Traditional Polish Easter Placek


Traditional Polish Easter Placek

Sponge:
2 cups milk, around 105 degrees to 115 degrees F.
2 packages active dry yeast, or 5 teaspoons
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups of flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with the sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the flour, then cover the bowl and let the sponge rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to an hour.

Dough:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground nutmeg
Zest of one orange or lemon
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups golden raisins

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs in one at a time and beat until fluffy.  Add in the salt, nutmeg, zest and 2 cups of flour, then beat well.  When the sponge has risen, add that to the creamed mixture along with the last 2 cups of flour and the golden raisins, then knead or use the dough hook on a mixer for 5 minutes, until you have a very smooth, elastic, sticky dough.  Using greased hands, place the dough into a large greased or buttered bowl.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size, an hour to 2 1/2 hours.  You can also refrigerate the dough at this point up to 3 days.  When you're ready to shape the loaves, let the dough come to room temperature first.

Crumble topping:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 2 cups sliced almonds

Cut the butter into the sugar and flour until it's fully mixed in and crumbly, then stir in the almonds.

When the dough has risen, use greased or wet hands to remove portions of it and divide it among 4 greased 9x5" loaf pans (or mini loaf and cake pans, as I like to do.  My mom tended to do 1 9x5" and 2 9" cake pans, it doesn't really matter, use what works for you!)  Divide the crumb mixture over the loaves, pressing in lightly (you will almost definitely have some left over, I always do and you can see how much I use.)  Cover the pans, then let the dough rise until doubled or until they're almost risen to the top.  

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and when the loaves have risen, bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until golden brown on top.  Let them cool on wire racks, then invert them and cool completely before wrapping and freezing or keeping airtight at room temperature.  I won't lie and say there's an easy way to get these out of the pan without all of the crumbs coming off, but that's why the crumb recipe makes so much! 

Enjoy