Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hungarian Danishes

First off, I want to say that I am completely aware of how silly the name of this treat sounds. I realize that if it's a Danish, it should be from Denmark, not Hungary. By way of explanation, this is a baked good that I've only had in Russia and at home here. More specifically, I've only seen it made by my mom, though the Russian Internet proves that the treat and its name, 'венгерские ватрушки', are not isolated to her. And in Russian, the word for 'Danish' has no associations with Denmark, so if we are translating literally, we arrive at the slightly nonsensical 'Hungarian Danishes'. I've even run this dilemma by my stepfather, who is much better at translating between the two languages than I am, and he confirmed that this is, indeed, the correct translation - especially since cheese is part of the recipe.

Translation semantics aside, I am glad that I am finally posting this here - both because it means we got to enjoy this treat for Christmas (and for a few days afterwards), and because now the recipe will be "in the cloud", and not just handwritten on a piece of paper I am bound to lose at some point. I took advantage of my mom's visit here to have her help me make two of my childhood favorite baked goods: these 'Danishes' and my favorite lemon pie. Not that either is particularly difficult, but both require the rolling out of dough, which I am not nearly as good at as my mom (especially with our tiled counters). However, this rolling-out effort is definitely worth it, as these are an extremely tasty accompaniment to tea, milk, or pretty much any beverage (they are quite sweet). I am pretty sure this was Mihai's first time having these (as I write this, I am feeling very guilty for my baking negligence all these years), and he thoroughly approved.

Hungarian Danishes

For the dough:
2 cups flour (300g)
1¾ sticks cold unsalted butter (200g)
200g farmer's cheese (or very fine, drained cottage cheese)
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

For the filling:
2 egg whites
¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1. Grate the cold butter into the flour, mixing the grated bits of butter with the flour along the way.

2. Combine the farmer's cheese with the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Mix well.

3. Mix the flour and cheese mixture together quickly, separate in two equal portions, and form 2 cylinders of dough. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

4. When the dough is thoroughly chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with a mixer. Gradually add the sugar and cinnamon. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

5. Roll out one of the dough cylinders into a rectangle (~12 x 5 inches). Spread half of the egg white mixture on the rectangle (leave a 1-inch border around one of the long edges), and roll the dough into a log length-wise (you'll want the 1-inch border on the "outside" edge, so as to not push out the egg white mixture outside the roll). Cut the rolled log into ~2 inch slices, stand them up vertically on a (buttered or lined with parchment paper) cookie sheet, and bake for ~30 minutes.

6. If you have a convection oven, you can repeat step #5 with the other dough cylinder and remaining half of the egg whites immediately and place the two cookie sheets in the oven together (one above the other). However, with a regular oven, it's probably best to place the remaining dough and egg white mixture into the fridge while the first batch is baking, and repeat step #5 only when you've taken out the first batch and can place the second batch into the oven. (In that case, I suggest re-beating the egg whites a bit before you spread them out on the second dough half.)


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