Hungarian Desserts - Palacsinták, Meleg Tészták, Rétesek and Torták, The Four Capstones

Palacsintak Gundel Modra (Pancakes a la Gundel)
Palacsintak Gundel Modra (Pancakes a la Gundel)
Hungarian Desserts
Hungarian Desserts
Meleg Tesztak (Warm Noodles and Dumplings) Shown here are plum filled dumplings)
Meleg Tesztak (Warm Noodles and Dumplings) Shown here are plum filled dumplings)
Retesek (Strudel)
Retesek (Strudel)
Tortak  (Cakes)  (Dobos Torte shown here)
Tortak (Cakes) (Dobos Torte shown here)

Hungarian Desserts

4 stars from 1 rating of The Four Capstones

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Palacsinták, Meleg Tészták, Rétesek and Torták – The Four Capstones of Hungarian Cooking

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Webster’s Dictionary defines a capstone as "a high point or crowning achievement". Influenced by France (crepes), Austria (torte) and the Turks (phyllo pastry/strudel), the desserts of Hungary are indeed its crowning achievement. It should be noted, however, that the warm noodle dishes (Meleg Teszták) are uniquely Hungarian and usually show up at the end of the meal but could also be served during the meal.

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I have therefore selected Crepes, Hot Noodle Dishes, Strudel and Cakes/Torte as the "four capstones" of Hungarian cooking and each of them are discussed below.

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1. Palacsinták (Crêpes)

The name for one crêpe is a palacsinta and for more than one crépe it is palacsinták. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the plural of a Hungarian noun is formed by adding a harmonizing vowel and a k to the end of the word.

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Known as palatschinken in Austria.and palacinky in Csechoslovakia, their precise origin is unknown, but the pancake itself is very similar to a French crêpe. However, that is where the similarity ends. In Hungary, palacsinták can de served as either a dessert (topped with chocolate-rum sauce, walnuts, raisins, etc.) or as an appetizer or light lunch (stuffed with meat and sour cream). The meat filled versions will be covered in a future hub on Hungarian appetizers.

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Perhaps the best known of the Hungarian dessert palacsinták is Palacsinta Gundel módra (crêpes a la Károly Gundel). These crepes are filled with a walnut, raisin and rum mixture and covered with a chocolate-rum sauce. Today they are frequently flambed but that was not always the case.

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2. Meleg Tészták (Hot Noodle Desserts)

This term does not translate well into English, It includes noodle/dumpling dishes, which are usually sweet but are always served hot. They are normally served at the end of a meal, but Károly Gundel insisted that they should be served just before the roast course in his restaurant. Examples of these dishes are:

Silvás Gombóc - (plum filled dumplings that are rolled in buttered, toasted breadcrumbs or ground walnuts)

Rakott Metélt - ( noodles layered with walnuts and apricot jam and then baked in an oven)

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3. Rétesek (Strudels)

In the sixteenth century, the Turks invaded Hungary and brought their phyllo pastry with them. The Hungarians then improved upon it and made it even thinner so that an 11 x14 inch sheet of it can literally be blown away by a puff of air. Making strudel in Hungary is a village specialty and even luxury restaurants often hire country girls to make their strudel. If you choose to make your own strudel, I would suggest that you start with Greek Phyllo pastry, which is available in many super markets.

The most common strudels in Hungary are filled with apples, cottage cheese, poppyseeds, ground walnuts or a mixture of ground almonds and raspberry jam.

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4. Torták (Tortes)

After the Turkish Army was defeated in1686, the Hapsburgs took over and gradually Germanized all walks of life in Hungary. Restaurants and pastry shops soon opened up. Then, after Emperor Franz Joseph I established the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy in 1867, luxurious hotels began to appear in Budapest. Soon János Gundel, the father of Károly Gundel opened his famous restaurant and Gerbeauds patisserie was the Taj Mahal of pastry shops.

It was during this era that the famous Hungarian Torták were born. The following is just a partial listing of the more famous ones:

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1. Dobos Torte – six layers of cake, separated by chocolate-espresso filling.

2. Beatrix Torte - two layers of a baked, beaten egg white - granulated sugar and almond mixture, covered with a rum-chocolate frosting and sprinkled with crushed almond caramel.

3. Stefania Torte - three layers of a 7-egg cake cake, separated by chocolate-cream filling and sprinkled with a cocoa-powder / sugar mixture.

4. Chocolate Poppyseed Torte â la Kugler – Created by the famed Hungarian pastry chef, Henrik Kuglar, the addition of poppyseeds to the batter was innovative. The two layers are then filled with currant jam and covered with a rich chocolate glaze.

5. Rigó Janci – named after the famed Gypsy violinist, Rigo Janci, who seduced the wife of a Belgium prince. It consists of two layers of sponge cake, separated by a thick layer of chocolate cream and a thin layer of apricot jam and covered with a chocolate glaze.

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In future hubs, I intend to present more detailed recipes for many of the desserts listed in this article as well as for a few that aren’t listed here.

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Dobos Torte

Gundel Restaurant
Gundel Restaurant
Cafe Gerbeaud
Cafe Gerbeaud

George Lang’s Cuisine of Hungary

If you only plan to buy one cookbook this year and if you enjoyed my recipes on Hungarian food,I highly recommend this cookbook. Owner of Café des Artistes in New York and the magnificent Gundel restaurant in Budapest, George Lang not only provides authentic recipes from the various regions of Hungary, he also provides historical information and anecdotes on their origin.

This is one of my very favorite cookbooks of all time.

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Comments 6 comments

Indigital 5 years ago

Wow that's made me so hungry. Great Hub, Voted up!


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 5 years ago Author

Thanks. It made me hungry just writing it. I plan to publish recipes later once I can verify them


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 5 years ago from Ontario/Canada

You don't mind if I link your hub to my Hungarian Plum Dumpling one do you? Let me know. I think I'm off to make a batch of palacsinta... I just happen to have all the ingredients for it.

great hub

regards Zsuzsy


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 5 years ago Author

No, I don't mind. It is my intention to familiarize my readers with Hungarian cooking. It is truly one of the great cuisines of the world and hardly anyone knows about it.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, these sound delicious, I love trying all sorts of different foods, so this is bookmarked, thanks!


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 5 years ago Author

Because of the influence of the French, the Germans and the Turks, the desserts of Hungary are both delicious and varied. From noodles to strudels, you can find almost any type of dessert that you could ask for. I plan to publish some of the recipes once I can verify them.

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