sesame seeds. It tastes phenomenal, primarily when – still warm – it is sold from Kraków carts and street stalls.
This Jewish bread – entered in 2008 on the list of traditional products – has been baked in Krakow since the 17th century. Just like Kraków’s obwarzanek and pretzel, its unique taste and crispy and shiny crust is the invention of Kraków bakers, who created the bagel by forming a length of yeasted dough into a circle and poaching it – placed it in boiling water – before baking it. A bagel can be plain or salted, or sprinkled with garlic, onion, nigella, cumin, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, shredded cheese or a mixture of spices. It can be eaten as-is, or toasted and buttered, served with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or as a breakfast bagel with egg and bacon between its sliced halves, or as a sandwiches with whatever you like: turkey, ham, roast beef, cheese and avocado – you name it. The first mention of bagels dates back to 1610. It is a baked good characteristic of the old Kazimierz, hence its name: Kazimierz bagels. The bagel was a ritual bread that the Jewish community gave to Jewish women during childbirth. The bagel's shape was supposed to resemble the cycle of human life. The golden ring was believed to have magical powers and was supposed to bring good luck to the newborn child. Another legend refers to the Victoria of Vienna in 1683. A Jewish baker, grateful to the Polish King John III Sobieski for saving him from the Turkish invaders, gave him a special cake as a tribute. For the king – a knight and an excellent horseman – he baked a ring shaped like a stirrup (German: bugel). Interestingly, around 1900, Jewish immigrants from Poland brought bagels to Manhattan.
Authentic pretzels have the shape of a flattened figure eight. They are small, light, and because no rising agent is used, they’re devoid of crumb – the little pockets of air inside yeasted doughs – and have a smooth skin with a glossy colour from light golden to dark golden. Thanks to its well-baked crust that acts like a preservative, they store perfectly, which prompted King Jagiełło to order them from Kraków bakers as provisions for troops heading to Grunwald. The pretzel has been a traditional product since 2005.
The tradition of baking what is known as Prądnik bread dates back to the 15th century and is recorded in the famous Jan Długosz's chronicle. The author of the recipe, Bishop Wojciech Jastrzębiec's cook, is said to have pledged to supply this bread to his master's table in return for acquiring land in the Prądnik Białe area near Kraków. According to legend, people in Kraków liked the baked goods from Prądnik so much that the first bread made from the new flour after the harvest was given to the king. The character of the Prądnik bread was reconstructed in the 20th century as a result of impressive culinary archaeology. Today, it is sourdough bread with a pleasant aroma and taste. It has a characteristic dark brown, porous crust sprinkled with a thin layer of rye bran. It is made in Kraków from the best flour from Małopolska. Significantly, this bread matures and stays fresh for an exceptionally long time. Prądnik bread is baked in two shapes: oval and round. Its distinguishing mark is the 'Protected Geographical Indications' symbol.
It has been made by women from villages in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland region since the early 1920s. Initially, it was baked exclusively with rye flour. With time, wheat flour started to be added to rye flour, and today, the proportions of the mix still constitute the secret of the excellent taste of Jurassic bread. The then-developed recipe is applied in contemporary production, with the unique features of Jurassic bread being the elongated shape of the loaf narrowing at the heel, the characteristic slanting incisions in the floured crust and the imprint of the baker's basket braid motif in the crust. The bread was included in the list of traditional products in 2008.
MILLSTONE BREAD FROM ŁOMNA
It is an heir to the homemade bread that families living in Łomna near Wiśnicz used to bake for their own needs from generation to generation. It was baked using flour ground on millstones, and, depending on the wealth of the farm, the bread was seasoned with herbs. Even before the war, bread from Łomna became an 'export' product, finding its way to the lords' tables in nearby Nowy Wiśnicz. The recipes were similar, although each hostess had her secrets that influenced the final taste of the bread (such as the addition of caraway or dill). Today, it is also popular in the local and regional markets, distinguished for its homemade taste and authenticity of the recipe. It has a dark golden, well-baked crust sprinkled with crushed wheat grains. Both hard and coniferous woods are used to heat the bread ovens. Beech is used for the first firing, followed by a soft wood.
HOME-MADE BREAD FROM BOBOWA
Not so long ago, in 2018, bread from Bobowa was included on the List of Traditional Products. The housewives here used to bake bread on leavened rye flour and later added wheat flour, as the area was mainly rich in wheat. Every year after the harvest, the farmers took the grain to the mill, where it was ground into wholemeal flour. The dough kneaded from this flour in a wooden bowl was left to rise in a warm place under a cover. When the dough had risen ‘under the lid’, it was put on a board, and round loaves of bread were formed, placed in round wicker baskets or left on the board under cover of linen cloth to rest and rise a little more. 6 loaves of bread were shaped at a time, placed on a baking board and put in the oven. The Bobowa bread was baked for about an hour, and sometimes more. The room had to be quiet during this time because the bread could fall. A traditional loaf of bread from Bobowa has a toasted, slightly crispy, brown crust. It weighs about 1.6 kg.
KUKIEŁKA LISIECKA AND KUKIEŁKA PODEGRODZKA
Kukiełka has survived as the only representative of the wheat bread that once was typical of the Kraków area. Its baking outside Liszki had already disappeared by the end of the 18th century. Today, kukiełka lisiecka is spindle-shaped, with matt or shiny, slightly crispy crust and airy over-proofed dough. It may have charcoal residue on its underside, characteristic of products baked in a wood-fired oven. For many, it is a necessary accompaniment to Lisiecka sausage. However, connoisseurs believe that harmony of taste is achieved by eating a fresh kukiełka with butter alone.
Kukiełka podegrodzka is completely different from the kukiełka lisiecka. It was reborn as a regional culinary attraction in the Podegrodzie area, where it existed as a ceremonial bread until the mid-20th century. It was inextricably linked to one of the more interesting and original Lachian customs called ‘wiązowiny’. Kukiełka – a large, sweet white flour bread formed into a blushing braid – was given to a child by its godparents as a symbol of happiness and abundance in life. Even though the recipe for Kukiełka is passed down from generation to generation, the ability to bake it is a rare and respected talent among local housewives.
KOŁACZ (a ring-shaped special occasion cake)
No pain, no gain – in Polish: bez pracy nie ma kołaczy. Kołacz has been known for centuries – initially, as a product baked for wedding parties and feast days. One of the first descriptions of kołacz can be found in Zygmunt Gloger's 'Old Polish Encyclopaedia’, where the author explains that its name stems from koła, the Polish word for wheels. Kołacz was a ceremonial bread, an symbol of abundance and a harbinger of future happiness for the young. A round cake made of wheat flour, sweetened with sugar and topped with a thick layer of smoothly ground cheese, browned in the oven – this is today's kołacz jodłownicki, characteristic of the Limanowa region, the taste of which takes the contemporary consumer back to the good old days.
Jurassic kołacz, baked in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, has retained its function as a wedding cake. Brides and grooms give it to their nearest and dearest two weeks before the wedding. Unlike the jodłownicki kołacz, the Jurajski is decorated in the shape of roses not only with cheese but also with poppy seeds and topped generously with streusel.
Among the recipes collected in the memory of the housewives of Bolęcin, the recipe for buchteln has one of the longest traditions. Passed down from generation to generation, it has not changed. Compared with other cakes, the formula for buchteln was inexpensive, and the housewives usually had all the necessary ingredients in their kitchen: flour, eggs, milk, sugar and fat. Usually, Bolęcin buchteln was prepared by housewives for Sundays and holidays. It tasted best served with coffee with milk or cocoa. It is still a popular pastry, often presented during cooking competitions and at various fairs and markets.