Friday, July 20, 2012

Jagodzianki: Polish Blueberry Buns

(A portion of this blog post appeared on

A summer vacation in the mountains sounds exotic. A summer vacation at a bungalow colony/egg farm in the Catskill Mountains sounds less so.  As a little girl growing up in Brooklyn, I didn’t usually get much exposure to “real nature” on the streets of East Flatbush, but once our car traveled two hours north, this city slicker encountered a rural playground. And that was as exotic as I was going to experience for a long time.
Just minutes from our summertime bungalow was a blueberry bramble. It was just a short walk down the road and could be reached through a clearing in the bushes. Our goal was to find as many berries as we could, and armed with plastic bowls, buckets, and dented metal colanders, we embarked on what felt like a treasure hunt.

The sun was always high, its rays were hot shards that pierced through the branches amidst the berries. The sky was always blue, and paled only in comparison to the deep-blue jujubes we sought. We were nicely hidden once we passed through the clearing, and unless one knew we were there, he would be hard pressed to find us. The only sound we made was with our berries: “blue marbles” I liked to call them. The first few to hit the containers plinked softly. “Don’t throw them!” the grown-ups who accompanied us admonished. As the bowls and buckets filled and berries piled upon berries, the sounds became more muffled. Picking and filling, picking and filling, and here and there stopping to taste. Some were firm and tart, picked too soon, and others were softer, sweeter, and juicier.

One berry, 
Two berry, 
Pick me a blueberry. 
- Bruce Degen
 The intermittent bursts of sun itched my skin and I proceeded with great care so as not to get pricked by the thorns. Every once in a while one would catch my tee shirt and I would ever so gently pry myself from its grasp all the while trying not to draw blood. Old tee shirts and jeans were the uniforms we wore for this task. In the battle between skin and barbs, and berry juice and fabric, barbs and berries were the victors every time. After a long while, someone would call, “Finish up!” and the ragtag group would emerge from the hideout, scraped, stained, and squinting at the full daylight that accosted our now shade-acclimated eyes. We would trudge home, our bellies and bowls filled with berries, glancing furtively at one another to see whose containers were filled higher than our own. 
The health benefits that have recently been associated with blueberries have raised the fruit’s credibility to superstar levels. But in the wilds of South Fallsburg, New York, during the summer of 1965, antioxidants and vitamin C were the last things on our minds. My mom was a purist: our berries were washed and added to cubes of melon and 
honeydew. They would also be folded into bowls of tart sour cream and then dusted with spoonfuls of sugar crystals. For a more sophisticated end product we looked to “Buba,” the grandmother of our group.  She would make jagodzianki (ya-go-janki), doughy buns, that hid the berries until one bite gave them away. The purple berry juice, would seep through the dough and stain my hands and fingers as I tore at the bun. Buba is long gone, and for all I know, her recipe went with her. I found a similar one, and adapted it (of course) a bit. Lemon zest added to the filling gives it a nice 
zing. And the crunchy streusel topping transports these not-too-sweet breakfast buns into the dessert zone where they to a nice hot cup of coffee or a tall glass of cold milk.
Polish Blueberry Buns (Jagodzianki)
(adapted from In Ania’s Kitchen)
2 Tbsp.  all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (1 packet)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp.  vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. bread crumbs
zest of one lemon, finely grated
1 large egg, beaten
Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Make Dough:
In a small mixing bowl add milk, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour and
yeast. Mix until well combined. Set aside until mixture becomes foamy ( around
20 minutes).
 Beat eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and lemon-colored. add remaining ingredients for the dough except melted butter. Add yeast mixture and mix with a paddle attachment until well combined. Add melted butter and mix  until emulsified, about 3 minutes. Spray bowl with oil and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow dough to rest until doubled in size (approx. 2 hours).
Brush the beaten egg over the tops of the buns. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the tops of the buns and gently press it in.
Prepare Filling:
In a small bowl, mix the blueberries with sugar, breadcrumbs and lemon zest. Set aside.
Prepare Streusel:
Measure dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the butter to the mixture. Rub the butter between the tips of your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the mixture feels like coarse sand. Mix half of the beaten egg into crumb mixture with a fork. Place bowl in refrigerator until streusel is needed.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the dough with a little bit of flour and knead with a dough hook attachment until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Approx. 10 minutes).
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly and then roll out into an approximate 16-inch square square, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch squares. You will have approximately 12-16 squares.
Place about 1 Tbsp. of blueberry mixture in the center of each square and fold the corners up and over around the berries, encasing them totally. Place the buns, seam-side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover buns with additional parchment and set aside to rise for another 30 minutes.
leaving them space to rise. Brush the tops with the remaining beaten egg, and mound about 2 Tbsp. streusel on each, pressing down gently. Bake for 20 -25 minutes, until buns are golden brown and streusel is browned and crisp.



  1. These look simply delicious! I will have to ask my polish mother-in-law if she makes these or if her mother did.

  2. What a lovely story as a companion to this wonderful recipe. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  3. I also have terrific blueberry memories from childhood. And isn't it wonderful that these tasty treats are also the fountain of youth?

    Totally can't wait to try your yummy recipe. I LOVE blueberries.

  4. What a beautiful story and recipe. You painted a vivid picture and I could see you the with the blueberry juice stains on your fingers. They are kind of the overlooked fruit and berry, I think and so good for you.

  5. I love beautiful stories that go along with delicious recipes. It's such a great treat when there is a food that you love that is also good for you. Thanks for sharing this. I'm saving the recipe!

  6. Great story to accompany the recipe. Love the "rays were hot shards" phrase. PS I'm putting blueberries in everything! They are sooo good for you!