Hungarian Bakery Stars: The Humble “Rétes”
An Introduction: Hungarian Bakery Stars
Coffee and “rétes” at a great little Hungarian bakery, are included with coffee on the Yellow Zebra bike tour, but what is rétes anyway? Well, Hungary has been in close connection with Austria like, forever and more especially during the Hapsburg period. So it’s not surprising that the culture of this neighboring country has rubbed off. This is particularly visible if you stroll up to the glass counter and examine all the cakes in the poshest cake shop or café or the humblest street bakery, where working people often grab some pastry on the way to work.
What they call Strudel in Austria, (remember “warm apple strudel”, one of Maria’s favorite things in the Sound of Music?*) is known as rétes here. A huge wad of fruit or sometimes sweetened cottage cheese is put inside layers of thin pastry and cooked until light and crispy. Trying a warm one fresh from the oven, can be a real “slice of heaven” moment. Common fillings are apple, peach, cherry, poppy seed, and sweetened cottage-cheese.
*(While Hungary lays no claim to doorbells and sleigh bells, schnitzel with noodles is another contested dish that many Hungarians will tell you, “is really Hungarian”.)
Language learning through Hungarian bakery pastries
No doubt Hungary has a lot of bakeries (pékség); they seem to be on every street corner. Of course Hungarians do buy a lot of white bread to eat with meals (they eat bread with bread). Also they are also very partial to carry out bakery snacks. These are essentially tiny comfort foods of carbohydrate. And they’re cheap. On the whole you could categorize these as a sort of mini Danish. As a matter of fact there’s a bewildering array of sweet and savory items, normally all labeled in Hungarian. Consequentially we’ll try to prepare you for the huge range of odd brown items you might see in front of you as the queue grows rapidly behind you.
Hungarian Bakery Flavors:
alma, almás = apple, apple-filled
barack, barackos = peach, peach-filled
csokoládés/csokis = chocolatey
kakao, kakaos = cocoa, cocoa-filled
mák. mákos = poppy seed, poppy seed-filled
meggy, meggyes = morello or sour cherry, cherry-filled
turó, turós = the archetypal sweetened cottage cheese.
káposzta, kaposztás = cabbage, cabbage-flavoured
Maj, majas = liver, liver-flavoured
pizza, pizzás = Yes you can have pizza-flavoured twists and slices.
sajt, sajtos = cheese. cheesey
krumpli, krumplis = potato, potato-flavoured
tepertős = pork crackling
Hungarian names for Shapes:
csiga =”snail” or spiral
batyu = bundle
levél = literally “letter”, but looks more like an envelope
rétes = strudel, or fruit-filled slice
rúd = stick (rod)
szelet = slice
pogácsa = scone/biscuit
táska = packet/pocket
tekercs = twist
Most of these above you buy per unit, but you may see some items sold by weight (20 dekagrams is a quick snack for two people). Furthermore there are some items such as mini-pogácsa and little twists and sausage-roll looking things (mini-levél perhaps?) So have fun tasting these as they are a slice of real Hungary! Set up a dental appointment before you order cherry, as it often comes with the stones intact.
This is just based on our own personal bakery wall of fame/shame and we’ve probably missed some out. Also do comment and tell us your favorites.
Lead strudel images courtesy of Che via Wikimedia photos
Delicious raisin-filled strudel images from Petra Dostalova via Wikimedia photos
Small image of Baked goods display thanks to Tamás Thaler via Wikimedia Photos