My husband and I briefly considered going to Budapest for our honeymoon. We ended up in west Wales, in a little cottage, which was beautiful in a beach-in-the-winter kind of way (we were married just before New Year’s) but I’m certain we would have eaten better in Budapest. Not that there’s anything wrong with Welsh cuisine; we just didn’t get to experience much of it, since many of the local restaurants were closed for the winter. But in Budapest, we could have cuddled in cozy cafes, sipping coffee, eating cakes, reading, and playing backgammon.
My impression that life in Budapest would involve lots of cafe-visiting probably comes from the Rick Rodgers cookbook Kaffeehaus, a book that I haven’t baked much from but periodically take down from the shelf and peruse, dreaming of the cafe culture it chronicles. My only other experience with Hungarian baking was with a recipe from Kaffeehaus–the Dobos Torte. My friend Matt had lived in Budapest and remembered this torte fondly, and somehow I got the idea to make it for his birthday. This was years ago, when I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know anything about baking, and would do things like tackle a Dobos Torte (in someone else’s kitchen, no less) without a second thought. There I was, tracing circles onto parchment paper, making caramel, and skinning hazelnuts. It’s a testament to Rick Rodgers’ recipe and instructions that the torte turned out well. I can still remember the eggy, chocolatey tastiness. I will certainly make it again someday. I hope that someday I get to try to try a slice in its original setting.
Hungarian Shortbread is a keeper, too. I was excited about this weeks’ Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, hosted by Lynette and Cher, because of the rhubarb, and it didn’t disappoint. I was a little daunted by the amount of butter (an entire pound in a 9 X 13 inch pan! Four sticks!) but forged ahead. I considered halving the recipe but didn’t, which turned out well in the end since I have plenty in the freezer to include in care packages for two friends who just had babies (both girls! Welcome to the world Maeve and Maggie!).
I found the recipe straightforward. Basically you make a shortbread dough (I did this in my stand mixer), which is then frozen. The frozen dough is grated (I used my food processor) into the pan, with a layer of rhubarb preserves between two layers of shortbread. When I make this again I will make the preserve layer thicker, since I found mine a bit skimpy. I’d also probably use a different kind of preserves, perhaps sour cherry, to give more color contrast. The result is a buttery, crumbly treat. Definitely another reason to visit Budapest and seek out one of those cafes.