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The great POLISH Bake Off: Discovering Poznan’s Sweet Dessert – 1200 Calorie Croissant

Are you counting calories? Then it is better to avoid the cobbled streets of Poznan, where you will always be tempted by the rich aroma of freshly baked St. Martin croissants.

The Polish delicacy has received the status of ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ from the EU and can only be made by certified bakers in the city, although as there are around 100 of them, you are never far from its tasty delicacies.

They are also a far cry from French croissants. The Poznan version are oversized puff pastry curves, generously sprinkled with walnuts and filled with dried fruit, and can easily contain 1,200 calories, about 1,000 more than a traditional croissant.

Poznan is located halfway between Warsaw and Berlin and is full of beautifully preserved buildings.  In the photo is the main square

Poznan is located halfway between Warsaw and Berlin and is full of beautifully preserved buildings. In the photo is the main square

Sweet spot: the city's famous croissants, which are 'a long way from French croissants'

Sweet spot: the city's famous croissants, which are 'a long way from French croissants'

Sweet spot: the city’s famous croissants, which are ‘a long way from French croissants’

They are wonderfully sweet and can somehow be delicate and incredibly filling. I can eat only half of my first croissant before admitting defeat.

You can see a nod to the origins of croissants carved into an exterior wall of the 16th-century St. Martin Church in Poznan, showing the saint on horseback and cutting a strip from his cape to pass a cold, hungry beggar.

Centuries ago, a local baker decided to honor this good deed by baking horseshoe-shaped croissants and distributing them to the poor. Others followed suit, delivering them to those in need on Saint Martin’s Day, which falls on November 11.

Today, the croissant is the most popular pastry in Poznan and is served all year round. I have my first taste in the cafeteria of the Hotel Mercure Poznan Centrum.

Bakers have been using the same recipe since the cafe opened in the 1960s, and a pastry chef who has worked there for 40 years invited me into the kitchen for a master class. He begins by hitting a ball of dough and proudly points out that there are 97 layers within it. Then roll the dough and cut it into triangles. With near-surgical precision, he makes a series of small incisions in each one to make sure the filling seeps through each layer. This is applied with an ice pack, spraying clean, thick lines of a sweet smelling mixture of crushed poppy seeds, orange peel, walnuts and almond oil with egg used as a binder.

Then fold the dough into croissant shapes, lovingly tucking the pointed ends into place.

The carving of the church of San Martín that inspired the confectionery.

The carving of the church of San Martín that inspired the confectionery.

The carving of the church of San Martín that inspired the confectionery.

If it sounds simple, I can assure you that it is not.

And the filling mixture is incredibly thick – when the bag of frosting is handed to me, it takes me a few minutes to squeeze out a single unappealing scoop.

As I leave, I pass the café’s chef de cuisine, Grzegorze Dziamski, who has just received two tons of locally grown organic poppy seeds for the run-up to November 11, which is also Polish Independence Day. His passion for pastry is evident and he knows that he has to produce the best. “At this time of year, people shop at several different bakeries so they can choose their favorite for the holidays,” he says.

Poznan is home to not just one, but two castles.  Pictured is the impressive Imperial Castle

Poznan is home to not just one, but two castles.  Pictured is the impressive Imperial Castle

Poznan is home to not just one, but two castles. Pictured is the impressive Imperial Castle

The city even has a Croissant Museum where more practical classes are given and where experts will explain in greater detail the ingredients and traditions of the dish.

Poznan bakers also make wonderful bread. My favorite is from the little Czary Chleb bakery, created by a former editor who loves high-quality ingredients and old-fashioned baking methods. It is in what is known as the cosmonaut quarter, where you will also find a park with a huge statue dedicated to the first man in space, the Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin.

Of course, there is more to this 1000-year-old Polish city than cakes, bread, and pastries.

The Old Brewery has been transformed into a commercial and arts center

The Old Brewery has been transformed into a commercial and arts center

The Old Brewery has been transformed into a commercial and arts center

TRAVEL FACTS

Fly directly to Poznan with Ryanair (ryanair.com) from Stansted, or with Wizz (wizzair.com) from Luton and Doncaster Sheffield from £ 19.99 one way. Double room B&B at Novotel Poznan Centrum costs from £ 30 per night (accor.com).

Located halfway between Warsaw and Berlin, it is packed with beautifully preserved buildings and is fast becoming a magnet for people wanting an artistic, gastronomic and very modern mini-break.

Head to the town square to see outdoor cafes, street performers, and rows of highly colorful, almost fluorescent fish vendor houses. These were built in the 16th century, were lovingly restored after WWII, and are now the perfect backdrop for eye-catching photos.

There’s a museum inside the city’s Renaissance-style City Hall, or just join the crowd outside every day at noon; That’s when the wooden doors above his clock swing open and two very jolly-looking mechanical goats come out and bump heads 12 times.

The old brewery nearby is also worth a visit, with its vaults and corridors that have been transformed into a commercial and artistic center. Walk through the compact heart of the city and you can tour its two castles, enjoy cozy breweries and, in summer, join the crowd at music festivals or on the busy urban beach on the banks of the Warta River.

But whatever the season, those St. Martin croissants will revive even the most exhausted travelers.

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