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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 29, 2012
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Regional and Traditional Products: Prądnik Bread
August 29, 2012   
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In March 2011 the European Commission added chleb prądnicki (Prądnik bread) to the register of protected geographical indications.

The name chleb prądnicki may only be used to refer to bread made according to a traditional 15th-century recipe at bakeries located within the administrative boundaries of Cracow. Prądnik bread is a traditional dark bread made with rye sourdough starter from a traditional recipe. Its special feature is its unusually large size. This entails a long production process that requires special bread baking skills.

Prądnik bread may be baked in two shapes—oval or round—and weighs about 4.5 kg. Oval-shaped Prądnik bread weighing about 14 kg is baked for special occasions. The crust of Prądnik bread is about 6 mm thick, brown to dark brown in color, with a uniform surface or visible cracks, covered with a thin layer of rye bran. In cross-section, the crumb is light in color and evenly porous. Prądnik bread has the typical flavor of this type of bread, and its smell is the typical aroma of rye sourdough bread.

Prądnik bread was reconstructed from references in literature, information from the Bread Museum in Radzionków and interviews with residents of Prądnik—today a district of Cracow. This information combined with the skills of Cracow bakers as well as quality flour from the Małopolska region (Michałowice district) has resulted in bread with a unique flavor. When properly baked, this bread is said to get better as it gets older (it stays fresh for a few weeks).

The Prądnik bread baking tradition dates back to the 15th century when, in 1421, Bishop Wojciech Jastrzębiec gave some of his land in Prądnik Biały to his cook and commanded him to provide bread for the bishop’s table in return. That was the beginning of the famous Prądnik bread. Legend has it that a Cracow alderman would take the first loaf baked after the harvest to Wawel Castle to the king, and that later on in history the mayor of Cracow would take a loaf to King Stanisław August in Warsaw every year on St. John’s Day.

Speaking of tradition, it’s worth mentioning that bakers, along with butchers and shoemakers, were mentioned in Cracow’s foundation charter issued in 1257 by Prince Bolesław the Chaste. He allowed these groups (not trades, as trade guilds were set up some years later) to build stalls in Cracow’s main marketplace; this was where the bakers sold their products.

Among other privileges, a charter issued by King Jan Olbracht in May 1496 gave bakers from Prądnik the right to sell bread in Cracow once a week, on market day, which was Tuesday. Bakers who did not live in Cracow had fewer opportunities to sell and make bread, as they did not receive full trading rights until 1785. Prądnik bread was very popular until the early 20th century, but production of it almost completely stopped during the communist era. In the socialist period consumers could only find it at the market in Kleparz (an area in Cracow). Production resumed after 1989.

Before a product with a registered name can be put on the market, its producers have to undergo an inspection for the production process’s conformity to the specification. The aim is to confirm that the requirements of the specification are met at every stage of making a given product.
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