Autumn is truly here with its damp and cold days and it naturally inspires me to cook more wintry dishes. There are a lot of store cupboard ingredients to choose from when there is less fresh fruit available, and the two most popular ones for toppings and fillings in sweet dishes in Hungary are poppy seeds and walnut. There is so much more to poppy seed than it being just a decoration sprinkled on cakes and pastries. Ground up and cooked with milk, sugar and spices it makes a delicious sweet and creamy paste, or ground and mixed with icing sugar you can sprinkle on various baked desserts. To ground poppy seed it is easiest to use a coffee grinder or a spice grinder. I mix it with icing sugar and grind it like that if a recipe calls for both. Mákos guba was originally made around Christmas time to symbolise wealth with the thousands of tiny seeds. It is still prepared as a celebration dish around the holidays. But these days many families have it all year round, it's a favourite with children too. This is a classic version of a traditional dish, but it can also be baked with custard, spices or orange and lemon zest added, served with cream or whatever takes your fancy. I love it traditionally served with a generous drizzle of honey. In Hungary you would make it with butter horn pastries (kifli), these are medium size yeasty dough pastries shape of a half moon. I will add a post on how to make these, they are really simple. This time I used a normal size baguette which is available everywhere.
1 normal size baguette (not too long and chunky)
vanilla pod or vanilla extract
80g black poppy seed
80g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180C. Slice your baguette into 1cm discs and place them on a baking tray then put it in the oven to dry them out a bit. This pudding is usually made with slightly stale bread that soaks up the vanilla scented milk better. If you have a fresh baguette, drying in the oven helps to achieve this. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't start to toast.
Butter a medium size baking dish and place the baguette discs in. Warm the milk up with a few drops of vanilla extract or the scraped seeds and pod from the vanilla. Do not let it boil. Pour the hot milk over the bread and let it soak. Turn it if you need to so it soaks up the milk all over. Grind the poppy seed and mix it with the icing sugar. Sprinkle this on top of the milky bread, turning it to coat the whole lot. Dot the top with pieces of butter and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until warmed through and the bread is softened but slightly crispy on top.
Serve it with a good drizzle of honey.