Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: Makoweic (Polish Poppy Seed Roll)


For December, the bloggers at Eat The World are celebrating Christmas. The challenge this month is to explore and share a recipe from anywhere in the world that is served at Christmastime. Since I’m still doing my literature/recipe challenges, I wasn’t sure I would be participating this month. (NOTE NOTE NOTE: This project is only for 2019. In 2020 I will be sharing recipes in the shape of cookbook reviews. This will be another yearlong project. 2021 could bring something different.) But as I was going through the recipes I haven’t made yet from the books I’ve read this year, I realized that that the dish I was going to make for this book was already a festive dish. I’ll tell you more in a minute about the recipe and the importance of the recipe in a minute.

Another of my goals this year was to go to a Free Little Library. I’ve gone a few times this year, but this is the first book I took out of one of them. I had heard about it before and it was a good book for me to snag, because it’s my favorite genre: WWII historical fiction. Rated 4.29 stars on goodreads at the time I’m writing this, I gave the book 5 stars.

This book is told through three separate narrators: Kasia (a Polish woman who survives the concentration camps,) Caroline (an American woman involved in humanitarian work,) and Herta (a German woman who was a doctor at the concentration camps.) This book gives a tragic glance of the life of a survivor of the atrocities that were performed on the political prisoners of Hitler and the Nazi party.

Though not a foodie book, there was a lot of food mentioned:

  • Waldorf salad.
  • Warm bread and buttery escargot.
  • Tinned peas, two potatoes, and a sad little cabbage.
  • Martini.
  • Chop suey and rice cakes.
  • Light sandwiches.
  • Tuorog, a Russian peasant dish of farmer’s cheese infused with blackberry syrup.
  • Creme brulee.
  • Khachapuri, buttery bread cut in triangles.
  • Apple kugel.
  • Shiny, braided bread.
  • Coq au vin.
  • Chocolate ice cream.
  • Hanukkah doughnuts.
  • Cheese sandwich.
  • Pork roast and buttered potatoes.
  • Fatty pork chops.
  • Buche de Noel.
  • Lukewarm yellowish soup.
  • Bread and cheese.
  • Polish chocolates.
  • Bread pudding.
  • Rib roast and popover.
  • Real coffee and salami.
  • Poppy seed cake.
  • Fish sandwiches.
  • Fried onions and mashed potatoes with applesauce.
  • Hot rolls and fresh butter.
  • Princess cake and pitepalt dumplings with butter and lingonberry jam.
  • Onion soup.
  • Pierogies and beet soup and hunter’s stew.
  • Packzie.
  • Miniature American breakfast: a tin of diced ham and eggs, Nescafe coffee, cellophaned crackers, a pack of Wrigley’s gum.
  • Apple tart with creme fraiche.
  • Liver mousse canapes.
  • Coconut washboard cookies.
  • Fig newtons.
  • Emerald peas, a hill of mashed-up potatoes, a puddle of brown sauce on top.
  • Crepes and quiches.
  • Petite fours.

I chose to make the Polish poppy seed cake. It made it’s way into the story when Kasia was at the concentration camps. She receives a package from her Papa:

“In the tin were three cloth-wrapped bundles. I unwrapped the first to reveal what was left of a poppy-seed cake. Were they being generous since it was Christmas? I tasted a crumb and thanked God for creating the poppy flower.”

As I learned thanks to the internet, Makowiec, or the Polish poppy seed cake, is a must-have at both Christmas and Easter. Makowiec is a must-have at the big holidays, but it’s apparently available year round in Poland. The poppy seeds are said to bring good luck.




1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup + 2 tsp sugar (divided)
1 packet yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp + 1 tsp softened unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz poppy seeds
1 egg white
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 cup raisins
1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Place the poppy seeds into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for several hours or overnight.
  2. Heat the milk to 110 degrees. Pour the milk into a large bowl and mix together with the yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes, add the flour, salt, egg yolk, 2 tbsp of butter, and vanilla into the bowl with the yeast/milk mixture. Mix together with your hands, kneading into a shaggy dough. The dough may be sort of sticky and that’s okay. Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place for 90 minutes.
  4. Punch down the dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 10 inches by 14 inches. If the dough is sticky, use some flour to avoid it sticking to the rolling pin.
  5. Drain the poppy seeds. Place them in a food processor and process until ground. Add the egg white, honey, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of butter, and raisins to the food process and process until all combined.
  6. Spread the poppy seed mixture onto the rolled out dough, avoiding the edges.
  7. Starting on the long side, roll the dough into a log – jelly roll style. Pinch the edges together. Place on a parchment paper covered baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel and let side for 40 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Beat together your remaining egg and olive oil. Brush over the bread loaf.
  10. Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool before slicing into 1/2 inch slices.
  • Makes 1 loaf.

Check out all the wonderful Christmas/holiday dishes and sweets prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Glædelig Jul, Nisser, and Mormor Agnes’ Æbleskiver
Literature and Limes: Makowiec
Palatable Pastime: Danish Asier Pickles
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Lebkuchenherzen (German Cookies)
Chipa by the Dozen: Pepperkaker (Norwegian Christmas Cookies)
Evelyne: Oliebollen, the Dutch Doughnut
Loreto and Nicoletta: Sandbakkelse, Norwegian Christmas Cookies
Simply Inspired Meals: Classic Christmas Spritz Cookies
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Bohemian Potato Salad
Making Miracles: Scottish Steak Pie
Margaret at Kitchen Frau: Basler Leckerli, Swiss Christmas cookies


10 thoughts on “Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: Makoweic (Polish Poppy Seed Roll)

  1. Your post made me feel quite sentimental – I grew up eating poppy seed cake and poppy seed strudel. My mom still makes them (she’s from Germany). I love the flavour of poppy seeds.


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