Morbid Meals – Poppy Seed Flat Bread from The Dracula Cookbook

EXAMINATION
Marina Polvay (1928-2002) was the author of one of my cherished cookbooks, The Dracula Cookbook (published in 1978 and again later in 2000).

Her love of Count Dracula inspired her to travel to Transylvania to find authentic recipes for her collection which eventually became this wonderful cookbook. The book is loaded with anecdotes from Romania along with history and descriptions of the culture from the land beyond the forest.

All of the recipes have a fun flair to them. Many have playful names, like “Shrimp Ghoulé”, and references to Dracula the fictional character, like “Black Forest Cake Nosferatu”. You will also find some wonderful, more traditional recipes, like “Chicken Liver Paprikash”.

The recipe that I want to share is “Poppy Seed Flat Bread”. Not only is this a traditional bread, but for those familiar with vampire lore, you know that counting poppyseeds keeps vampires distracted so you can escape from them. That makes this bread a handy and tasty defense against vampires, should you need it.

For the record, this recipe makes a flat risen bread, like focaccia, rather than something akin to tortillas, pita, or matzo.

ANALYSIS
Makes 1 Large Flat Loaf, roughly 12-15 pieces

2 cups warm water
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp molasses
2 pkgs granulated yeast
5 cups (700 g) all-purpose flour, split (see below)
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp canola oil
yellow cornmeal, to sprinkle
pat of butter, or non-stick spray
1 egg, well beaten
2-3 Tbsp poppy seeds

  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, honey, and molasses, and yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Add 2 cups (280g) flour and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon for about two minutes.
  3. Add the remaining 3 cups (420g) flour and knead the dough for about one minute.
  4. Pour the oil over the dough and work it in, kneading until the oil is absorbed, for about two minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with a clean, dry towel and set is aside in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 50 minutes.
  6. Punch down the risen dough, turn it out onto a floured board and knead for another minute.
  7. Grease an 11″x17″ jelly-roll pan with the butter or non-stick spray, and then sprinkle with cornmeal to cover the whole pan. Shake out any loose extra cornmeal.
  8. Roll the dough out on a floured surface then place it onto the sheet pan, stretching to fill the entire pan.
  9. Cover again and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into roughly 3″ squares. The dough will stay bound together, but it this will make it possible to break the bread into pieces once it is baked.
  11. Brush the top with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Resist the urge to count the poppy seeds as you do so.
  12. Place the dough on the middle rack of your oven.
  13. Bake at 375 F degrees for 50-55 minutes, until the bread has a firm, golden brown crust.

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DISSECTION
The original recipe suggested the use of an 11″x17″ jelly-roll pan, which I did not have. I only had a quarter sheet pan which is about 9″x13″. The dough fit with no issues, though presumably baked thicker than it otherwise would have. By the way, I did not know there was a difference between a “Jelly roll pan” and a “cookie sheet”. Wikipedia explains, “A sheet pan that has a continuous lip around all four sides may be called a jelly roll pan. A pan that has at least one side flat, so that it is easy to slide the baked product off the end, may be called a cookie sheet.”

I supplied the gram weights above for standard all-purpose flour so that the recipe can be altered to use any other flour, like a gluten-free mix, in exact substitution.

The traditional directions above require a lot of elbow grease. Feel free to use a standing mixer with a dough hook if you desire.

POST-MORTEM
I am on a gluten-free diet, but I allowed myself a piece of this bread. I made it the traditional way so I would know what it is supposed to be like when I make it gluten-free later. I could not help myself after the house smelled SO GOOD while it baked. I had forgotten what that smell was like. The bread did not disappoint either. So good! I highly recommend it.

Oh, by the way, that myth about eating poppy seeds causing you to fail a drug test is true, according to Snopes.com and Mythbusters.

As for the myth regarding vampires counting them thus allowing you to escape, well, according to Dracula III:Legacy, they can count REALLY fast.

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