Friday, 31 August 2012

Szilvás lepény - Plum Küchen

Kuchen is made with a slightly sweet yeasty dough (means 'cake' in German) topped with usually fruit and sometimes nuts or a buttery crumble, eaten for breakfast or with coffee anytime of the day. 
I made this one with plums as they are in season at the moment and it's a very traditional lepény topping, but equally good with apples, blackberries, cherries. The recipe I used filled a gigantic baking tray and while proving and baking it kept spilling out around the edges. So I am giving you half the quantity as it will still be plenty to go around and enough for a normal size baking tin, causing less stress in the kitchen :-)

For the cake base:
350g plain flour
half packet (3,5g) dried yeast
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
2 eggs
few drops of vanilla extract
few drops of almond extract
125 ml milk
50g butter

Blend the flour, yeast, salt and sugar together. Warm the milk a little and beat the eggs, add these to the flour mix together with the vanilla and almond extract. Knead it by hand or a machine until well mixed. Melt the butter and work this into the dough until it is a soft, smooth and springy texture. This will take 5-10 minutes. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest and double in size in a warm place for about 1-1,5 hours. Prepare the topping.

For the topping:
1,5kg plums
sugar to taste
1 tsp cinnamon

Wash and stone the plums, cut them into long quarters. Mix it with a few tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Let it rest until needed.
When the dough is ready, knock it back on a floured surface and stretch it out by hand (or roll it out with a rolling pin) into a medium size rectangular baking tin. Arrange the plums on top, pressed slightly into the dough. I like to line them up overlapping, with pointy end sticking out of the dough - these will nicely caramelize while baking and the lines are easier to cut more neatly.
Let it rest and rise for another 30 min/1hr in a warm place. Preheat the oven to 180C and bake until cooked through for about 35-40 minutes. By this time your house will be filled with delicious, sweet cinnamony bread smell. When ready, cut them into slabs, dust with more sugar and serve warm. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Almás pite - Cinnamon apple squares


This is my Mum's recipe. She prefers a yeasty dough for the pastry as it makes this cake really light and it keeps fresh and soft for days. It is a perfect mid-afternoon autumnal treat with the warm scent of cinnamon and cooked apples. I used dessert apples as they need less sugar for stewing and we like their flavour. In Hungary it is served with just a dusting of icing sugar, but it would also be lovely with cream, fresh egg custard, creme fréche, sour cream or thick Greek yoghurt.

For the pastry:
500g plain flour
100 ml milk
20g fresh yeast or 7g (1packet) dried yeast
100g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
200g melted butter

Crumble the fresh yeast into the luke warm milk and leave to activate in a warm place for 15 minutes. If using dried yeast, add it straight to the flour. Sift the icing sugar and flour together, add the yeasty milk, egg yolks and knead it until well mixed. Add the melted butter gradually until it becomes smooth. Use a dough mixer or a bread maker for these first stages (you can leave dough to rise in bread mixers too). Cover it with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise - this could take an hour or more. In the meantime, make the filling.

For the filling:
2kg dessert apples, peeled and grated
5tbsp sugar (less or more to taste - depends on your taste buds and the sweetness of the apples)
1tsp ground cinnamon

Grate the apples by hand or a food processor and put them in a large heavy base saucepan with the sugar and cinnamon. Warm it slowly until the sugar dissolves then stew it with a lid on, until the apples have softened, very little juice left and it has become a soft, not soggy but creamy texture. This takes about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6. When the dough is ready, knock it back and knead it for a minute on a floured surface. Devide into two and roll them out to the size of your greased baking tin (I used a 30cmx40cm tin). Lay the first sheet of pastry in the tin, sprinkle with semolina or breadcrumbs, this will stop the pastry going soggy from the filling. Spread the apple filling evenly on top then sprinkle with more semolina and place the second sheet of pastry on top. Give it an egg wash if you wish and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it is a lovely golden colour. Leave it to cool completely in the tin - it is much easier to cut into neat squares when cooled down. Dust with icing sugar.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Vajas kifli - Butter half moons

Half moon shaped pastries are another staple in Hungarian bakeries. They can be sweet or savory, with or without fillings, but the best known is a plain butter kifli you would get with your continental breakfast, hot chocolate or morning coffee. The half moon shape is said to originate from the 16th century Turk's invasion of Central and Eastern Europe, when often the bakers working their night shifts would ring the bells and alert the people of Turkish troops aproaching the city. It became popular in many countries and of course the French have their own version the croissant! This kifli is made with a yeasty dough and is slightly on the sweet side, very light yet buttery. It's also very quick to make and you could add a piece of chocolate before rolling it to make it more of a sweet bite. But I also like it with a bit of butter and morello cherry jam. These are smaller bite size half moons, keep for quite sometime in an airtight container and perfect warmed up in the oven with a cup of coffee or tea for elevenses :-)

600g plain flour
400 ml milk
30g fresh yeast or 7g dried 
50g melted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 220C. Warm the milk a little, dissolve the sugar and crumble the yeast into it, then leave to activate for 10-15 minutes in a warm place. Dried yeast can be added straight to the flour. Mix the flour, salt, yeasty milk until combined then gradually add the melted butter. Knead it for 5 minutes. This is best done in a mixer with a dough hook for quickest results. Cover with tea towel and rest in a warm place if you have time, but this is not necessary if you are in a hurry. 
Devide the dough into six pieces. Roll each one into a 25cm diameter circle and cut each circle into 8 slices. Roll each slice up from the flat end to the pointy end, create a half moon shape and lay on the baking sheet. Glaze them with a beaten egg before baking in the oven for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Rebarbarás piskóta - Rhubarb cake

Rhubarb is a less known cake ingredient in Hungary, although it could be an easy vegetable to grow there too. It is however a favourite in the UK and seem to appear in our veg box a lot at the moment, so had to use it up. The summer rhubarb is a bit tougher than the early spring stems, so I chopped them up quite small and mixed it with sugar to soften and sweeten for several hours before baking. This also gave me a sweet and tangy juice that I reduced to a syrup for drizzling over the cake while it was still warm. The cake mix is one I learned to make at school when I must have been about 7 or 8 years old at our school's afternoon cooking club (technika óra keretén belül :-) Doesn't need any kitchen gadgets other than a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon - ideal for kids - and the sponge mix will rise every single time without collapsing on its way out of the oven. Of course if you must you can use a mixer, it will be a lot quicker! Use any summer fruits, cherries and berries. The most common one would be sour cherry (meggy) in Hungary. I have only seen bottled sour cherries here, but they are great too, ideal for winter cakes.

3 eggs
250 g icing sugar
450 g plain flour
150 ml milk
150 ml flavourless oil (groundnut or sunflower)
1 tbsp baking powder 
400 g rhubarb
few tablespoons of sugar for the rhubarb
1 tsp cinnamon

Wash and cut the rhubarb stems to 1cm slices. If the stems are really tough, you could peel them with a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon then ideally let it sit around for a few hours. It's not essential though. 
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6. 
Beat the eggs with the sifted icing sugar until it is pale yellow and well mixed. Add the oil and the milk and mix well. Add the baking powder and slowly add the flour, mixing as you go so it doesn't get lumpy. Pour the mix into a lined baking tin, I usually use a large square one, and add the rhubarb but save the sweet juice from the bowl. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and it's not runny in the middle. 
While the cake is cooling, boil the sweet spicy juice in a pan until it becomes a slightly thicker syrup. Pierce the cake with a wooden skewer in a few places then drizzle the syrup over while it is still warm. This is an excellent afternoon cake to go with your tea and keeps well in the fridge for a few days. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Cherry and poppy seed cake

Cherries and poppy seeds are two very popular and frequently used ingredients in Hungarian desserts. Cherry and sour cherry trees are part of every garden and basis for all sorts of preserves and sweets. Poppy seeds, usually ground and made into a sweet creamy paste makes a lovely rich filling for many pastries. In this recipe it replaces half of the flour and substitutes some of the sugar too, adding a distinctive flavour and a speckled look to the cake. By this perhaps reducing some of the calories too... Serve it with a dollop of sour cream or creme fréche. It's really quick to make and great with afternoon tea.

3 eggs
100 g caster sugar
50 g plain flour
50 g black poppy seed (ground - this is best done in a coffee grinder)
1 lemon
2 tbsp sour cream
250 g cherries, stones removed

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6.
Mix the eggs with the sugar until it looks light, pale and fluffy - this takes 3-4 minutes in a free standing mixer and it should  double in size. Sift the flour into the mix, add the grated zest of the lemon, the ground poppy seeds, mix well. Gently mix in the sour cream.
Pour the mixture into a lined springform cake tin or pie dish (24 cm) and add the cherries, gently pushing them into the mix. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. Baking time depends on the size of your tin. If it is larger, the cake will be ready quicker. If it is smaller, it will be a deeper cake that takes slightly longer to cook through. Keep checking with a wooden skewer.
If you wanted, you could macerate the cherries in some kirsch and sugar a few hours earlier, then use the liquid to make a reduced syrup to drizzle over the cake while it is still warm.

Túrós batyu - Sweet ricotta parcels

This is a delicious breakfast pastry to go with your morning coffee. Available in all patisseries and pastry stalls wherever you are in Hungary. The filling is traditionally made of the creamy cow's curd cheese that is used in so many Hungarian desserts. This is not available in the UK so I used a mixture of ricotta and strained natural cottage cheese instead, which worked really nicely. 
This recipe makes about 25 parcels. It freezes well or keeps in the fridge for a few days. Warm it up in the oven before serving and sprinkle with icing sugar.

For the pastry:
600 g plain flour
320 ml milk
1 egg, beaten
pinch of salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
80 g melted butter
2,5 g fresh yeast or 1 packet (7g) dried yeast

Dissolve the yeast in luke warm milk and leave it for 10-15 minutes until it melts and starts to activate. If using dried yeast, you can add this straight to the flour. Sift the flour, salt, sugar in a mixing bowl, mix well. Add the egg, milk and yeasty milk to the flour mix and knead it for a good 10 minutes with a dough hook or by hand until you get a sticky dough. Add the melted butter and knead it for another 5 minutes or until the butter is well mixed in and the pastry has a nice, smooth, elastic texture. Cover it with a wet tea towel or clingfilm and leave it in a warm place for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
In the meantime make the filling.

For the filling:
200g ricotta cheese
200g natural cottage cheese (strain through a sieve if too watery)
4 tbsp semolina
3 tbsp caster sugar
few drops of vanilla essence
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp sultanas
1 egg, separated

Mix the ricotta, cottage cheese, semolina, sugar, vanilla essence, lemon zest and sultanas and the egg yolk in a bowl. Beat the egg white until firm peaks form then gently fold into the ricotta mix. If it feels too runny, add a bit more semolina. It should have a creamy but not runny texture.
Tip the dough on to a floured work surface and punch once or twice to knock it back. Roll it out with a rolling pin to about 3mm thick and cut into 10cmx10cm squares. Put a tablespoon of ricotta mix on the centre of each one, pinch all 4 corners together and give it a twist to close the parcel. Carefully place them on some parchment paper on a large baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm place to rest and prove again (20-30 minutes). While you are waiting for the parcels to prove, preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6. Once they have risen, lightly glaze each parcel with a little beaten egg and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
Allow to cool on a wire rack then dust with some icing sugar.