Chimney Cake /Kürtöskalács/

Stanislava Dimitrova

I have spent the last three months of 2010 in Bucharest. I have grown to like the city very much, especially the small cosy taverns like Waterloo where my friends and I were raising glasses weekly with more than 100 different types of Belgium beer. I have been eating out a lot, which gave me the opportunity to explore the local cuisine. In my opinion, Romanian food tradition is very similar to the food culture in Bulgaria, and like us, Romanians feel great love for Mediterranean cuisine.

However, there were some local specialties that definately deserve paying attention to, like Kürtöskalác. I encountered Kürtös in one of my very first weekends in Bucharest, while the weather was still nice and sunny. I was strolling down the streets in the area of Piata Universitatii /University Square/, and I bumped into an improvised open space market in the court of the Municipality Museum /Sutu Palace/.

The sweet aroma of caramelized sugar drew me like a magnet and I couldn’t pass by without finding out what is it, that people where lining up for. It was Kürtöskalác, or translated in English, Chimney cake. Later I larned that Chimney cake originates from Transilvania and is considered to be the oldest Hungarian pastry. Now, who takes credit for the origin of the pastry seems to be a very touchy topic, so all I am going to say is that whoever came up with it, has my infinite respect, as it is absolutely delicious. The cake is hollow pipe-like cylinder. The dough is about 1 cm thick, warm and fluffy with thin caramel crust dusted with sugar and crushed nuts.

Kürtös was originally made by wrapping the dough around the chimney pipes, hence the name. It derives from the Hungarian word kürt that may refer to chimney /kürtö/.

Today, it is baked on a wooden cylinder over an open fire. Kürtös dough is yeast-raised, similar to a sweet roll dough, flavored with sweet spices like cinnamon and vanilla. Raisins and nuts may be added to the dough itself. The dough is rolled out or cut into long strips, which are then wrapped around a wooden cylinder. Then it is brushed with oil and is heavily sprinkled with sugar. As it bakes slowly, while hand-turned, the sugar caramelizes on the surface, creating a sweet crispy crust.

Kürtöskalács /Chimney cake/:

1kg flour
500 ml lukewarm milk
50 gr yeast
6 egg yolks
100-120 gr butter
1/2 tbsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
crushed nuts, coconut, almonds

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk and let it raise. Beat the egg yolks, melted butter, salt and sugar, mix with the yeast and add to the flour to make a dough. Cover with a cloth and leave it in a warm place to rise. When done, roll it out and cut into 3 cm wide, long strips. Wrap the strips one by one around a cylindrical mold brushed with oil. Brush the dough with oil or melted butter and roll in sugar.

Bake over open coals. Turn the cylinders constantly so that each part gets evenly browned. When they are perfectly caramelized, sprinkle with crushed nuts, cinnamon, coconut or more sugar.

When each roll is perfectly carmelized, it is taken off the coals and is sprinkled with crushed nuts, cinnamon, coconut or simply with more sugar. The additional topping is optional and depends on individual taste. The Chimney cake looks big but since it is hollow and so yummy, make sure you get yourself at least a couple of them.