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Zapiekanka is a Polish dish somewhat similar, in construction at least if not in taste, to other dishes such as the Italian appetizer bruschetta. This dish consists of a baguette of bread, either sliced in half along its length or cut into round slices, which is topped and then baked until crispy. The toppings used on this dish can vary widely among regions of Poland and the preferences of a cook or eater, but traditional toppings include mushrooms and grated hard cheese. Zapiekanka is then often covered lightly with a sauce after baking, and while ketchup is traditional for this dish, some people prefer mayonnaise or garlic sauce instead.
The name of this dish comes from the Polish word zapiekac, which means “to bake” and can be used to indicate any baked dish in general. During the time in which territories of Poland were part of the Soviet Union, as food and money were scarce for many citizens, "zapiekanka" began to refer to a particular dish that was cheap and easy to make. After the end of the Soviet Union, the tradition of eating zapiekanka as a Polish fast food continued, and many restaurants and street vendors continue to sell this dish.
Zapiekanka typically begins with a baguette that is either sliced in half down the middle or cut into individual slices. When halved, each half can be baked together as one long piece, or the halves may be split into smaller sections. These pieces of baguette are then topped with mushrooms, usually champignons, which are often cooked lightly in a little oil to increase their flavor and softness. The mushrooms are then topped with a grated hard cheese, the choice of which depends on the preferences of the cook or eater.
The zapiekanka is then placed in a hot oven and baked until the bread becomes toasty and the cheese melts. Once removed from the oven, many vendors or home cooks then top it with some type of sauce. Ketchup is the traditional topping, stemming from the affordability of ketchup under Soviet rule. Modern variations of zapiekanka have added other toppings and sauces as well, including ground or diced meat such as ham, more vegetables, and different sauces. Mayonnaise is sometimes used instead of ketchup, while other cooks use a light garlic sauce to add flavor yet allow all of the other flavors to come through.