The ’Kürtősh Kalách’ (Chimney Cake) is a sweet tubular treat with three main versions. Recipes are miscellaneous, like a folk song’s variations of the same theme.
The way of preparing the traditional, homemade Kürtősh Kalách became standardized at the beginning of the 20th century. Ingredients are firmly specified and it is usually baked above cinders. Inherent ingredients are exclusively: saccharose, wheat flour, butter, milk, eggs, yeast and salt. Ulterior topping is restricted to ground or chopped walnut, almond, cinnamon powder or vanilla sugar made using natural vanilla powder.
The fair or carnival variant, which is sold by street vendors, was formed in the last third of 20th century. The recipe of this version is more flexible so that it can be manufactured in smaller, mobile places, rendering it much cheaper. Butter can be replaced by vegetable oil, fat, margarine (min 65% fat) , and milk can be replaced by fat milk powder of adequate quantity (min. 30 g) and water. Eggs produced on farms can be replaced by egg powder or liquid eggs, but this ingredient can also be left out. In exchange grated lemon zest, natural citrus essence or citrus juice, rum or vanilla sugar can be added to dough. Ulterior topping can be anything that bears the flavor and aroma of confectionery products. However, cakes with coating containing salt, meat or cheese do not rank in the Kürtősh Kalách category.
Alternative variant appeared at beginning of 21st century. Its recipe can be even more flexible. Dough can be made of non – wheat flour. Inner, tubular part can be also provided ulterior coating, and it can abound in other natural ingredients (e.g. pieces of fruit) specific to confectionery usage. Alternative Kürtősh Kalách can be prepared gluten free as well. Cake that lacks in ingredients of animal origin (milk, butter, eggs) can be labeled as ‘Vegan’ or ‘Lent’.
Kürtősfánk (Kürtős Donut) should also be mentioned as a similar shaped but smaller pastry baked in oil or fat and topped with sugar after baking or eventually stuffed with whipped cream. Kürtősfánk cannot be officially considered Kürtősh Kalách.
Ingredients for 4-5 pieces of homemade Kürtősh Kalách (35 cm long, with a larger inner diameter of 8 cm, or a smaller inner diameter of 7 cm):
* 1 kg good quality, wheat flour (it's recommended to use cake flour)
* 20 -100 g (1- 5 hunched tablespoon) icing sugar
* 1.5 -5g (quarter teaspoon) salt
* 10 - 30 g (1- 2 tablespoon) yeast
* 2 - 4 eggs (min.50g hen egg), and optionally some (max. four) extra yolks
* 2 - 5 dl milk (milk quantity is reverse proportional with egg number)
* 200 – 300g (a pack) butter, (min. 65% fat), about100 g in dough, the rest will be melted for moistening cake with a brush while baking.
* 500-600 g granulated sugar should be at hand although only a quarter of quantity will be used after preparing dough and before baking.
Efficient baking requires ab. 2.5 kg charcoal or 5 kg wood to make good cinders.
For rotating the dough you want to use simultaneously two 30 – 35 - cm long wooden or iron conical spits to wrap the dough around.
How to prepare the dough
The Kürtősh Kalách is made of a relatively hard yeast-dough (harder and dryer than the dough used for making donuts).
Crumble yeast in a small cup (about 1 dl) of lukewarm milk. After about five minutes measure flour in big mixing bowl, make a hole in the middle for the milk with yeast. Combine eggs, sugar, salt, the optional extra yolk and melted butter if needed. Add the rest of the milk evenly while kneading. The dough should be kneaded at least for ten minutes.
Do not add too much milk, because dough can easily become soft and weak, which makes baking extremely difficult or even impossible (dough might tear off and fall onto cinders). The dough will also be unusable if it remains too dry and fragile. Mix dough properly before you add more milk!
Cover dough with a cotton dishtowel until it rises two - two and a half to three times the size (ab.1/2 hour – 1 hour.) Do not let dough rise too much – it might ruin taste and compactness. Start baking risen dough within max.1/2 hour. Otherwise the dough will over-rise. Use two spits to bake simultaneously and to avoid this problem.
Take a piece of dough of about 40dkg. Remove it to a smooth, dry lightly floured board, stretch it to little finger thick sheet with rolling pin, then cut it into a curlicue with dough strip with a width of about 2 cm, and a length of around 3 m. Spin strip till you get an about 1.5 cm thick ‘twine’. A more work consuming method is to prepare the strip without rolling. Baking is faster, though less elegant if you do not make the dough into ‘twine’.
Flatten bigger bubbles in dough. If you have to patch pieces of dough, patch them thoroughly together at ends, otherwise the spun dough might tear while baking.
Heat and brush baking spit with melted butter. Start to wind dough, wrap it around for length of spit. Tuck ends under first and last wind. Make even space between winds (equal to spun strip width, -i.e. a thumb).
Now a delicate step follows: flattening the surface and wrapping it with sugar. This can be performed in two ways:
-Spread granulated sugar evenly on smooth and dry surface. This surface has to be longer than the spit, and min. 30 cm wide. Roll the spit with strip in sugar, press it gently and evenly, until wind edges meet (the gaps between them disappear) and the dough is evenly thick and has a sugar crust. Take care of dough thickness all over the snake-like strip!
-Flatten the surface of raw Kürtőskalács already wound on spit while rolling it on slightly floured board. Brush surface of raw dough with melted butter and then sprinkle granulated sugar on it. Note that brushing the surface of the Kürtőskalács with melted butter can also be applied before we roll the cake in sugar.
How to bake
Rearrange the charcoal around baking stand to provide steady temperature. Place spit wrapped by strip on baking stand with lower part couple of cm above coals. Start rotating it: about a full turn every other second. For the sake of baking acceleration (the reason might be uneven baking at some lengthwise stripes) keep required parts close to charcoal cinders for a little longer time.
Melt 250 g butter in a small metal mug, combine a little granulated sugar, wait until water evaporates and place a 3-4 cm wide, smooth kitchen brush into it. When cake starts to get caramel crust (brownish –red color) dip brush into melted butter and sprinkle on upper part of dough (opposite to part directed towards cinders).
Do not brush too hard, because you might damage cake or remove sugar from surface. You may wear gloves to protect your hand from the heat. Cover with butter the entire surface of cake. Avoid putting so much that it starts dripping onto the coal. The smoke of burned butter will add bad, bitter taste to cake.
Continue baking with rotating cake and spread some butter especially on those spots, which get brownish. If one end of cake is harder to bake, place edges of rotating spit to different heights, or rearrange the charcoal. Cake is ready when surface has a nice, even, brownish – red color.
Even rotation is one of the most important premises for baking Kürtősh Kalách.
When baking is finished hold spit vertically above a wooden or metal plate with thinner end pointing down. Release cake by gently knocking spit on plate. Serve warm in a couple of minutes after baking.
How to make ulterior topping
Kürtősh Kalách can be further enriched if the hot, ready made cake is rolled in topping e.g. ground or chopped walnut or almond, cinnamon sugar or vanilla icing sugar. Coconut and cocoa topping go beyond the traditional procedure of “Kürtősh Kalách” making.
How to transport
Do not cover or wrap freshly prepared cake 3 -5 minutes, until steam leaks out. You want to transport it wrapped in cellophane foil (natural, heat-resistant material). Do not try to wrap in any other plastic or aluminum foil or paper because these materials cannot be removed properly from the sticky surface of the cake.
Dough is too weak, tears off and falls from rotating spit.
This may have several reasons:
- If dough has a wet touch, you probably combined too much milk. Add some more flour, and knead it thoroughly into dough until it becomes hard.
- There might have been too much time between preparing dough and the start of baking, so dough has over-risen. Remove dough from spit, knead it once more and prepare strip again. Next time try to operate quicker the risen dough.
- It can also be harmful to dough if the water content of butter is too big. Leave pot of melted butter by the cinders some more time.
- If dough has a dry touch but is still weak, the kneading could have been less than necessary, or you might have added too much butter, or flour is of poor quality (lacks in gluten). Assume you added butter excessively, at first step try to make a larger amount of dough adding all ingredients but butter. If this does not help, the problem is flour. In this case, there is nothing you can do to improve dough. However, you might want to try a rather inelegant, but efficient solution. Take a string made of natural material, - and which has been previously washed, wrap it around the cake and restart baking process. You can also use a wire made of iron or silver (that has no other metal content whatsoever!)
Dough would not lift
Try to place cake someplace with 37°C for 1/2 hour to help give it a lift. If this does not work, yeast must have been wasted. Take some fresh yeast, dissolve it in a little milk, knead it into dough, and wait for another 1/2 hour. You should by no means use baking soda (baking powder) as a remedy to this problem.
Surface of cake is not evenly brown on all sides
This trouble can materialize in two ways:
1. Dough remains unbaked on winds parallel to cake axis. The reason might be uneven rotating of spit. This is easy to make up: while rotating hold unbaked parts pointed to cinders for a little longer time.
2. Dough remains unbaked on winds perpendicular to cake axis. This is mostly due to uneven arrangement of cinders under baking stand. What we can do is put more cinder under unbaked parts. If edges do not brown we may try to place spit ends on different heights.
Cake would not detach from spit
Maybe you forgot to brush spit with butter or failed to use enough butter. Knock stronger vertically pointed spit on wooden or metal plate. If this does not work, try to push a thin and long knife or stick between cake and spit to ‘cut off’ cake from rotating spit.
Cake starts to rise while baking and shows a porous, cavernous texture
Perhaps there was too much time between preparing dough strip and baking. The abounding microscopic gas bubbles in the dough become bigger because of rise in temperature. Bear this in mind and next time do not let dough over-rise. Try to knead dough again. Also next time, if you can not bake dough fast enough, put dough in a cool place to reduce yeast activity.
Cake is too dry
Cake might be over - baked because you brushed it with too little butter. Try to brush with some extra butter while cake is still hot.
Inner part of cake remained tough for all evenly browned external part
Such a quibble may have three reasons:
1. Dough has been confectioned into too thickly spun strips
2. Over - risen dough has been used due to excessively fast lift of dough caused by big heat
3. Rotating spin has been too cold
Prevention: Spin dough in thinner strip, increase distance between winds, do not keep risen dough ‘waiting’ too much and use pre–heated spit.
Cake has a bad, bitter taste
This deficiency again can have multiple reasons:
- Sugar crust over - burned
- Coal or wood was poor quality
- Coal was smoky from melted butter dripped onto it.
You can try to spray some lemon extract on both sides of cake. Next time try to avoid these failures.
Inner part of cake is greasy and wet
Cake was wrapped immediately after it was removed from spit, leaving no way for steam to leak out. Leave cake in the open air for min. 10 - 15 minutes.
For those of you who have never tried and also for those who have, we wish a happy baking and good luck!
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