Citizens, Kürtős Kalács (sometimes transliterated kurtosh kalach) or Chimney Cakes were originally baked over hot coals by Hungarians residing in Transylvania, Romania. It is a spit cake specific to the Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania, particularly the Szekely land. Once a festive treat, it is now part of everyday meals. There are even whole industries devoted to this favored delight!
Kürtőskalács is made from sweet, yeast dough (raised dough), of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar. It is roasted over charcoal while basted with melted butter, until its surface cooks to a golden-brown color.
During the baking process the sugar stuck on the kürtőskalács caramelises and forms a shiny, crispy crust. The surface of the cake can then be topped with additional ingredients such as ground walnut or powdered cinnamon.
The first known record that hints at a family of cakes baked by rotating spit over cinders dates back to Medieval times (about 1450) and is found in a manuscript from Heidelberg. The description mentions a strip of raised dough that has to be wound in a helix shape around a baking spit, and brushed with egg yolk before baking.
The first known recipe of Kürtőskalács originates from Transylvania, included in the 1784 cookbook of Countess Mária Mikes of Zabola (“‘kürtős kaláts’ à la Mrs. Poráni”).
My affectation is to use vanilla sugar for an additional level of complexity to this delicious recipe, Citizens! Of course, I also use the traditional lard in the pastry dough – no butter shortcuts here!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
The Hirshon Romanian Chimney Cake – Kürtőskalács
- For the dough:
- 500 g white flour
- 15 g fresh yeast
- 2 eggs
- 250 ml sour cream
- 50 ml warm water
- 25 g brown sugar
- 75 g vanilla sugar
- 65 g melted lard
- 3 lemons (microplaned zest and juice)
- A pinch of salt
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- Melted butter
- To coat:
- Vanilla sugar
- Very finely ground walnuts
- 4 Rolling pins or wooden dowels
- Mix yeast, water and brown sugar with ¼ of the sour cream, and let it stand until creamy and frothy. Combine with all remaining ingredients, creating a very soft, homogeneous dough.
- Stir the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, and then knead for about five minutes.
- Transfer to a well-greased container. Allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes at room temperature until doubled in volume.
- Prepare the rolling pins by covering them with 3 layers of tightly wrapped aluminum foil. Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal parts.
- On a well-floured surface, spread one portion of the dough and shape into 1/6 inch thick square-shaped sheet.
- Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into a long ribbons of about ½ inch wide.
- Wrap one end of the dough strip around the spit/rolling pin, tucking in the end so the dough doesn’t unwind.
- Keep the dough very thin (under ¼ inch (6 mm)) as you stretch and wind it on the rolling pin. Then roll the whole thing slightly on the counter top to flatten it/press it together.
- Brush with melted butter and roll in brown sugar / vanilla sugar mixture.
- Place in roasting pan, where the ends of the rolling pin are on the edges of the pan, keeping the pin elevated off the bottom of the pan. and bake in a preheated oven 375F/190⁰C for 25 minutes. Rotate pins halfway through cooking for even browning.
- When done, brush with melted butter and roll in sugar/walnut/cinnamon mixture.
- Tap the pins on a tabletop to release the cake and set it upright to cool.
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