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Family Recipes: Makowiec

Traditional Polish pastry, Makowiec.
Lucien Jung
Traditional Polish pastry, Makowiec.

Polish immigrants and their ancestors helped create the Milwaukee we know today. Thousands immigrated to the city post-civil war and helped shape much of what we see on the city’s south side today.

Lake Effect contributor Lucien Jung shares a traditional Polish dish in Family Recipes. He visits the kitchens of local residents who share their beloved family recipes that they remember from childhood. In this episode, Ewa Barczyk and her husband Neal Pease share their family’s recipe for the traditional Polish pastry, Makowiec.

Makowiec, known to many as poppy seed bread, is a Polish pastry consisting of yeast-based dough and sweet poppy seed filling. You can find it ready-made at Polish delis. But Barczyk and Pease agree that homemade is best.

“It’s simply fresher and for that reason better,” says Pease. The preparation includes proofing yeast in milk and sugar and allowing the dough to rise in multiple stages. “It’s very labor intensive so we make it only for Christmas,” says Barczyk.

There are no shortcuts to making the dough, but using canned poppy seed filling is a time-saver that doesn’t compromise on flavor.

Makowiec filling ingredients.
Lucien Jung
Makowiec filling ingredients.

“Using the canned stuff doesn’t reduce the quality of it at all,” says Pease. The trick is to add honey, nuts, and rum-soaked raisins to the premade filling. “They already come with some of the sweetening things, but we add more to it. We can never leave things well enough alone,” says Barczyk.

The key to a successful result is in how you treat the yeast. It should form bubbles as it steeps in the milk. “After that it’s just a matter of following the steps,” says Barczyk.

If everything is done correctly, then you’ll be rewarded with a soft dough that isn’t sticky, and holds its shape. Barczyk likens it to fresh Play-Doh. “It’s supposed to feel a little bit elastic. It’s got a nice glisten to it. And it, kind of, bends a little bit when you hold it, without falling apart,” says Pease. As for the filling, out of the can it will be thick, but after you add your enhancements, it’ll have the consistency of peanut butter.

Once baked, Makowiec can be served as is, or glazed and decorated with nuts and dried fruit.

Barczyk and Pease provide historical context for Polish migration to Milwaukee. They also share the story of Zofia and Wiktor Barczyk’s journey to the United States, following WWII.



4 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 pinch salt

3/4 cup milk, warmed

3 ½ to 4 cups flour

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks (save egg whites for filling)

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Splash of rum


¼ cup raisins [soak in rum or hot water while preparing dough)

3⁄4 cup almonds or walnuts , ground or chopped

1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons honey

2 egg whites

1 can Polish poppy seed filling such as Helio 850 grams or 2 cans Solo



  • Mix together yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Pour in milk, stir until dissolved and set aside in a warm spot for 10+ minutes. 
  • Melt butter and set aside to cool.  
  • Whisk in egg with egg yolk and add 31/2 c flour. Add milk sugar yeast mixtures and combine. Add melted butter, vanilla and work to combine adding flour if too gooey
  • Knead for about 15 minutes. Dough should have the consistency of play dough. Not sticky but elastic. Can use standing mixer bread hooks. 
  • Form ball,  cover bowl, and let rise in a warm place until doubled for about 1 hour.


  • Open cans of Solo or Helio Poppyseed filling 
  • Add drained raisins, almonds or walnuts, vanilla extract, and honey.
  • Whip egg whites with a pinch of salt till stiff (left from dough) 
  • Stir stiff whites gently into poppy-seed mixture 


  • Once dough rises, divide in half.  Roll out dough to approx 12" x 9" rectangle on parchment paper large enough to be wrapped around your roll. 
  • Spread 1/2  poppyseed mixture over dough, leaving a 1" border all around.
  • Fold dough lengthwise in thirds to form a long log.
  • Pinch ends to seal.  Repeat for second half of dough. 
  • Leave rolled cake with seam side down on parchment paper; roll parchment paper around roll leaving room to grow 
  • Place cakes on nonstick baking sheet and set aside in warm spot to rise for 30-45 min.  If they don’t fit your pan, can bend into a half moon shape.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Brush rolls with beaten egg white, and bake until they sound hollow when tapped, about 40-50 minutes.
  • Cool, glaze if desired, and decorate with orange peel, dry poppy seeds or nuts. 


5 tbsp powdered sugar

2 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp hot water

3-5 tbsp orange peel or sliced almond


Ewa Barczyk & her husband Neal Pease share their Family Recipe with Lucien Jung.
Lucien Jung
Ewa Barczyk & her husband Neal Pease share their Family Recipe with Lucien Jung.

Lucien Jung is a Milwaukee-based video and radio producer. His research in the IP-based distribution of multimedia has been presented at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual conference as well as the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. Lucien is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications master’s program in Television-Radio-Film.
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