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Mazurka - Dried Fruit Cake

Friday, November 12, 2010

No, I am not talking about a Polish folk dance. Mazurka is a sweet quick bread made with a lot of nuts and dried fruit. The nuts and fruit constitute as much as half of the dough. Mazurka is astonishingly easy to make, and is not meant to be a sophisticated cake. The bread consistency is rather chewy and some people (like my better half) dislike it for this reason. But if you ask me - it is a delightful addition to a boring weekday dinner, or lunch, or even breakfast. You can have it on-the-go, it keeps for a week, and does have some healthy ingredients. What more can you ask for 15 minutes of effort?

What you need:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar (I use a mix of white and dark brown)
1 cup + 1 Tbsp flour (all purpose white or whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
~1 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts
~1 cup sliced dried apricots or other dried fruit
spices of your choice (e.g. 1 Tbsp Fra Angelico, 1 pinch ground cloves, 1 pinch ground nutmeg)
for the baking pan:
1/2 cup farina, add more if necessary
3 tsp vegetable oil

How to do it:
I've made this so many times, the tempo of cooking this is almost as lively as that of the Mazurka dance. I can almost hear the rhythm in my head 1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2-3...
1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the cooking pan (about 9" in diameter). First spread vegetable oil over the bottom and the sides with your fingers or a brush. Then, pour the farina into the oiled pan and tilt it over the sink until there is a thin coat of farina covering all surfaces that the dough will touch. This makes the cake easy to remove and gives it an extra bit of texture.
2. Chop the nuts into bits. When working with walnuts, I usually just break them with my hands. Slice the dried fruit. Choose the size that fits your taste. Set the cutting board aside.
3. Combine eggs, sugar and any flavorings you have in a large bowl. Use a mixer to beat to this mixture until the sugar dissolves (may take a couple of minutes for dark brown sugar), or almost dissolves.
4. Add 1/3 of the flour, mix it in with the mixer. Repeat twice until all flour is integrated. The dough will be slightly runny, but rather viscous. It should pour, but not splatter.
5. With a wooden spoon, thoroughly mix the nuts and dried fruit into the dough. The dough will be very chunky. That's normal.
6. Now for the fun part. Put the baking soda (not powder!) into a small dry cup. Hold a teaspoon ready in your hand as you squeeze lemon over the cup. Don't worry about the exact amount of the lemon juice. You need just enough for all of the soda to react with it. As the soda bubbles vigorously, mix it with the spoon so that all of it reacts with the juice. These are the bubbles that will cause the cake to rise. From now on your actions should be swift: the sooner you put the dough into the oven, the more time these bubbles have to raise your dough. So, carefully fold the bubbles into the dough. Transfer the dough into the prepared pan. With a spoon, spread the dough so that it evenly covers the bottom of the pan.
7. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes. To test for readiness, insert a dry wooden chopstick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean - the cake is done. Let the cake cool before cutting.
Do not expect this cake to be airy. It is supposed to be rather dense.
The nice thing about Mazurka is that it takes so little effort and it is very easy to vary the recipe. Just add different chopped nuts and dried fruit and there you have a completely new cake. Try dried cherries, dried figs, dried pears, prunes, you name it. Wet fresh ingredients, like chopped apples, do not work well with this dough. For a more traditional taste, use unbleached all-purpose flour and substitute brown sugar with white. For a richer and earthier taste, use whole wheat and both white and brown sugar as in this recipe.
And don't forget to enjoy cooking and eating it! Listen to some music, maybe even dance as the oven does its magic.


Anonymous said...

Hi Masha,

I am planning to make two of these today (for 2 separate parties tomorrow). How big does this cake get? What is one serving? Do you think one cake would give 8-9 people 1 slice each?

(Shankar's sister) :-)

Masha S. said...

Hi Jy,

Thanks for visiting us!
I use a pan 9" in diameter, and the cake comes out to be about 1.5-2" high. One should be plenty for 8-9 people, but I should warn you that this is not really a proper desert. I usually cut it up into fairly small slices and set on the table along with other tea-time treats, so that anyone can take one or two or more. If you are looking for a cake to distribute in servings, this is likely not the best choice. From my experience, not everyone likes this, because it is rather dense.
Let me know how it turns out! I hope you still decide to try it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks SO much for posting this recipe. I just finished making the Mazurka and I am in love with this cake! It reminds me of this unique little Christmas cake my brother and I used to love as kids. Elsie - the original creator of the cake, had this elaborate recipe including a phase where you obsessively fed it with rum all the time (somewhat like this one: http://www.madestuff.co.uk/2009/10/20/the-worlds-best-christmas-cake-ever-part-1/) I think I could take this mazurka batter and probably include rum-soaked fruits for the same effect.

Your recipe is extremely forgiving. I don't have any measuring cups etc. so I just eyeballed everything by volume and then tried to double everything. I also forgot that I didn't have a cake pan and as a result, made it in aluminium loaf pans. I ended up with 2 and a 1/2 delicious loaves! Oh, and I didn't have farina so I substituted rolled oats instead. I now have an interesting oat-carpet pattern on one side of the bread/cake!

I will link to my pictures when I post them.

I also used 100% whole wheat flour and 1/2 the brown sugar (no white sugar) because I ran out of sugar. To make up for this, I put in a big unmeasured tablespoonful or two of plum jam and orange marmalade... and blueberry jam. The bread/cake wasn't too sweet (which is exactly how I like it). In the recipe, you mention two eggs. Did you mean extra large eggs (I am asking because I used 3 extra-large eggs - maybe a bit too much...)

Overall, I am really happy with the results. I took some pictures that I might post on my blog. The bread is much much browner than yours in the picture.

Anonymous said...

It actually tastes like biscotti because one of the loaves got left in the oven too long and became crispy! What a magical bread!

Masha S. said...

I'm so glad it worked well for you.
The original recipe includes 2 eggs per 1 cup flour. I use large or extra large eggs. Maybe you needed less (3 eggs per 2 cups flour) because you used jam, which has some liquid in it? Using jam is quite an idea! I've never tried that before.
Please post pictures. Looking forward to seeing the oatmeal pattern.
Happy experimenting and come again!

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