Kowalski Quality Baked Goods
March 2, 1927
Manhattan, Lower East Side – Take the subway to Delancey/Essex. Walk two blocks west and then one block north. Look to your left. Do you see Kowalski Quality Baked Goods? Mr. Jacob Kowalski has been open for only a few months, but the little East Side bakery is always packed with customers eagerly hoping to purchase a few of the amazing creations that sit on the shelves. If you cannot make it to the Lower East Side (or the bakery is too busy for you), then try your hand at making your own versions of Jacob’s famous Polish pastries. Along with his unique beast creations, Kowalski’s bakery sells many classically Polish treats. I have been given exclusive access to Mr. Kowalski’s recipes and have been allowed to share them here.
CLOSE ON THE PASTRIES AND BREADS on the counter, all molded into fanciful little shapes – we recognize the Demiguise, Niffler, Erumpent among them.” (WtFT Scene 124)
Challah (pronounced HA-lah) is a traditional Jewish braided bread native to the Middle East. The Jewish population kept it a very popular bread in Poland, and Jacob’s family brought it over to the United States with them. The given recipe makes a two-braid loaf, which is a simple, attractive piece. But challah is a fun dough. It can be knotted, braided, rolled, or baked in a pan. Check out the recipe’s notes for other ways to shape this dough. Though Jacob is not telling me how he shapes his platypus-like challah roll, perhaps I’ll be able to convince him to share that information in the future.
These cookies are a very… unique shape. Regulars know that they are buttery and sweet. However, newcomers to the bakery look at them with utter curiosity. Mr. Kowalski said that sometimes he swears these cookies disappear from the tray but that he’s not sure where the idea for the design came from. He called the character a “Demiguise.”
Traditionally, the majority of ryes in Poland would have been dark. But I’m told that Jacob changed the ratio of flours to please more of the population in New York. At the bakery, he sells loaves that are twice this size, as are commonly found in Europe. But we reduced the size of this recipe so that anyone can make it themselves.
This type of pretzel is common in Eastern Europe. Jacob says that he had this dream about a beautiful, snake-like bird creature on which he based the shape of these pretzels. He swore he had a dream where one almost squished him in a rage. (I’m starting to feel like this man isn’t very stable.)
Paczki (POONCH-key) are beautiful, light Polish doughnuts that are typically served before Lent, the fast observed for 40 days before Easter. Jacob’s are very simple. They aren’t filled – just fried doughnuts that are rolled in sugar while hot. As Jacob once said, “the orange zest – just –” (WtFT Scene 11).
Even if you don’t wish to buy many things from Kowalski Quality Baked Goods, I do suggest everyone goes to visit the shop. The day I interviewed Mr. Kowalski, I bumped into a very kind blonde woman wearing a pink overcoat just outside. She was smiling constantly as if visiting the bakery was the highlight of her life. I almost followed her back inside to ask exactly what she was so excited about, but I suddenly remembered that I had an appointment. I hope that you give these recipes a try. If you do, please share your experience with us using #RosmertasRecipes. Don’t forget that we have over 120 recipes in our Rosmerta’s Recipes section. Happy baking! Or as Jacob’s babcia might say, “Miłego pieczenia!”