You’ve Got Bread Pudding, We Have THIS

hungarian makos guba

Christmas is unthinkable in Central-Eastern Europe without sweets made with nuts. If it’s mostly walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds in your region, depends on the climate but all of us in the heart of Europe bake similar traditional holiday treats.

And there is another very important ingredient in Hungarian kitchens around festive season: poppy seeds. The symbol of richness, also supposed to bring you luck. Such a favorite many of us enjoy it all year round.

We use poppy seeds in a great many recipes from bejgli (a poppy or walnut filled pastry roll), to nudli (small potato dumplings sprinkled with sugared poppy seeds) to rétes (strudel) to flódni (a Hungarian-Jewish pastry with layers of fillings), and I could just go on and on.

If you happen to have some sweet type of bread that dried on you – because you forgot to put it in the freezer – you are in luck! Your negligence just landed you the opportunity to try the one particular poppy-based dessert that’s intentionally not listed above: mákos guba (pron. maa-kosh goo-bah).

It’s a great and easy recipe to repurpose leftover, dry bread. Whatever you have on hand works from regular white bread to brioche, buns, crescent rolls and the like. Just avoid sourdough or whole-wheat loaves; the savory flavors don’t make them suited to a sweet bread pudding.

Because mákos guba is a kind of bread pudding: the pastry slices are layered in a baking dish, softened with sweetened milk, sprinkled with ground poppy and powdered sugar, than baked until the middles are soft and the top is crunchy and golden.

hungarian makos guba

I always liked this dessert but only begin really loving it when I deviated a little from the family recipe and traded in crescents for challah and sugared milk for crème anglaise. That seriously raised the bar! This new and improved mákos guba made it from a frugal weekend dish right to our holiday table: as part of creating new traditions for ourselves with the Husband, it’s going to be dessert after a hearty soup for lunch on December 24th.

Here’s how I make it:

Hungarian Poppy Seed Guba

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Sweet bread pudding layered with vanilla-flavored custard and ground poppy seeds. Serves 4.

Ingredients

100 g poppy seeds, ground

80 g powdered sugar

an 500 g (1 lb) challah or brioche, a little dry, cut to 14-16 slices

800 ml whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

50 g granulated sugar

2 tbsp butter

Directions

Make crème anglaise:

  1. Heat milk and vanilla in a heavy bottomed saucepan until steaming, but not boiling.
  2. While milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until pale.
  3. Temper custard: whisking constantly, slowly but steadily add hot milk to egg mixture.
  4. Transfer back to saucepan and cook on low heat for a few minutes until the consistency of a pouring sauce is reached. Set aside, divided: use 500 ml to soak challah, reserve 300 ml to serve.

Arrange guba:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (355F), butter a deep baking dish using 1 tbsp of the butter.
  2. Mix poppy seeds with powdered sugar.
  3. Cover bottom of dish with challah slices. Soak slices with custard, than sprinkle generously with the poppy mixture. Continue layering until you run out of challah.
  4. Put remaining butter pieces on top and bake until golden, about 30 min. Enjoy warm, served with remaining crème anglaise and/or whipped cream.

 

Love,

Fruzsi

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Pogácsa, the Savory Hungarian Scone

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

Okay, so we need to talk about the concept of borkorcsolya (pron. boar-core-chow-yaah) first. Author’s note: Like, I’m sorry for frying your brains with illegible Hungarian words from time to time, but it’s kind of necessary when you talk about local stuff. Literally, it means wine-slider or wine-skid which explains it right away, but let’s just call it wine snack.

What is a wine snack? When you’re in Italy, most likely bruscetta. A cheese plate in France, and up North they have their salted herrings. Here in Hungary, we’re not that specific – every food you’d find on a charchuterie plate falls into this category, anything at all you’d enjoy along wine can serve as wine snack, really.

But, there’s always a first among equals: most admired of all the bite-sized amuse-bouches is pogácsa (pron. pou-gah-cha), official BFF of Wine. And beer. It’s the most appreciated snack at every party, ceremony, soiree, backyard barbecue, game night or any such social gathering. Pogácsa FTW!

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa with wine

What’s in a name? Linguistic evidence suggests this pastry used to be a type of unleavened flat bread: focus is latin for fire. The Italian flat bread is called focaccia, and the Southern Slavic version of that name was adopted by us. I will still call this scone-like thing a Hungarian specialty, as the recipe evolved and became distinct of this region.

There are two basic types of pogácsa: the fluffier leavened, and the crumblier unleavened. Neither require special skill to make, and both taste awesome – if you use quality ingredients, that is. Butter, or rather lard instead of vegetable shortening, good cheese, creamy quark, organic seeds.

The dough is rolled out, the top is usually cut in a diamond pattern. Pogácsa is then formed using round cookie cutters, the smaller the diameter the better. Egg wash gives the desired color during baking, favorite toppings include grated cheese and various seeds. Needless to say, it’s best eaten warm.

Also, my granny’s is better than yours. 🙂

Today I brought to you the easier unleavened variety, but a leavened, laminated pogácsa will also make its way to the blog soon. This recipe is from the April issue of Magyar Konyha magazine, and it turned out so good I did not alter it in any way.

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

Pumpkin seed flour and tangy quark cheese gives this one a nice twist. I used Gouda cheese on top. If you don’t have pumpkin seed flour at home, don’t worry, neither do I! Just pulse pumpkin seeds in the food processor until you reach the desired consistency. I like to keep it a little coarser. Here we go:

Pumpkin Seed Pogácsa

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A savory, scone-like Hungarian pastry enriched with pumpkin seeds and tangy quark cheese. Makes cca. 65 4 cm pieces.

Ingredients

250 g AP flour

250 g quark

250 g butter

100 g pumpkin seed flour

2 tsp salt

1 egg + 1 for the eggwash

grated cheese for topping

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients except one egg and topping cheese until incorporated in a large bowl with your hands.
  2. Wrap dough in cling foil and refrigerate for an hour, or as long as overnight.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  4. Roll out dough around 1” thick, cut out rounds.
  5. Place scones on baking sheet, wash with egg, top with grated cheese.
  6. Bake until golden, about 45 min.

Love,

Fruzsi

Crème de la Crème: Mom’s Liptauer

hungarian liptauer

Quick and easy to prepare, körözött is a tangy cheese spread very popular in Hungary. Such a word must be close to impossible for most of you to pronounce, but good news: it’s also known as Liptauer (pron. lip-tower).

The name derives from Liptau, German for the Northern Slovakian region Liptov that is also called Liptó, for it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Why yes, it was quite busy around here in the last 1100+ years 🙂

I’m sure after this brief lesson in history it will come as no surprise that Liptauer appears in cuisines of all our surrounding countries. And if you guessed it’s made a little different everywhere, you were right. Let me tell you how much so!

Not every nation, not every region, not even every family, but each household has a very own recipe. Liptauer is a highly personal matter, regardless of the fact that all are variations on the same theme. Now good luck determining the „original”!

One thing that’s sure: the recipe was based on Bryndza, a type of sheep milk cheese but nowadays it’s usually prepared with quark (the same cottage cheese-like dairy product that makes my country’s favorite dumplings).

Liptauer is traditionally eaten on an open sandwich or toast, but is equally delicious as a dip with crackers or raw vegetables. An essential to every picnic basket and a great side to your leftover Easter ham as well.

hungarian liptauer on bread

The recipe below comes from my mother. I was spooning it straight out the bowl not once – that is how deep my love for it goes, but don’t tell her that. She is from Veszprém county so we could consider it Liptauer à la Balaton-Highlands, but other family members from the same region would surely disagree. So why do I still think it appropriate to raise this one a little above others?

Because we have been asked to share the recipe on multiple occasions and some friends specifically ask us to bring this to potlucks. It must be hard for the uninitiated to understand the full complexity of this high art, but in a country where everyone’s fully convinced of the superiority of their own recipes, this is quite a big deal.

hungarian liptauer

So, Liptauer: seasoned quark with onion, sour cream and butter. Did you just say margarine? I’d heard rumors to that effect but as your informal representative in this matter, I would strongly advise against that. Oh and no cumin in this one either. #sorrynotsorry

Hungarian Liptauer Spread

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A tangy cheese spread popular in Central-Eastern Europe.

Ingredients

250 g quark

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black peppecorns, ground

2 tsp paprika powder

1 small onion, or half of a medium one

2-3 tbsp sour cream

1 1/2 tbsp butter, cold

Directions

  1. Peel and very finely chop onion.
  2. Put quark in a medium bowl. Season, add paprika, onion and thin slices of the cold butter. Give it a good stir with a fork.
  3. Add sour cream 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until you reach desired consistency (quark can be creamier or more crumbly depending on the producer and fat content).
  4. Let rest for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Keep refrigerated, but it won’t spoil if you take it on a picnic).

What is your favorite schmear?

Love,

Fruzsi

Easter Ham With a Shortcut

easter ham platter

Gadget of the Day: the pressure cooker. I was planning on raving about this device for some time and what an opportunity presented itself: the crown jewel of the Easter table, no less!

Definitely not in my top 5 when it comes to frequency of use and not the cheapest cookware either, a pressure cooker is an item well worth investing in nonetheless. But what the heck does it actually do?

Glad you asked! If you’re into science to some degree, you’ll find this interesting. If not, feel free to skip the next paragraph or, you could read on and tick the ‘Today I Learned’ box.

Invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin, the pressure cooker is a vessel with a lid that seals airtight, fitted with a regulator valve for the slow and safe release of steam. The method is quite simple: during the cooking process, pressure builds up inside the pot increasing the boiling point of the cooking liquid.

Why is this any good? Because the cooking time shortens – you get the same result as if the food has been braised long and slow, but much quicker and with less energy used.

As I mentioned my pressure cooker isn’t out very often, but there are a few dishes I haven’t made in any other pan since I bought it. And Easter Ham is one of them.

cooked easter ham

BTW, have you ever wondered why we eat ham on Easter when under Jewish dietary laws pork is strictly forbidden? The answer is actually quite profane: it’s in season. Just like fruits and vegetables, meats also have seasons even if this fact is mostly shielded from us by modern storage techniques and efficient food supply chains.

So the tradition of eating pork instead of lamb to celebrate Christ’s resurrection started for practical reasons. Salted, smoked and cured hams of pigs slaughtered in the winter are ready to eat in the spring. And what a reward to think about during a long period of Lent!

easter ham slices

In Hungary, we cook our ham for Easter. Traditionally I mean as I, for one, love to prepare the roasted and glazed variety too. For this dish I buy boneless, cured, smoked and netted shoulder cuts with the skin on. These are smaller pieces around 1,5 kg / 3.3 lbs, but would still feed an army (remember to leave room for all the other holiday delicacies!).

Naturally, you can make this in an average pot, but this way the cooking won’t take up half a day. Just put all ingredients in the pressure cooker, set the stove on high to reach boiling, than reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Steam and pressure will do the rest in less than an hour. Top tip: the remaining broth worth its weight in gold and it’s freezable!

I like to do the cooking the night before. After the meat has cooled slightly in the stock, I transfer it to a tray and carefully remove the netting. After a night’s resting, we eat it thinly sliced on Easter morning with hard-boiled eggs, radishes, spring onions, tangy horseradish sauce and fresh braided challah.

When I am to roast ham, I cook it the same way first. What if this year you stopped at that stage too?

Hungarian Easter Ham

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Cooked, not roasted: the Hungarian Easter classic.

Ingredients

smoked, netted ham around 1,5 kg

2 bay leaves

1 medium onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp whole black or mixed peppercorns

cold water

Directions

  1. Put ham, peeled onions and spices in the pressure cooker, fill up pot with cold water to cover ham.
  2. Close lid. Cook on high until boiling, reduce heat to low.
  3. Counting from reducing the heat, simmer for 40 min.
  4. Switch stove off. Let cool for at least 30 min, open pressure cooker.
  5. Transfer ham to a tray, remove netting.
  6. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve and keep for later use.
  7. Let ham cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

easter ham with egg

easter ham with egg

Do you also eat ham come Easter? How do you do it in your country? What do you eat it with?

Happy Easter!

Love,

Fruzsi

A Nation’s Favorite: Túrógombóc

A Nations Favorite title image

‘No, thanks’- said no Hungarian ever, when offered the dessert I brought to you today.

So what is this thing? It translates to quark dumpling. Yes, it is a dessert made of fresh cheese curd. Some people for some reason find cheese + sweet gross interesting, but excusez-moi… cheesecake? You like THAT, don’t you! Anyway, bear with me on this one.

We have quite an extensive dumpling culture in Hungary which means of course there is no universal recipe: everyone uses a very own ‘the real deal’ method. Basic ingredients include quark cheese, flour and eggs. You boil them in water and toss them in buttery, golden breadcrumbs.

I am a huge fan of it, but I admittedly don’t eat túrógombóc anywhere else but home. The reason? Others’ are simply never to my taste. Too hard, too floury, not sweet enough. I’ll share my go-to, and leave the decision up to you.

The recipe my family is sticking to was acquired a long-long time ago from an old lady living in my grandmother’s Balaton Highlands village and immediately made all the rest look like a bad joke. The only change my mother made was swapping some of the granulated sugar for vanilla sugar (had it not been a luxury then, I am sure the old lady would have used it too).

Never had a túrógombóc anything like this anywhere else and all the friends who try ours (being suspicious at first as they were) are very pleasantly surprised. And now I’ll let you in on the secret and you are absolutely welcome to pass it on! Prepare for a jiggly, dreamy-creamy, soft and sweet on the inside and crispy on the outside treat you won’t want to live without.

Update: You live and you learn! Turns out my beloved family túrógombóc is actually an Austrian topfennockerl. No wonder, as the old lady the recipe is from was Schwab (a german-speaking ethnic group of people).

Topfennockerl - Quark Dumplings

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Light and sweet Austrian dessert made from quark cheese. Makes 10 dumplings.

Ingredients

For the dumplings:

250 g unsalted quark (fresh curd cheese)

15 g vanilla sugar

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 medium egg

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/8 tsp salt

40 g AP flour

40 g semolina

For the breadcrumbs:

75 g breadcrumbs

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp granulated sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients for the dumplings.
  2. While ‘batter’ is resting, make the breadcrumbs: in a pan on medium-high heat brown breadcrumbs on butter. Turn heat off, add sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot, boil water with a pinch of salt.
  4. Using 2 tablespoons, form dumplings from batter and gently put in boiling water. Carefully stir so dumplings don’t stick to bottom.
  5. Dumplings are ready as soon as they emerge to the surface: using a slotted spoon, transfer them to pan and gently toss to cover in breadcrumbs. Serve warm. Enjoy!

 

A Nations Favorite batter

A Nations Favorite breadcrumb collage

A Nations Favorite cooking collage

A Nations Favorite ready with fork

Some tips:

Don’t use low-fat cottage cheese, it will make for ‘dry’ dumplings.

Some recipes call for pressing quark through a sieve and you can totally do that for a smoother result, but I prefer a rustic texture with visible cheese crumbs so I save myself the trouble.

Be careful not to add sugar to browned breadcrumbs too soon, you don’t want it caramelizing.

If you don’t feel comfortable shaping the dumplings with spoons, you can make them with wet hands.

Start with boiling a test-dumpling to see if batter holds. If it falls apart, the batter probably didn’t have enough time to rest or the egg was a bittoo big. Add more semolina (a tsp at a time).

Don’t put more than 4-5 dumplings in the water at a time.

We eat them plain, but feel free to pour sour cream on, sprinkle with cinnamon and/or powdered sugar, add jam, compote, poppy seeds or whatever floats your boat.

Love,

Fruzsi