Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transylvanian Treats; Chimney Cakes

Tubular Treats

Some of us buy with our eyes, others with their noses. Amsterdam's famous Albert Cuyp-Market always lives up to its reputation to throw something new and exciting at you. "Hungarian Chimney Cakes" for example. Any one care for some bread from the land of Dracula?

When walking down the market, I usually brace myself halfway through. A seductive smell of bubbling caramel wafts through the air at that point. It even manages to overwhelm the smell of the nearby fish stands, at least in my nose, and all I can do is zombie my way to the stall to part with my money in exchange for a genuine and ultra fresh Dutch 'stroopwafel'.

Except... this time around I am hit by the smell of cinnamon instead, and, if I am right, freshly baked yeasted dough, and caramelized sugar. 

Because the smells are equally pleasing, I decide to follow it to the source. Could it be that the one guy on this market, who has been baking the same cookies for as long as I live in Amsterdam has suddenly changed his game? My better half sighs and follows; he knows there is no way back when I smell anything bread.

Chimney Cakes
When we get there, I see a young Eastern European guy rummaging around with a grill, in which there are rotating wooden dowels, wrapped in dough and coated with cinnamon-sugar. My curiosity is definitely tickled by now. Grilling my bread before baking is new to me!

The guy is taking some of the dowels out and rolls it through a plate of cinnamon sugar. Then he takes the dough off the dowel. What remains is a perfect helix-shaped cylinder of dough; crispy caramelized sugar and cinnamon on the outside, steaming with bready goodness from within. The dough swirls around, forming what looks like a chimney.

Turns out they are called exactly that; Chimney Cakes. The guy tells me they are supposedly the oldest Hungarian pastry, originating from Transylvania. Of course I buy one and try in on the spot. It tastes like a cross over between a pretzel and a cinnamon bun. It comes with a variety of toppings; crushed walnuts, coconut flakes, almonds, chocolate chips and poppy seeds. In Hungary, they are celebration cakes for weddings and christenings, or just when you have some guests over you want to impress. By now it is clear to me, I need to make these myself!

Grilled Chimney Cakes
After some research on the net I realize that these beauties originally were baked over smoldering charcoal (e.g. a BBQ). If you have the opportunity, you should definitely try that.

The rather specialized equipment  to make these cakes (a rotating grill and the dowels) can be bypassed with some creative DIY with existing kitchen- and some office-materials . This is what you need, if you are going to make them in your oven grill:

DIY equipment:
A rolling-pin with handles (cover the handles with foil)
A big roasting pan
Four binder clips

Clamp the binding clips on the rim of the roasting pan two on each side, in such a way that the handles of your rolling pin fit snugly in between them, leaving enough room to rotate the pin.

Ingredients (for about 5 or 6 cakes): 

for the dough:
750 gr. bread flour 
300 ml lukewarm milk
2 eggs
7 gr. instant yeast 
65 gr. sugar 
100g melted butter 
oil for brushing the pin

for the topping:
melted butter
sugar with cinnamon
(or any topping of your choice)

Combine the flour with the instant yeast.
Mix the egg, sugar, butter and milk and add this to the flour. 
Mix and knead until the dough is well developed, either by hand or in a stand mixer. To test if the dough is ready, pinch off a small piece of dough and gently stretch it as thin as possible. When it doesn't break and you can almost see through the dough, it is ready.
Form the dough into a ball, cover and leave to rest at room temperature for about one hour, until the volume has almost doubled.

Punch down the risen dough. Roll out the dough into a rectangle of about ½ a centimeter thick and cut lengthwise into strips of about 3 cm wide. Roll one end into a little point. Take your rolling pin, brush it with oil to make it easier to take off the chimney cake when it's done. Take the pointy end of the dough and start rolling the dough onto the rolling pin, making sure each wind slightly overlaps the previous. Go until almost half way the rolling pin. Pinch off the dough and tuck it in securely, to make sure it won't spring back during grilling. When done, gently roll the rolling pin on your work surface to make sure the dough adheres.

Take a second strip of dough and do the same, starting from the other end of the rolling pin.

Make sure to cover the remaining dough to prevent it from drying out.

Set the grill to 250° C. Place the rolling pin in between the clips on the rim of your prepared roasting pan. Put the pan in the middle of the oven. Make sure you have covered both handles with foil to prevent them from burning!

Grill the chimney cake for about 10 minutes, turning the rolling pin slowly to ensure even browning. After 10 minutes, take the pin off the roasting pan and butter the dough all around. Roll the dough in sugar and put them back in the oven. Continue to turn and grill for another 5 to 10 minutes until the sugar has fully caramelized. Take it out of the oven and roll in cinnamon sugar, or another topping of your choice, like crushed roasted walnuts, coconut flakes, chocolate chips or poppy seeds.

Let them cool for about 10 minutes before carefully sliding off the cakes from the rolling pin.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough.

If you can, bake the rolls over smoldering charcoal on the BBQ! 

Best eaten when still warm. Easy to revive in the oven! Enjoy!