“Once upon the time the young man left home to try his luck in the world. He took nothing along except a bundle of “hamuban  sült pogácsa” (savory biscuits baked in ash) tied to the end of his walking stick.” Thus starts many Hungarian fairytales. To this day when young people graduate, they carry a small haversack with pogácsa. The day I left Hungary my grandmother handed me a bag of pogácsa. She said in case I got hungry on the way. When my plane landed in Vancouver I still had a couple left in the bag. Grandmother's pogácsa came with me to the New World.

Pogácsa was a staple in Hungarian bakeries; even the most prestigious coffee houses in Budapest had their signature pogácsa. Drunks liked it too; there was no kocsma [pub] without beer and pogácsa. The version with the pork crackling was always part of our New Years Eve festivities. There was a pogácsa at every crossroads of life, pogácsa for the “grey weekdays”; as no bureaucratic meeting could go without water and pogácsa. Pogácsa varieties are endless. Some are to die for and then there are the “dry pain” types. Pogácsa is best on the first day, but the real good ones are good for several days thereafter. This one is one of those. Make it ahead, prepare it for baking and freeze. Thaw it out just before the party, and just pop them in the oven. Put it on trays and watch it disappear. 

Useful Pogácsa Information:

I have been testing pogácsa recipes. The good ones have lots of butter or lard in them. It is not a good idea to reduce or substitute the ingredients. Never add sugar, it will feed the yeast. Pogácsa is a yeast biscuit, but it only needs chilling and resting times. Those recipes that call for rising time produce doughy biscuits and are only good if eaten right out of the oven. If you fold the dough a few times, it will give you layers, but this is tricky. You have to be exact with the layers or the pogácsa will rise lopsided in the hot oven. For the same reason, be careful to spread only the tops with the egg yolk. The foremost importance is uniformity, make sure the dough has an even thickness. 

Hungarian Potato Biscuits

480 g potatoes

1-3/4 cups butter
1-1/2 Tbsp salt
4-1/2 tsp instant yeast
3 extra large or 4 large egg yolks
5-1/3 cups flour
1 egg yolk for glazing the tops

  • First, cook the potatoes in the microwave or over steam. It is much quicker in the microwave.  Don’t cook them in water, they will absorb too much moisture that way.  
  • Peel and dice the potatoes.
  • Place in a heatproof bowl.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water.
  • Place the bowl in the microwave and cover with a sheet of paper towel.
  • Microwave or steam the potatoes until tender.
  • With an oven mitt, remove the bowl from the microwave.
  • Using a large sieve, immediately drain the potatoes.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and let them cool to room temperature. 
  • Once the potatoes have cooled down, mash them truly.
  • Add the soft butter, salt, instant yeast and the egg yolks to the mashed potatoes.
  • Using a large wooden spoon, combine the ingredients.
  • The last ingredient to add is the flour. The reason for this is you don’t want the egg yolks to bind to the flour.
  • Kneed the dough until uniform in consistency.
  • Line a small tray with parchment paper; flatten the dough on it to 2 cm thickness.
  • Wrap the tray with plastic and place it in the fridge overnight. 
  • Next day divide the dough to 2 or 3 parts.
  • Place the first batch on a board. Rewrap the rest of the dough and return it to the fridge.
  • Cut or rip the dough into smaller pieces. That way they will warm up faster and uniform.
  • Let the dough pieces sit for 5-10 minutes and then kneed each piece until pliable. At the end, combine the pieces.
  • Roll the dough out [no need to flour the board] evenly to 1 cm thickness.
  • Score the top crisscross with a chef’s knife.
  • Dip a small round cookie cutter into flour and firmly cut as many rounds into the dough as you can fit. It is important to dip the cookie cutter into the flour before each cut.
  • Gather the scraps, kneed and reroll the dough. Repeat the scoring and the cutting.
  • When all the dough used from the first batch, line them up side by side and baste the tops with egg yolk.
  • Arrange the rounds on the prepared baking sheet and let them rest for 30 minutes, no longer.
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425F.
  • After resting bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size and the amount you are baking.

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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!