Monday, January 23, 2012

Potato Lángos (Hungarian fried bread)

Hungarian Lángos bread isn't the most photogenic thing to eat.  However, what it lacks in good looks is made up by it's flavor. Oh, that flavor!   Lángos is the Hungarian name of a flat cake that is deep-fried.   In Hungary, Lángos stalls can be found wherever there are people-- like weekly markets and fairs. Think of it as a savory version of our funnel cakes.  

In my last post, I shared my story about my trip to Hungary and my love affair with this bread.  It has been at least 25 years since I've had one.  I was given a copy of Culinaria Hungary  from a friend, and I was so happy to see a recipe for this long-lost bread recipe!

I scratched my head, a bit, because the recipe listed fresh compressed cake yeast.  Um, I don't use that.  I much prefer to work with instant yeast, or active dry yeast.   While researching other versions of  lángos recipes, I noticed that there are versions that use water, instead of milk. Some recipes didn't  use potatoes.  Ultimately, I decided to trust the recipe in the cookbook that I had. So, I cooked one potato and used my food mill to rice it.

The beauty of instant yeast is that I don't need to proof it with sugar.  Instead, I measured all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of my stand mixer...
The potatoes were HOT, and I added milk to it and gave it a stir, which cooled the mixture down really fast.

NOTE: If using active dry yeast, I'd suggest heating the milk to lukewarm, measuring out about 1/2 up of the milk with the sugar and adding 3 1/2 teaspoons of the yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.   Once the potatoes are riced, let them cool, as active dry yeast doesn't like super hot heat.

Then, I added the potato-milk mixture and combine it. Last, I added some oil...

...then, realized I forgot to add some salt.  I let the dough knead for about five minutes.  The dough seemed a little soft and I wasn't sure if that was right.  One has to experiment, at times, right?

I set the dough in a lightly oiled bucket and checked the dough about 1-1/2 hours later...

Here we go.

The dough was so soft and sticky, that I had to add a handful of flour at a time and gently kneaded it in.  See, the original recipe called for 1 2/3 cups milk and 3 1/2 cups flour.  In the recipe card I'll post, I suggest decreasing the milk by 2/3 a cup--or you'll need at least another cup of flour!  At last, the dough stopped clinging to my hands.

I cut the dough into 8 pieces.  I found that if I lightly floured my hands, and patted the dough to be a little flat-- then grabbed the dough with my fingers and stretched it (sort of like pizza dough),  I had the shape similar to what I'd seen in Hungarian restaurants.

I heated about 3" of vegetable oil until hot.  Now the recipe doesn't say to what temperature, but 300F was too hot and the first piece got pretty dark brown.  So, I turned the temperature down to about 250F. 

I carefully placed the lángos dough into the oil, and it turned golden brown in just a little over a minute. I turned it over, and it took no more than 3 minutes to be golden brown.

I let the oil drain off, well, before placing the Lángos on paper towels.

As soon as the lángos was set on paper towels, I added a little kosher salt and generously rubbed a clove of fresh garlic all over it.

I couldn't wait to see if my first attempt at making this worked!

Even Craig got in on the garlic-rubbing action.

TASTING NOTES:  While I didn't make the prettiest lángos, I'll have a few more chances to improve on that. I say that, because these were the BOMB, and I'm definitely going to make them again!  I was so happy with how the bread had a very light and tender texture, and they were thoroughly cooked (thank goodness).  They weren't greasy, either. Craig loved the bread, as well, especially the rubbed garlic.  I've read that some folks love  lángos with sour cream and grated cheese, and that does sound good.  However, I wanted to recreate that moment when I first had  lángos with Gulyas Soup at that restaurant in San Francisco.   If I do say so, myself, I did it!  I cannot wait to make these for my brother, who literally ate himself sick on them when I first introduced these savory treats to him.  I'll just dole them out carefully to him, so he can enjoy them. Trust me, two are plenty.

Oh, the next day, I removed the leftover refrigerated dough (I only made four of them the first night).  I formed four more lángos, and they turned out great.  These really are best fresh and hot, but if you reheat them in a toaster oven it's second best. 

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.  I hope you try them. They are a special treat!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hungarian Gulyas Soup-- My Way

When I was young (and dangerous), I met a handsome Hungarian man.  In the mid-1970's, we took a trip to Europe.  He spoke five languages, including my mother's native tongue (German).  We visited his family in beautiful Budapest, and I experienced some of the wonderful (and familiar) flavors of Hungary.  This was long before digital cameras were even invented, so I don't have any photos to remember the trip by. It's a shame, because I got to visit parts of Romania (including "Count Dracula's Castle") at a time when the Iron Curtain was still in force.  In other words, as a 19 year old girl, I got to experience first hand what it's like to live in a Communist Country.  I returned home with a deeper appreciation for my American Citizenship, and I will never forget that.

BUDAPEST AT NIGHT, Budapest, Hungary
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: FOOTLOOSE IN BUDAPEST

Once we returned to America, Mr. Hungarian took me to a restaurant in San Francisco, called "Paprikas Fono".  It was located at Ghirardelli Square, and we loved two of their dishes so much that I continued to make pilgrimages to the restaurant--even after the relationship ended. Because my mother was born and raised in Bavaria--and her hometown is just a stone's throw from Salzburg, Austria--  I could detect similarities with a commonly used spice... paprika.  One of the two dishes was a rich and flavorful "Gulyas Soup", that was served with lángos bread, with fresh cloves of garlic rubbed all over it.  Divine. (My brother, clearly,  remembers coming with me, to find out what I raved so much about.  He ate so much lángos, that he was doubled over with a gluttonous bellyache.) 

The restaurant closed, years ago, I'm sad to say. A few months ago, a friend gave me a cookbook on Hungarian recipes.  I forgot about it, until last week.   Decades later, I found myself longing for that Gulyas soup from a past life.  I decided to make my own version, since it was so similar to one of my most viewed recipes, "Austrian Goulash".  Instead of researching recipes, I decided to adapt my familiar recipe into a soup. So, I grabbed my camera and started to get creative.  My favorite cut of beef for stews and soups is "Chuck Eye Roast".  It's economical and tender.  I seared two pounds of it, cut-up, in a few batches.

I began with two thinly sliced onion, one red and one green bell pepper.

 Three small Yukon Gold potatoes, cut-up, and I needed paprika (of course).

I can find Hungarian paprika at my local grocery store. I buy two varieties-- sweet and hot.

Once the meat had been browned, and removed I had lots of flavor in my Dutch oven. Adding a bit more olive oil, I cooked the bell peppers until slightly tender and set those aside.  Then, I added the onion and cooked them until tender-- about 4 minutes.

I added a couple cloves of garlic, 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 1/2 Tablespoons sweet paprika and about 2 teaspoons of hot paprika. NOTE: The reason that the tomato paste is "steaming" is that it's frozen.  I do that with any leftover tomato paste, once I open a can. Clever, eh?

Now, I add the browned beef back and all of the juices and toss everything around...

... then I added a quart of Beef Broth.  I suppose you could use beef bouillon cubes and water, but that's not my favorite way of making soup.   I added the bell peppers back to the soup and a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.

One tablespoon of caraway seeds, two bay leaves, and then the potatoes. I brought the soup to a simmer.

I decided to cut some fresh thyme, from our herb garden, tied it and tossed it in-- for more flavor. The soup simmered on low for a couple of hours, allowing for all the flavors to build.

I realized, a bit late, that I should have added a couple tablespoons of flour   to the onion, as I cooked them. That would have thickened the soup to my liking.  I'm not a fan of thin soup.  My quick fix is to take a couple tablespoons of flour (sometimes potato starch), add some water, while whisking away to prevent lumps.

I carefully add it to the simmering soup, while stirring. It thickens right up!

There it is.  An American Girl, who-once- knew-a-true-Hungarian's version of Gulyas Soup.  I say this, because when I later researched recipes, I found that people can get rather "testy" if you don't make it the way that their grandmother once did.  I believe I captured the flavor, as I remembered it, well.  Now, it was time for my son and husband to taste it:

TASTING NOTES:  This is a rich beef soup, with a lovely balance of tomato and sweet paprika. The hot paprika comes through, in a subtle way, because I didn't add a lot of it.  If you don't like bell peppers (which my son didn't, and he picked them out) then leave them out.  My husband likes them, and liked the soup very much.  The beef is so tender. I wish I had cut the potatoes a little larger, but that's just a personal preference.  

I served this with my first attempt at lángos bread.  It's a fried bread, rubbed with fresh garlic while hot.  I will share how I made it, on my next post.  It was quite an experiment for me to create, and I was happy with the results.  I can see why my brother ate himself sick the first time he ate them.  They are that good, especially if you're a garlic lover.  I'm happy to say, I wasn't as gluttonous, tempted as I was.  For a brief moment, I was back at that restaurant in Ghirardelli Square--  but I was sharing the moment with the man I'm lucky to call "My husband".

A printable recipe card is at the bottom of this post. 

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apple Brown Butter Tart

I'm just going to come out and say this-- I loved this tart. I didn't plan to, but it just happened.  I've written, several times, on this blog that I'm not the biggest fan of pie crust.  My favorite pie is pumpkin pie.  Apple pie doesn't really rock my world.

But, Anne Burrell changed my opinion.  I am quite sure it was the same Food Network show that inspired me to make Cornish Game Hen with Pomegranate Molasses, that also featured this recipe.  I was inspired to make this recipe because I liked the idea of making a brown butter filling, with layers of apples that are sauteed in butter, a little sugar and brandy!  While I'm not a huge fan of pie crust, there's something about a tart that I much prefer-- especially a tart with an all-butter crust. I made the dough a few days ahead of time.  Yes, you can use store-bought, but I can promise you that it won't taste anyway near as good as this recipe. I wouldn't lie about this.

I used a 9" tart pan and rolled it out pretty thin, because I needed to have a lot of overhang. You'll see why, in a moment.  Brown butter takes on a lovely nutty flavor.  My suggestion is to use a pot that isn't dark, so you can better see when the butter goes from yellow... golden.  It takes about 7 minutes to get to that stage, and you have to take the butter off heat pretty quickly-- otherwise, the butter can burn and then you have to start all over. This is the trickiest part of the whole recipe. The rest is easier.  Next, you pour the brown butter into the bowl of a stand mixer (or, you can use a hand-mixer).  Add all-purpose flour, eggs and vanilla bean.  In my case, I use vanilla bean paste.

Pour the filling into the tart pan.   I found it interesting that the original recipe says to use 2/3 of the filling, and to save the rest for another tart.  I used almost all of it, with maybe 1/2 cup leftover.

I used five apples, instead of six.  I used a combination of Jonagolds and Granny Smith.  If you have an apple, corer, slicer then it's fast and easy to do. You want the apple slices to be fairly thin.  In a skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoon sugar.

Cook the apples until just tender.  I'm adding one of my favorite products (purchased at King Arthur Flour) of boiled apple cider).   I don't drink brandy, but I buy those small "airline size" bottles of liquor for times when I need it.  You can learn out the brandy, of course.  I poured 1/4 cup, tilted the skillet and lit it up!   I didn't photograph the flames, but they were there.  If you're too scared to do that, the alcohol will burn out on it's own.  Last, I added some golden raisins, gave everything a toss...

Using a slotted spoon (there was liquid in the skillet, and I didn't want to dilute the filling underneath), I spread all of the apple filling.  Then, I gently folded over the overhang of the pastry.  I brushed the dough with an egg wash and then sprinkled some sanding sugar. Set it on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.


My only disappointment was that the tart got stuck in the pan.  I prepped the pan well, but I didn't get the pretty ridges that most tart pans product.  Small details, though.

After 30 minutes of waiting for the tart to cool, I realized I was starting to lose natural lighting.  I can't think of a better excuse for digging in.

TASTING NOTES:  First, the pastry crust-- buttery, tender, flaky.  I'm a very happy baker. The filling-- I can taste the subtle kick of the brandy (whoopee).  The apples aren't super sweet, and the filling is very subtle.  I taste butter, apple, sweet, slightly tart and just genuine deliciousness.   My son exclaimed this to be a five star dessert.  I had plans to make fresh whipped cream, but I changed my mind. I don't think this tart needed anything else to make it better.

C'mon, do you see the layers of pastry?  The filling at the bottom?  Would you believe the whole tart was gone by the next day, after breakfast?  Yeah, it's that good.  I love the brown butter filling, and I have ideas of using pears and maybe adding a little almond extract to the filling. Yeah? Yeah.

Anne Burrell is my gal.  So is Ina and Tyler.  But, I'm definitely on an Anne Kick these days. I have her debut cookbook, and am loving it. I can't wait to find more time to dive into those recipes.  A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.


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Monday, January 16, 2012

Yukon Gold Potatoes Au Gratin

If you read my previous recipe post for the Duck Breast with Citrus Port Cherry Sauce, I mentioned that I served Yukon Gold Potatoes Gratin with it.   It's been a while since I've made this, and I don't follow a recipe.  I've been making this side dish for years, so I don't measure.   My family loved this side dish.

I'm going to try my best to share with you how to make this.  It's that good.  There are almost many recipes for Au Gratin Potatoes as there are recipes for Lemon Bars (which is why I've never posted mine).  However, I do something a little different-- I use part chicken stock and part heavy cream.  While I don't think it cuts a significant amount of fat grams, it works for me.   I've made this with Russet potatoes, but I have to say that Yukon Gold potatoes are my personal favorite. The potatoes need to be very thin, so I like to use a mandoline.  I soak the potatoes in water, while I do the rest of my prep work-- like grating the cheese.

The oven is preheating to 350F, while I butter an oven-proof dish.  You can use different cheeses, such as Fontina.  But, Gruyere is our favorite.

 Add one layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping them.  Sprinkle some Parmesan Cheese...

...add some kosher salt & pepper.

...add some Gruyere cheese.

This is where I add low-sodium chicken stock (otherwise, watch how much salt you add, as the Parmesan is a little on the salty side.)  I don't measure, but if you need to know how much... about 1/4 cup.

I got about four layers of potatoes, Parmesan and Gruyere Cheese.  For good measure, I added a few dots of unsalted butter. Last, I added about 1/2 cup of heavy cream and pour it all over.  

Place this dish on a baking sheet, and bake for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Remove when the potatoes are golden and bubbly, and allow to sit for at least five minutes.

TASTING NOTES:  The picture, above, is the only shot I got of the finished potatoes.  I can assure you that they are addicting, and they look so impressive.  For dinner parties, I used to make these in individual ramekins.  I've made variations where I've added paprika for some extra color. You can get fancier and add diced ham.  I've even made the potatoes without the heavy cream, and just chicken stock and lots of Parmesan Cheese.  However, the heavy cream and Gruyere is the perfect combination of richness and flavor.  There were no leftovers, and I wasn't the one who went back for seconds. My skinny men are the ones who did.   I didn't stand a chance.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help


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