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MY COOKBOOK

MY COOKBOOK
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18.8.12

HUNGARIAN POTATO BREAD - KRUMPLIS KENYÉR

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was being put down by the Russian army. We were crammed into our communal shelter in the basement with eleven other families and with no access to food except what we had upstairs. Our house was surrounded by a beautiful courtyard. Taller buildings were sheltering it, except in one corner there was a one storey building exposing our second floor apartment. Through that we could see the steeple of the Rózsák Terei Szent Erzsébet Templom. Once in a while my grandmother dared the bombs and went up to the apartment. Then a little while later she would appear with something to eat. Grandma wouldn’t let my mother go up lest our apartment was demolished while mother was up there. I never considered my grandmother heroic, I just think that in life and death situations people instinctively know who is the least expandable, and a pregnant, twenty six year old mother of two is surely one.

Toward the end of our first week in the shelter, grandma brought down the most memorable thing; a large potato bread. She must have been given some yeast by one of the neighbours, because we had no ice box and a cake of fresh yeast would have gone bad by then. That or she made wild yeast which would explain why it took her several days to make the bread. Then our super, Mrs Kiss gave us a chunk of butter. I talked about that butter for years and how good it tasted. My mother one day told me that the butter was actually rancid… I suppose real hunger can make even the least edible things taste good. We were down in the shelter for more two and a half weeks during the heavy street fighting, but I got sick so we all went upstairs even while the Russian bombs were dropping around us. But that is another story.

My grandmother’s potato bread looked more like mine, not like the original, but my instinct told me the bread recipe at Playing House had the most potential to develop into the great potato bread that it is. I regret not asking for my grandmother’s recipe. It just never came up, it didn’t seem important at the time. This is the reason I began to write down my own recipes. In a decade or two who knows if anyone would remember, including me if there was a me.

The original recipe includes detailed instructions for hand kneading. But to tell you the truth I don’t think I would attempt this recipe by hand, maybe if I was younger. To get the bread to look like this, [this is my second loaf in two days] the dough has to be soft and quite sticky; not from moisture content, but from the fully developed gluten. If all at once you pile the ingredients into the bowl, you will never be able to develop the same dough and your bread will not look anything like this. So don’t take shortcuts. This really is a wonderful bread!

2 large russet potatoes, with the skin on
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp dried instant yeast
3 cups bread flour
all purpose flour for dusting
spray bottle of water

• Scrub the potatoes and cut them into 1 inch chunks. Do not peel, you will loose a lot of the flavour that way.
• Place the chopped potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.
• Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender.
• Meanwhile, measure out 3 cups of bread flour and set it aside.
• Drain the potatoes, but save 1/2 cup of potato water for use later. Set the half cup of potato water aside to cool, the rest can be discarded.
• Let the potatoes and the potato water cool down completely before proceeding with the recipe.
• After they cooled down, mash the potatoes and add to the mixing bowl.
• Add the salt, the oil, the yeast, the reserved potato water and 1 cup of bread flour.
• With the paddle attachment beat for five minutes on medium speed.
• After five minutes the dough will be very elastic.
• Change to a dough hook and begin to add the remaining flour, but only half a cup at the time.
• Beat the dough again until very elastic. Add half a cup of flour. Keep beating and adding half a cup until all the flour is gone.
• Beat the dough for 5 minutes longer. Dough should be very elastic and sticky.
• Pull the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Place ball in an oiled, medium bowl and cover with a tea towel.
• Let dough proof in a warm room until doubled in size.
Place the dough on a floured surface and flatten it with your hands.
• Form dough into a rectangle and, starting with a short end, roll dough away from you into a tight log. This is the part that will give you the nice big holes.
• Stop rolling just before the log is sealed, and then flatten the remaining inch of dough with your fingers.
• Dust it with flour. This will prevent the loaf from fully sealing and will cause the seam to open slightly while baking. It didn’t do it for me the second time I tried it, because I allowed the dough to rise longer.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle it with flour.
• Place the loaf, with seam side down, on the prepared pan.
• Sprinkle the top with a little flour and let the loaf rise until doubled.
• Dough will rise slightly and feel spongy to the touch.
• Preheat the oven to 400F.
• Just before moving loaf into the oven, mist the inside of oven with a spray bottle of water.
• Carefully flip over the loaf with seam side up, on the baking sheet. Since the dough didn’t open up for me, flipping the dough seemed redundant, however I really liked the funky shape I got from it so I will continue to use the same method of shaping. I was thinking it might look rather cool if I twisted the loaf mid section when I flipped it over… Maybe next time.
• Place the loaf in the oven and bake it for 45 minutes, misting the oven one more time after the first 5 minutes.
• The finished loaf will be dark brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
• My bread ended up a different shape, because I didn’t feel comfortable with the suggested raising time. In both instances I let the dough rise until doubled. The result was a larger and fluffier loaf. If you prefer a denser loaf, follow the original recipe.
• Let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes if you can.
• To store the bread, wrap it in a clean kitchen towel. Never put homey breads in plastic bags. Plastic changes the texture, makes everything soft and you don't want to loose the crusty, chewy wonder that this is. I wrapped mine in a tea towel last night. The end slice dried ever so little, still delicious though, but the rest of the bread retained it lovely texture.


 

16 comments:

  1. What a touching and heartwrenching post, Zsuzsa! Such real memories of the Hungarian Revolution, and so many lives lost...so many people escaping from Hungary for a better future for their family!

    The beautiful and delicious potato bread must be a 'bittersweet' memory for you!
    Thanks for sharing! xo

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  2. Zsuzsa, I don't know what to start with... The story behind this bread is so moving and tragic... The bread looks extraordinary and I think this is my favourite of all the photos from your blog. You must have put all your heart not only into the preparation but also the photo session.

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  3. Thank you ladies for all the sentiments. Our food memories bring all sorts of experiences up to the surface.

    Elisabeth, we all have memories worth preserving: those who stayed behind and those who left looking for a better life.

    Sissi, thank you for noticing. Yes the photo session was interesting. The outside light was too bright and the inside with all the mature trees sorrounding the house is also a challange this time of year.

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  4. My friends and I left the country after the bombing stopped, and all was lost, never to return. I could no longer call myself Hungarian for having abandoned my people to the retributions that were sure to come.
    I remember the old Hungarian group in Montreal talking about returning some day in a victory parade,and thought: By what right, after living in comparative luxury in Canada, while our people suffered in the motherland.
    I was 14, and an idealist back then, today, not so much.

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  5. Zsuzsa, I'm back to suggest to you that you should subscribe to the free RSS feed...I've subscribing since I've had my blog, but somehow lost the widget.

    I just went back to double check, and I'm still listed and posted the widget. Your blog will reach out to a lot larger audience to view your blog, and it will keep up with your latest post! Also you should have labels at the end of your posts...meaning, short names, with comma after each word. (check out mine)

    http://feed.mikle.com/en/

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  6. My parents (didn't know each other in Budapest) immigrated to Canada in 1956. My Mom hadn't intended to but her sister asked her to accompany her to Vienna and once there, she figured why go back? I am sure glad she did, otherwise she never would have met my father.
    I can't imagine how frightening it is to go through a war. The Russians were indeed horrible (my Dad's family owned the Liget Puppet theatre in Budapest and it was confiscated along with their family home during that time. In the late 80's the Hungarian government compensated my brother and I (father had since passed away) and together we got what was equivalent to $1000. Big fat hairy deal.
    The bread looks amazing Zsuzsa. I love the crumb on it. It looks like it would have a lovely chewy texture.

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  7. Laszlo, those were my sentiments too: once you leave it kind of stops being your business what goes on back home. I held onto that until recently, when the public opinion and the media started on the various minorities. As you know I find these things truly troubling. As a result I identify less and less with the motherland, cementing my Canadian identity more with each passing day. True, no country exist without racist attitudes, but when no conversation can take place without ilyen olyan budos ez meg az, well… count me out.

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  8. Thank you Eva, this was a lovely bread all distributed by now and eaten up. :-( Oh the Liget puppet theatre, I loved that place! I used to round up my little cousins and took them there. But this would have been in the late fifties and early sixties. – What a small world, I have so many memories of that place Eva. In a different world you could have been involved with the family business. Everything of value was taken over by the communists, just as everything of value was destroyed fifty years later by the multis.

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  9. Thank you Elisabeth, I think I installed something. Then I ran into trouble with posting photos, now I can post again, grrr I am not a technical person at all.

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  10. Me too Zsuzsa. When I arrived in Canada it was with the commitment to adopt completely to life here. It was pretty much expected back then, before Trudeau's "Cultural Mosaic"
    He meant well, as most politicians do, but the cultural ghettos are a regrettable unexpected consequence.
    As a result racism is on the rise in Canada as well, and most evident in the large cities. We are fortunate to live in BC, the province with the most relaxed, and accepting population.

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  11. My Dad carried on the business here in Canada; he worked 20 years on The Friendly Giant as the guest musicians (cat and racoon, if memory serves). Jim Henson invited my Dad to come work for him in NYC but he declined. The puppet community was very small in those days. My Mom, brother and I continued the business for one year after his passing (1982) but sadly it was not enough to make a good living on. My brother was hired as an extra puppeteer for Follow that Bird, another Henson production (he filmed in Toronto a lot because it was much cheaper) and he got credit as respect to my Dad (extras never get credit). We have all moved on to more profitable careers but it was a nice memory to have.

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  12. Laszlo, yes B.C. is a good place to be. Plus hate crime is against the law in Canada.

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  13. Eva, it never seems to amaze me how people somethimes cross each other's paths in so many ways. The Friendly Giant was the daily entertainment after Mr Dressup on the CBC. Wow!

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  14. Hi Zsuzsa, my name is Kati Kiraly, my family escaped Hungary in 1956, during the revolution, my grandparents stayed behind.We went to a refugee camp in Yugoslavia. We were there for a few months. Finally we were sponsored and came to the U.S. I grew up in Colorado. Just today I baked potato bread from an old world recipe. I will try yours next time!! I love reading your blog, brings back many happy memories for me, summering on my grandmothers farm, outside of Budapest. Kati Kiraly

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  15. Being Hungarian, leaving Budapest during the war with my parents and sister, I was only 3, has given me a respect for what my parents sacrificed for us. They felt they needed to give their girls a chance at a better life.I grew up in beautiful Colorado, we all loved living there.I'm 62 now my parents are long gone. My sister and I are close and cherish our Heritage. Today I baked potato bread from an old world recipe. I will try yours next Zsuzsa, sounds a little different than mine, I let mine rest and rise 12 to 18 hours.

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    Replies
    1. Szia Kati, there are many versions of Hungarian Potato Bread. This one is a combination of several. I wish I had my grandmother's version. I am sure your recipe is wonderful. Where about was your grandmother's farm? My maternal grandma had a two acre lot , we called it a farm too, she had chickens, ducks and a couple of goats, her place was in Rakoskert.

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