Hungarian Bakery Stars: The Humble “Rétes”
Coffee and “rétes” at a great little Hungarian bakery, always come with coffee on the Absolute Walking Tour, but what is rétes anyway? Well, Hungary has been hand in hand with Austria forever and especially during the Habsburg period. So we tend to share the culture of this neighboring country. 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 what we call “rétes” here. A huge wad of fruit or sometimes sweetened cottage cheese is rolled inside layers of thin pastry and cooked until light and crispy, then sliced. 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 the aforementioned 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 Hungarian, really…”.)
Language learning through bakery pastries
Hungary has a lot of bakeries (pékség); they seem to be on every Budapest street corner and, and while Hungarians do buy a lot of white bread to eat with meals, they are also very partial to portable bakery snacks. Most of these, you could categorize as sorts of Danish, or scone-variants, but there is a bewildering array of sweet and savory items, normally all labeled in Hungarian of course. Here we try to prepare you for the huge range of odd brown items you might be have facing you as the queue grows rapidly behind you.
Hungarian Bakery Flavours:
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 on the above list are with individual pricing, but you may see some items that sell by weight (20 dekagrams is a quick snack for two people). These are items such as mini-pogácsa and little twists and sausage-roll looking things (mini-levél perhaps?) Have fun tasting these – they are a slice of real Hungary!
This is just from on our own personal bakery wall of shame and we’re probably missing some out. Do comment and tell us your favourites.
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