Polish Easter cake Mazurek is the most Easter of all the Polish Easter cakes I can think of. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and no matter how you make it, it tastes great. It's fun to make and a great Easter activity to involve the kids. You can load it up with whatever your heart desires or make it as simple as you want.
I decided to try my hand at Mazurek making after being asked to be a judge at the annual Mazurek Bake-Off in my small town in Poland. Amazing, I know!!! Every Mazurek was beautiful in it's own way and tasty as well. There I discovered my favorite kind of Mazurek, the caramel one, and here is my surprisingly simple recipe.
Also please check out the gallery at the end of the post. There's another rendition of my Caramel Mazurek where I forgot to warm up the caramel first, a store-bought caramel Mazurek packed with peanuts, and those beautiful Mazurek contest entries. They were all winners in my book!
Place the flour and the sugar in a food processor and give it a good whiz. Then add the butter, cut into small pieces, and whiz that up until it is crumbly. Add the egg or 2 egg yolks and optional vanilla extract and mix that up as well.
(If for some reason your dough is too dry, you add more butter or a spoonful or two of milk or sour cream.)
Take that dough and press it into the pan of your choice. Either make edges by pushing the dough up on the sides or use some dough to make a separate decorative edge. This recipe is for a round pie pan, and I make it kind of thick. You can use this recipe to make a thinner crust in a rectangular pan. It is also easy to double the recipe for a deep cookie sheet or individual Mazureks for kids.
Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough so it doesn't puff up. Then pop it in the oven at about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the crust on the middle rack of the oven for 20-35 minutes depending on the size and shape of your pan. The crust will get golden and your kitchen will smell all buttery. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Take the Dulce de leche or any caramel spread you choose. Put your caramel in a saucepan and warm it up. Pour the caramel into your crust and let set up a bit. As your caramel is setting up, prepare your edible decorations. Here I used almonds and candy eggs to make little birds nests.
Mazurek crust should be crisp and firm, but also a little crumbly, bordering on flaky. If you use a whole egg, the crust will be quite firm, and if you work the dough too long, even hard. If you plan to use a very wet topping and make far in advance, I recommend using a whole egg even at the risk of having a hard crust.
Using 2 egg yolks instead of a whole egg, should produce a dough with a lighter texture. Even with yolks, the dough shouldn't be overworked.
While egg yolks may give the crust a lighter texture, this Mazurek is in no way a light cake. It is rich and delicious. It may be tempting to use margarine instead of butter, but I don't recommend it. The buttery taste of the shortbread is lost, and the texture isn't quite the same with margarine.
If you've got kids to cater to (especially the ones who like to lick their fingers), I suggest making some smaller Mazureks so each kid can decorate their own. Kids can even shape their own dough ball into a square, rectangle, or egg shape. After baking they can use caramel, Nutella, jam, or pudding with other things such as icing, cookies, candy, nuts, and fruit to decorate their own personal Mazurek.
Here's a mini store-bought Mazurek.
Serving Size 1 piece