The closest equivalent to an American pie in Polish cuisine is a double-crust, sweet pastry filled with summer fruit, usually apples or plums, and baked in a large, rectangular baking pan. The apple version is called szarlotka. It’s like Polish apple pie.
The pastry that forms the base of the pie is “półkruche” or “half crumbly.” It seems to differ from French pâté sucrée in that you add baking powder and sour cream to the flour/butter/sugar/egg mixture of pâté sucrée. Just like with pie dough, “półkruche” has been a challenge for me. How can you roll out the dough evenly, to the correct size, without the dough sticking to the board and rolling pin, and without tearing when transferring to the baking pan? I haven’t found the answer to that question yet, except to keep practicing, much to my kids’ delight. Półkruche pastry dough is very forgiving so that even if it falls apart completely when trying to transfer it to the baking pan, you just patch it up with your fingers. Any repairs disappear during baking!
Following is the recipe. Join me afterwards for step-by-step illustrated instructions.
Prepare the pastry dough by whisking together 3 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Cut in butter pieces (1 tablespoon-sized pieces) with two butter knives until the flour mixture is roughly pea size. The process is supposed to be quick–there is no need to be all that precise.
In this case, some pieces were larger than pea size. I let it go since time was slipping by too fast and I needed to get to the next step.
Mix in 3/4 cup sugar using the two knives. (Mix in 1/2 cup sugar for less sweet dough.) A good way to describe the process is that it’s like you are “tossing” the sugar with the flour mixture. You do not want to touch the mixture with your hands because it will add heat to the butter, softening it, which we do not want to do yet.
In a small bowl, fork blend egg, egg yolk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup sour cream.
Pour over flour/butter/sugar mixture.
Toss with knives until moistened.
Use your hands to bring the mixture together into the center of the bowl and briefly knead until a dough ball is formed. Handle the dough as little as possible.
Cut off about 1/3 of dough (for the top crust) and form into a flat disk. Reshape remainder into a flat disk.
Wrap both disks in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes (or freezer for 15 minutes).
Wash plums and spread out onto paper towels; pat dry.
Slice in half and remove pits.
Cut again in half.
Place in bowl and toss with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Prepare oven by placing rack one rung lower than the middle. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C. Grease 9 inch x 13 inch x 2 inch baking pan. Working quickly, on a generously floured counter or board, roll out the larger disk of pastry dough into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch larger than bottom of pan. Flour the disk and rolling pin first so that the dough doesn’t stick to the rolling pin.
Carefully wrap the rolled out dough around the rolling pin to the extent possible and transfer the dough to the pan. The dough easily tears. To repair tears, place pieces to cover gaps in pan and lightly press to seal.
The dough should be too big for the pan. Press the extra dough to the sides of the pan to form a 1/2 inch crust.
You can see in the photo below that I did quite a bit of repairing! It’s nothing to worry about.
Spread the plums to cover the bottom of the crust.
Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner as before.
Carefully cover the top of the plums with the dough.
Repair tears just as you may have had to do with the bottom crust. Press the edge of the top crust to the edge of the bottom crust around the sides of the pan.
With a fork, beat an egg white for several seconds. Brush the beaten egg white on the top crust with a pastry brush.
Sprinkle sugar evenly over the crust. The coarse sugar I used came straight from our last trip to Poland. I was not able to find this kind of sugar in my local grocery store. I think you can find raw sugar in stores, which is brown but is coarse. This is acceptable. Regular granulated sugar is fine to use too.
Bake the pastry for 45-48 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
When the pastry comes to room temperature, cut it into squares and serve.
My son took one the first pieces.
This piece didn’t stick around very long after the photo shoot.
Give plum szarlotka a try. It is d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!