Each week at That's Nuts we tackle all of your favorite nuts, and occasionally take a trip to the "seedy side." Poppy seeds tend to get pigeon-holed as a bagel topper or the mandatory partner to lemons in scones and salad dressings. (They're also notorious for creating false-positive results on drug tests.) But they're in a number of traditional Central/Eastern European and Jewish desserts.
They may appear round from afar but they're actually kidney-shaped. Some foods containing poppy seeds use them whole, others use a paste made from grinding the seeds and adding sugar and vanilla.
Here's a rundown of some poppylicious sweets.
Makowiec: A Polish dessert bread, similar to coffee cake or strudel, with a swirl of poppy seed filling in the center. Served with tea, particularly popular at Christmastime and as a warm, hearty treat during the winter months.
Mun Cookies: Thin, crispy, sugar cookies, traditionally made without butter and full of poppy seeds (mun is both the German and Yiddish word for poppy seeds). Here the poppy seeds are washed and used whole instead of turned into a paste. The seeds add texture and flavor to the cookie, and are a nice alternative to chocolate chips, oats, or raisins.
Kolache: A four-cornered and folded Czech yeast bread pastry, often made with poppy seed filling. Kolaches are widely popular in Texas, where you'll even find annual Kolache Festivals.
Beigli: A Hungarian and Russian dessert roll, similar to Makowiec.
Hamentaschen: During Purim, this triangle-shaped pastry is often made with a poppy seed center.
Do you have any favorite foods that contain poppy seeds or poppy seed paste? Got any recipes that use them in an interesting way?
About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.