Buttery Sweet Bread - Drozdzowka
Updated: Apr 6
Buttery, sweet, soft and airy bread. This traditional Polish Drozdzowka is a mix between Babka and Brioche - it's buttery and soft like Brioche but in texture is closer to Babka. We have had few of our fellow bakers saying that it's a perfect mix between sweet bread and a cake! Yes - cake. The dough is loose in consistency (not your regular Babka dough), the method mixes cake-like approach with dough baking, which in turn contributes to the soft and airy texture. It's not a 'kuchen' (or 'kuch') either - which is delicious but more dense and less buttery (making it a perfect base for fruit toppings). What we would like, is to invite you to discover the traditional Polish yeasted cake-aka-sweet bread.
We are sharing with you our granny's traditional recipe - she used to bake this bread every week. Thanks to the technique and recipe's ratios this buttery sweet bread stays fresh for 5-7 days. If you have baked Polish Drozdzowka before - give it a go one more time following the below recipe - you will not regret it!
What is different to other recipes? Firstly, creaming eggs with sugar creates fluffy base which is then mixed into the dough. Secondly, fairly high dough hydration contributes to light texture. Thirdly, kneading is split in two (butter is added after the dough is initially mixed) and dough is degassed/stretched/folded 3 times in first hour of rest. Last but not least - baking at high temperature first (180C) for a short period allows the bread to puff up; then baking at lower temperature (160C) prevents the bread from drying out. Thanks to these steps you will get light and airy, buttery in texture bread which keeps fresh for long.
Standard version is baked with streusel. Read jazz it up section where we give hints on what variations are recommended - you may opt to add light fruit on top (before covering with streusel) or jazz up the streusel (adding spices and nuts).
First, you will proof the yeast. In a meantime, egg and egg yolks need to be beaten with sugar and vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract) until creamy and fluffy. Creamy eggs, proofed yeast and more warm milk need to be mixed with sifted flour and salt. The dough needs to be kneaded for 5-7 minutes. After that time, melted butter is added and dough is kneaded for another 10 minutes. Drozdzowka's dough from our recipe is highly hydrated - it will be a fairly sticky dough - that's OK, don't be tempted to add more flour. The dough requires 1 hour and 30 minutes of rest but needs to be degased/stretched/folded 3 times in the first hour, after which you leave it for 30min rest (untouched). This dough is very loose and sticky - it's a mix between cake batter and standard sweet bread dough. Keep it that way and don't be tempted to add more flour. Once ready (the dough will more than double in size and will still be sticky), you will transfer it onto the baking tin(s). Cover drozdzowka with light fruit (if using) and streusel and let rest for 15-20 minutes before baking.
** Thanks to kneading technique and ratios the yeast will be very lively. Make sure to fill tins 1/2 - 2/3rd high, second proof should last only 15-20minutes - remember that the bread is going to rise in the oven too. You know the dough should finish the second proof when it rises to 3/4th the height of the tin. Don't overproof as the dough may overflow when baking. If you notice you have residue leftover (especially if you are using round tins or bundt cake form) - bake second smaller drozdzowka in a loaf tin.
This sweet bread does not like too much handling straight after baking (may deflate) but needs to be reverted onto the cooling rack quite swiftly. Once baked, leave the bread in the baking tin for 5-10 minutes then run thin knife to loosen edges, transfer onto the cooling rack and leave to cool completely. If you bake in round tin - lift sides of the tin only, the bread can cool on the tin's base.
Buttery Sweet Bread - Polish Drozdzowka Recipe
Yield: 16 servings
Time: 30 min prep + 1hr 30min rest + 5 min prep + 20 min rest + 40 min baking
Tin: 23cm round (spring form)** OR two 10x20cm loaf tins OR 12x38cm long loaf tin OR 12 cup bundt form**
** for round tins and bundt forms - read notes above
For yeast proofing:
- 1 cup (250ml) full-fat milk
- 3 teaspoons (10g) active dry yeast or 37.5g active bulk dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon (15g) sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (20g) all-purpose flour
For the dough:
- 115g unsalted butter
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 egg yolks from large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) white granulated or caster sugar
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla sugar or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups* (450g) all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon (75ml) full-fat milk, warm (38C)
For the streusel:
- 100g all-purpose flour
- 100g confectioners’ sugar
- 100g unsalted butter, cold
- 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
* cup = 250ml cup
1. Proof the yeast: In a small pot mix milk, flour and sugar. Warm up the mixture to 38C making sure sugar is fully dissolved. Add yeast to the mixture and stir briefly. Cover with cling film or dry kitchen towel and move to a warm place. After 15 minutes you should see the mixture foaming/bubbling up. If you don’t, repeat the step.
2. Prepare the dough: In a small pot melt butter and set aside to cool (you will use lukewarm). Beat 1 egg and 2 egg yolks with sugar and vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract if not using vanilla sugar) until light and fluffy - 3-5 minutes at high speed. Warm up 75ml milk to 38C. Sift flour into your main mixing bowl, add salt on the side, add proofed yeast (from Step 1), fluffy eggs/sugar mixture and warm milk (75ml). Start kneading. If you knead by hand - use pincer method first to mix in all ingredients (use thumb and index finger as a pincer and work through the dough) - 1-2 minutes, then simply pat the dough remembering to rotate the bowl every so often to aerate the dough from every angle. This part will take 5 minutes in total. If you are using stand mixer - use dough hook attachment - we would recommend to use pincer method (knead for 1-2 minutes by hand) at first to mix in all ingredients before kneading on lowest speed for another 3-4 minutes. After that time add lukewarm melted butter and knead for another 10 minutes. If you work by hand - kneading here means simply patting the dough, remembering to rotate the bowl every so often. If you work using stand mixer - knead on lowest speed. After 10 minutes the dough will be shiny, will become plump but still will be sticky. That’s OK - don’t add more flour. Sprinkle (or sift) 1 Tablespoon of flour on top of the dough, cover tightly with cling film or dry kitchen towel and move to a warm place. After 20 minutes degas the dough - simply pat for few seconds, stretch and fold few times remembering to rotate the bowl while at it. Cover tightly, move to warm place and let rest for another 20 minutes - repeat degas/stretch/fold, move covered to warm place and after 20 minutes for the last time degas/stretch/fold, cover tightly and move to a warm place to rest for 30 minutes. This part will take 1 hr and 30 minutes (with 3 degas/stretch/fold in first hour). After that time, the dough will more than double in size, will be buttery, shiny and fairly sticky. In a meantime prepare streusel: sift flour with confectioners’ sugar, add sea salt, grate cold butter into the mix - using finger tips and palms of your hands work in butter so that crumbly streusel forms. Refrigerate until ready to use).
3. Shape: Prepare baking tins (brush with butter and sift flour to cover bottom and walls). Read notes above on how much batter to place in each tin (will differ depending on the size of the tin). Rule of thumb - fill 1/2 high for 2nd proof, you know the 2nd proof is finished when batter rises up to 3/4th the height of the tin. Place the dough onto baking tin (dough will be sticky), with wet hand even out the surface, apply streusel. Cover with dry kitchen towel, move to a warm place and let it rest for 20 minutes. In that time preheat oven to 180C.
4. Bake at 180C (165C fan forced) for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160C (145C fan forced) and bake for another 25 minutes. Check with skewer if fully baked through. Once baked, take out from the oven, leave in the tin for 5-10 minutes, run thin knife to loosen edges then flip onto the cooling rack and let it cool completely before serving (leave to cool for at least 1 - 2 hours for the crumb to set).
1. Before baking this buttery sweet bread you may find it helpful to read this post on Baking with Yeast.
2. Don’t skip degasing/stretching/folding - this will give you light and fluffy texture. Dough is going to be sticky - don’t add more flour (you can wet your hands lightly when kneading or transferring the dough onto the baking tin). More flour = hard bread.
3. Don’t over proof - keep timings as in the recipe. We have been there - especially during the second rest - keep it to 20 minutes max.
4. Storage - store in airtight container or covered with dry kitchen towel. If you want the bread to keep fresh for 5-7 days you may opt not to apply streusel (streusel goes soft after 3 days) and fruit (will loose freshness after 2-3 days).
Jazz it up:
1. Spices: cardamom works really well in this buttery sweet bread. Mix 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (or use seeds from 5 pods) with flour. If you can’t get ground cardamom, mill seeds with small amount of flour until fine powder is achieved.
2. Fruit: light and not too wet fruit works great as a topping in this sweet bread. Use blueberries (350g), gooseberries (200-300g), red currants (300g), black currants (200-300g), cherries (200-300g - cut side up) - place the dough onto the baking tin after first rest, place fruit on top very gently pressing into the dough, cover with streusel and move to a warm place for 2nd, short rest. We do not recommend using plums, apples or any heavier fruit or fruit which lets out too much juice (like strawberries or raspberries). This dough is light and fluffy and you may end up with soggy, unbaked bread.
3. Streusel: spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), nuts (pecans, hazelnuts, pistacchios - 60g coarsely chopped) mixed into the streusel work really well in the recipe.