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MY COOKBOOK

16.4.11

HUNGARIAN CUSTARD SLICE - KRÉMES


I have recreated the krémes of my childhood. With several years of on and off krémes experiments behind me, I am happy to announce my first batch of successful krémes! Krémes is a classic Hungarian treat. Krémes is made from real vanilla custard; predominantly eggs and milk. It is sandwiched between layers of flaky pastry and then dusted off with a layer of confectionary sugar… krémes is pure delight on all fronts.

I remember two types of krémes; homemade and cukrász. Homemade krémes was delicious, fairly flat with runny yellow cream between 2 layers of flaky pastry. The cukrász krémes was not quite as yellow; but was tall and light and most likely had some gelatine in its custard layer. I especially loved Hauer’s krémes! Hauer was the original name of the coffeehouse, but it went by a different name during the communist era. Was it Erkel? I don’t remember. Besides my family kept referring to it as Hauer, the name change [actually the coffeehouse was privatized] was just one of the many things communism was resented for.

Go back yet another twenty four years, exactly four years before I was born. The war just ended. Budapest was bombed to hell and the people were hungry, very hungry. In desperation for some cash my great aunt, Olgi néni saved her food stamps and managed to bake a tiny pan of krémes. She packed it up and took it down to the corner of Rákóczi út and Szövetség utca to sell. Along came a bedraggled Hungarian soldier, just back from the front, and grabbed the pan out of her hands. He sat down on the pavement and polished down the entire pan. He then wiped his face on his sleeves and gave the empty pan back to my weeping aunt. Of course he didn’t pay for it, how could he? When I heard this story, I didn’t know who to feel sorrier for, my aunt or that soldier. So you see krémes imbedded itself into my family history in a variety of ways.

VANILLA INFUSED MILK
2 cups milk
1 vanilla pod

FLAKY PASTRY
1-1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup chilled hard margarine
1 pinch of salt
4 Tbsp cold water
4 tsp vinegar

CUSTARD LAYER
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1Tbsp flour
2 pkg. or 2 Tbsp real vanilla sugar
3 pkg. gelatine [21 g]
1/4 cup unsalted butter
8 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
candy thermometer is essential

TOPPING
1/4 cup icing sugar

• Make the vanilla infused milk first.
• Heat the milk in a saucepan.
• Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, and add the bean pod to the milk.
• Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.
• Next make the flaky pastry.

• In a large bowl crumble the flour and the chilled margarine to fine crumbs.
• Mix in the salt.
• Place the cold water and the vinegar in a small dish.
• Pour the liquid over the pastry crumbs.
• Stir to combine and gradually form a rough ball.
• Generously flour a board and roll out the pastry into a thin rectangle.
• Roll up the pastry and divide into 4 parts.
• Roll each division into a thin rectangle.
• Stack the four rectangles on top of one another.
• Chill for twenty minutes.
• Divide the chilled pastry into two equal halves.
• Roll out the first pastry very thin.
• Fold it in half and place the folded edge in the middle of the 9X13 baking pan.
• Unfold and arrange the pastry with deep folds as in the photo.
• Let the dough go up the sides halfway, pastry will shrink during baking.
• Place in a preheated 400F oven for 14-18 minutes.
• Keep a watch, pastry burns easily.
• When the pastry is golden brown, remove pan from the oven.
• Immediately cut pastry into twelve squares.
• Divide the long side by 4 and the short side by 3.
• Wait a few minutes and very carefully remove the squares and set them aside in the same order as they were in the pan. These will go on the top later.
• Roll out the remaining dough and arrange it in the baking pan as before.
• Bake the second pastry sheet and set it aside. This will be the bottom of the krémes.
• Next make the custard layer.

• In a medium sized bowl beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar for 8 minutes
• In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, gelatine and the vanilla sugar.
• Gradually add the flour mixture to the beaten egg yolks and beat until smooth.
• Remove the vanilla pods from the vanilla infused milk.
• Gradually add the vanilla infused milk to the bowl with the eggs and the flour.
• Transfer custard to a medium sized pot.
• Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot so you can keep an eye on the temperature.
• Over medium heat and continually stirring heat the custard.
• Do not let custard heat beyond 80C [176F] for this recipe.
• When the custard reached 80C remove from heat.
• Stir in the butter and set aside.
• While the custard is cooling whip the egg whites.
• With clean beaters beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
• Add the lemon juice and beat until almost stiff.
• Add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until very stiff and shiny.
• Very slowly and gradually, gently fold the custard into the stiff egg whites.
• Pour on top of the bottom pastry layer and place in the fridge.
• Make sure the pan is level on the shelf.
• When the gelatine is beginning to set, place the pastry squares on the top.
• Let the krémes chill thoroughly.
• Before serving generously sift icing sugar on the top.
• Cut the slices between the pastry squares.




 

22 comments:

  1. A moving story and proving food is much much more than just feeding hunger. Sometimes it means family, sometimes history, sometimes feelings and sometimes all of those. The first time I realised how food is attached to childhood and memories was when, after two years abroad I started to crave for the typical Polish food I ate maybe once a year before.
    Do you know we have more or less the same cake in Poland? In Warsaw it's usually called "napoleonka" (Napoleon's cake), but in other cities apparently mostly "kremówka" ("krémes" ;-) and since now most Warsaw inhabitants aren't from Warsaw, this is probably called mostly kremówka...).
    Exactly as you say: the best ones are made at home, I always hated the pastry shop ones. Instead of custard cream they put something disgusting and very white (maybe also added gelatin as in Hungary) and the flaky pastry was always thick and tasteless...
    Anyway your krémes looks scrumptious and maybe one day I'll try it!

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  2. When I was researching kremes I did see that other nationalities has something similar, and that European versions were the closest to Hungarian kremes. We have in Canada what they call napoleons. But these are different. They have layers of custard between several layers of puff pastry. I have been experimenting with a type of napoleon cake we had from a Swiss baker in town a few years back. He keeps retiring and selling his shops. He sold two of them so far. Of course the new “baker” who buys it knows squat. Then the Swiss starts up a new shop a few years later and for awhile we have the good stuff again. By now he should have trained a Canadian in the art of Swiss baking. At the moment we have no good bakeries in Kamloops. Everything they sell tastes artificial. So getting the kremes finally just right was a bit of an accomplishment for me. And yes food has history, heart and emotions attached to it - some of our best memories come from around eating together with family and friends.

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  3. I have to try this!

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  4. Köszönöm!

    Zsuzsa, your recipe is a wonderful find! My Dad and his family came to the US in the early 50's escaping Communism and your story and the photos are so nostalgic of the ones my grandmother would tell as she cooked up a some miracle in her tiny kitchen. As years went by and I longed for those recipes her response was always "just throw a little of this, and about a 1/4 handful of that..."leading to some very interesting outcomes!

    So thank you, thank you, thank you (Köszönöm,Köszönöm, Köszönöm) for the recipe. I cannot wait to serve a full Hungarian meal to my friends! And thank you for pointing out the Napoleon's as a bit different. The Hungarian version is just as elegant but much more basic in presentation...much like all things Hungarian :)

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  5. Maria, you are most welcome! And thank you for the generous comments.

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  6. Zsuzsa, I found a kremes recipe on a facebook site, but unfortunately, I don't have enough language skill to translate it. The google translater is not very good for Hungarian. Since I have to have gluten free, I thought it would be interesting to use. However, it looks a bit different from yours. If you would be interested in looking at it, I will give you the link: http://www.szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu/dios-kremes-kakaos/. I am going to save your blogsite. We lived in Budapest for 18 months and found it so interesting.

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  7. Hi Carol,

    This is not a kremes, it’s a cake recipe. “Diós, krémes, kakaós” translates “with walnuts, creamy, with cocoa” This is a description of the cake and not its title. So at this point, you can give it a title that makes sense to you. I will translate it for you, but I will not be making it, so you will need a kitchen scale with metric measurements in order to make it.

    Cake:
    - 6 egg whites
    - 140 gr finely ground walnuts
    - 100 gr sugar
    - 2 Tbsp rice flour
    - “little” baking powder [whatever that means]

    Cream:
    - 250 gr salt free butter
    - 130 gr gluten free confectionary sugar
    - 1 egg
    - 100 gr finely ground walnuts
    - 3 Tbsp strong coffee [optional]

    Topping:
    - 100 gr gluten free confectionary sugar
    - 2 Tbsp very hot water
    - 1 heaping Tbsp cocoa
    - 1 Tbsp vegetable oil

    Make the cake:
    Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar. One by one add the egg yolks and finally the walnuts. Last, add the rice flour and the baking powder. Bake in a parchment lined cake pan at 180 degrees Celsius [that is roughly 350 in Fahrenheit] for 30 minutes. It will be worth your while to butter the parchment paper.

    Make the cream:
    Beat the butter with sugar until soft and frothy [4-5 minutes] Then add the egg and the ground walnuts. Combine until fully incorporated. You may add the coffee if using. Spread on the cake and chill thoroughly until cream has solidified.

    Typical of Hungarian recipes parts of the recipe are missing. For instance, the egg yolks are not listed among the ingredients, but then they show up in the instruction part of the cake. There is nothing about making the topping, but I think you just combine the ingredients and put it over the chilled cake.

    Good luck

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  8. Thank you so much for this recipe! It was wonderful, just like Nagyi used to make.

    Lilla

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  9. Thank you for letting me know Lilla. You made my day!

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  10. I made this on the weekend, Zsuzsa and it turned out beautifully. Thank you for posting the recipe. It brought back some wonderful memories going to Elizabeth's on Bloor, a Hungarian Deli, where my Mom would sometimes buy this treat for us. I served a Hungarian dinner yesterday and this lovely square was the dessert.

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  11. Eva, I cannot tell you how happy that makes me feel, my eyes filled up with tears when I read your comment. I worked on this recipe for ten years. These comments make it all worthwhile.

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  12. It is my pleasure entirely Zsuzsa, I am so glad to have found your blog. I have a very difficult time reading Hungarian recipes as they are written in paragraph form, you make it much easier.
    Koszonom nagyon szépen.

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  13. Oh my goodness, I have only discovered your blog via Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella. I'm of Hungarian descent myself and will be reading your work with interest. Seeya!

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  14. Haha I am on a diet now, but soon I will be posting yummies again because I am starting to bake for the slims in my family who needn't be deprived. I am always behind with updating the cookbook section, there I could be 4-5 months worth of posts behind.

    But yes, szija!

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  15. Hiya Zsuzsa!

    I'm impressed by all your research and perfecting of this dessert. It definitely is worthy of so much attention. I learned many of these dishes from my grandmother. She had me sitting on the kitchen counter stirring the roux for bableves as soon as I could sit on my own. So I take great pride in replicating her very vague instructions, and producing something our family gets excited about now that she is gone. Like another poster my grandparents took me to Elizabeth Hentes On Bloor street too. Always buying me a fresh pogacsa. I really miss that place, Tuske as well. I'm excited to attempt your recipe Zsuzsa, because you put so much heart into it. You must be a bit perfectionist like some of us! ... which thankfully will set all of us Hungarian readers up for success! A great tribute to our resilient families who have suffered like so many. Thank you Zsuzsa!

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    Replies
    1. You were so lucky! My grandma never thought me to cook. I had to learn and experiment on my own using foreign ingredients. But yes you are right I am a perfectionist. It's both a blessing and a curse. Good luck with the kremes.

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  16. Just to let you know, this is my first time ever making a comment on a cooking site. I am half Hungarian, and I grew up with the opportunity of being able to sample a number of wonderful tasting Kremes recipes in my life. Getting older now, I don't have the opportunity to go out and just buy it. So I decided to research on how to make my own. I came accross your recipe and decided to give it a try. OH MY GOD! it was perfect! Thank you very much for this as I will continue to make this for my family.

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    1. What a wonderful comment, thank you very much!

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  17. Perfect...just speaking to my mom to see if she had my nagymama's recipe. It has been more convenient to purchase them at the Blue Danube Deli in Etobicoke...just wondering what my grandmother did without a candy thermometer? was it just throught trial and error? She was a fabulous cook and baker.

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  18. Just finished asking my mom for my nagymama's recipe which she did not have. Over the years was more convenient to buy at Blue Danube deli in Etobicoke but this is still not the same as home baked...wondering what was done before the invention of the candy thermometer ....will definitely try your version. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Homemade kremes was not like this. You didn't need a candy thermometer, not for homemade kremes. It was flatter and the custard was a bit runny. It was delicious of course, but hard to eat daintily. I always preferred what the coffee shops of Budapest were selling. For me, that was the real kremes. That is what I recreated in this recipe; this is not the homemade type.

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  19. Dear Zsuzsa,
    Recently had great fun making kremes with your recipe...
    I thought the pastry was an excellent take on the flaky method; worked a treat (I used butter)
    I just took the beating of egg yolks and sugar to the 'ribbon stage' - about 3 miutes instead of 8 minutes, which seamed a tad unecessary.
    A very simple method to add in the gelatine powder - never seen it done like that before...
    I really don't know why a candy/sugar thermometer is considered vital; I just gently cooked the custard until thick (tasted it to make sure the flour was cooked) and it was excellent - no problems.
    However, an excellent recipe and to be thoroughly recommended - it took me back to the Cukraszda/pastry shops of Hungary where I've been many times and sampled many kremes!
    Well done and thanks for sharing.

    James, England.

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I began to post recipes for my family and it turned out to be a work in progress. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has over 800 recipes of Hungarian and international recipes. My recipes are organized into a cookbook format. On top of the page click on the cookbook to get access to all my recipes. If I ever figure out how to add a printer friendly gadget I will add it. In the meantime feel free to cut and paste. Happy cooking!

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