Monday, December 23, 2013

Hungarian chimney cakes

A childhood favorite of mine, this yeasty dessert called "kurtos kalacs" is usually prepared outdoors over the embers of a dying fire. Dough flavored with lemon and vanilla is rolled onto a buttered wooden cylinder, coated with sugar and cooked until the dough is soft and tender and the outside is coated with crisp caramel. The hot product is then rolled in flavored sugar again and served immediately. One could also buy these cakes from various street vendors, but sometimes they are rolled too thin and become overly crispy, other times they are made ahead and become stale. Making the dessert at home is not as hard as it may seem, and this way one can optimize it to their taste.

250 g flour
0.25 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 egg
120 mL milk
1 tsp yeast
25+ g butter
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the warm milk with the sugar, sprinkle the yeast on top. Bloom the yeast. In a mixer with the dough hook add the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and lemon zest.

Melt the butter and mix with the egg. Pour into the flour mix. Add the yeast and the milk as well. Knead until a smooth, elastic but not sticky dough forms. It should be on the harder end. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, take three beer cans and pierce them with skewers through the center. Coat with aluminum foil or baking paper.

Cut the dough into three portions and roll out into a 3/4-inch-thick circle. With a pizza cutter cut into a spiral. Roll onto the beer cans, leaving minimal space between the dough strips.

Roll the dough-covered beer can until the dough strips press together, sealing. Brush with butter and roll into sugar to coat the entire surface. Place onto a 9x11 inch baking shape, suspending the dough roll in air. Allow to rise for 15 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until outside is light brown, caramelized. Rotate regularly, be careful to ensure sugar does not burn. When ready, immediately roll in sugar again and slide off onto a cookie rack. The sugar for this second step may be flavored with cinnamon.

We also tried a flat version, and it worked out even better than the chimney ones. However, the fun shape is of course lost.


  1. I want one of these. Hm. Maybe I'll make them on the 27th. (I tried making it once flat and it was too dry.)

  2. I think success really depends on how hot your oven's broiler gets. I found that the US ovens can almost imitate a wood-fired oven with their heat output. My recies had to be seriously adjusted in Hungary... Good luck and let me know how it goes!