I’m hosting this month’s Bread Baking Babes, which means I get to pick what bread we bake. I chose Kürtőskalács or Chimney Cakes. These are hollow Hungarian Chimney Cakes or Funnel Cakes. I have wanted to make them for a while now, and this seemed a good opportunity to do so.
Kürtőskalács or Chimney Cakes are really a sort of Hungarian spit cake. They’re famous as Hungary’s oldest pastry. Kürtős refers a stovepipe/ chimney referring to the shape of the pastry. Kalács means sweet pastry. These Chimney Cakes are more specific to Transylvania in Hungary and Szeklerland, the Hungarian-speaking region of Romania. They’re known as Cozonac Secuiesc in Romania. Kürtőskalács can be found in other parts of Eorope. German-Saxons call them Schornstein Kuchen and Polish call them Kurtoszkalacz. The Czech Republic and Slovakia make a variation without the caramelized sugar glaze called Trdelník.
Kürtőskalács or Chimney Cakes are made from a slightly sweet enriched elastic yeasted dough which is cut into strips. Each strip is wrapped around a wooden dowel, brushed over with melted butter and rolled in granulated sugar. The dough encased dowels are turned and slow roasted over charcoal until they turn crisp and shiny golden brown. These can be further sprinkled with cinnamon, finely chopped nuts, chocolate, sprinkles, or a variety of toppings. This video to see how Kürtőskalács are made traditionally.
Traditionally, it is eaten just as it is. The hollow middle of the pastry can also be filled with whipped cream, but this is too rich for me. This pastry is unravelled into strips and eaten. It is crunchy on the outside and soft and bread/ cake-like on the inside. Kürtőskalács were originally made for special holidays and celebrations but today, are an everyday treat. You can find them in shops, on street corners, at carnivals and fairs.
The Hungarian Chimney Cake’s origins go back to medieval times. A manuscript from Heidelberg of the 1450s mentions something similar to it. The first known recipe was from a 1784 cookbook written by Transylvanian Countess Mária Mikes de Zabola. The pastry was called Kürtős kaláts’ à la Mrs Poráni! This recipe does not mentioning sweetening the dough. However, folklore says they were around much before that.
The scholar writer Balázs Orbán in 1868, wrote that Kürtőskalács were first made during the Mongol invasion of Szeklerland in 1241! According to that story, the Mongols drove the natives into caves in the surrounding hillside. The Mongols couldn’t enter the caves so they laid siege and tried to starve the Seklers out. Eventually both sides started running out of food. The Sekler women in the caves mixed what little flour they had with water and ash from the fireplace. They rolled the dough on a long wooden pole and baked it. The bread looked large but was hollow inside. This made it seem like they had more food. They showed this to the Mongols. The Mongols were fooled and apparently left as they had no food left but thought the Seklers did. This story, though not very believable, makes for interesting story telling.
The dough is easy enough to make. The shaping takes a little practice but after the first couple it’s easy to do. The rising time for the dough depends on your ambient temperature. It is quite warm here and my dough was ready to shape after a little over an hour.
The shape of your Chimney Cakes will depend on the mould you use to make them. Traditionally, the Hungarians use special wooden dowels. The challenge is finding something to use if you don’t have anything like those moulds.
– If you have multiple wooden rolling pins, you could oil/ grease them and use them. After wrapping the dough around it, you can rest the handles on the short edges a loaf tin. This will help you turn them as they bake for uniform cooking and browning. See this video.
– You can make your own moulds from paper and aluminium foil like this.
– You can use empty slim soft drink cans (13cm tall x 5cm diameter). Cover them with foil and oil/ grease them before wrapping dough.
– I used metal Kulfi (a traditional Indian ice-cream) moulds. They taper from one end to another. Mine are 3.5 inches high and 2 inches in diameter at one end and 1 inch at the other.
The Bread Baking Babes are –