MY COOKBOOK

MY COOKBOOK
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28.1.18

RUSSIAN STRUDEL - OROSZ RÉTES

Amazing...

Unlike the average strudel, more like a yeast-roll with almonds and candied fruit; it's one more recipe from Margit néni’s cookbook. It was considered old fifty years ago, the cover and part of the index were missing. My dad had it rebound and it was one of the few things I brought with me from Hungary. One day I should be buried with it; nobody will want it, certainly nobody from my immediate circle of friends and family. Every time I translate a recipe I feel like I am saving it from nothingness. But entropy has its way with both us. I am nearing seventy and my cookbook is at least hundred and fifty. I did a search and nothing even resembling the recipe exists on line. Feeling nostalgic I wrote a rant* while the dough rose to the occasion. Read it or skip it. It is for the grandkids. 

Entropy isn’t what it used to be.




Russian Strudel

3/8 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup slightly melted butter
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
3 tsp yeast
6 Tbsp sugar
1 + 3 cups flour
1/4 cup melted butter for greasing
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped candied or dried apricots
1 lightly beaten egg

  • Put the lukewarm milk, melted butter, eggs and egg yolks, yeast and the sugar in the mixing bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of flour and give it a stir.
  • Let it sit until doubled.
  • Begin to add from the remaining flour gradually kneading on medium speed with a dough hook. The dough should be on the stiff side but still pliable.
  • Knead it really well to develop the gluten. If you don’t have a standing beater, knead by hand and beat the dough against the counter with force about 50 times or more.
  • Place the dough in a buttered bowl, turn it over and cover.
  • Let the dough double.
  • Punch down and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface 1 cm thick.
  • Brush lightly with melted butter and scatter a quarter of the sliced almonds and chopped dried fruit on the top.
  • Roll the dough up in jelly roll fashion and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
  • Roll the dough out again in the opposite direction, brush with melted butter and top with the almonds and the apricots.
  • Repeat the resting, rolling and topping with almonds and apricots twice more. [4 times altogether]
  • The last time you roll it up, place on a parchment lined baking tray.
  • Brush the strudel with the melted butter and let it rise until doubled.
  • Heat the oven to 350F.
  • Brush the top with beaten egg and place in the preheated oven for 90-100 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.
  • Rest the strudel on a wire rack.

*Budapest in the Fifties: 

We shopped for food every day. Few people had ice boxes; nobody had a fridge, not even the milk store. The milk was ladled into metal cans. The can had a lid and a handy carrying handle. Bread was a 2 kg loaf or cut in front of you into a half a loaf or a quarter loaf. They gave you a 3 inch piece of tissue paper for handling it. The only thing that was prepackaged was the sugar, flour, salt and grits. Everyone carried homemade grocery bags. You had to stand in line when you wanted to buy something. There was no self serve. State run sales people were snarly. Kids were ignored. They would serve the adult next in line and ignore the kid. There were frequent shortages. Sometimes you couldn’t find sour cream or batteries. You got most of your vegetables at the open air market. Drug stores only sold drugs. Meat stores sold only meat. Household stores sold the cleaning stuff. Beauty products were sold in the beauty product store. You made your pasta at home. There was no tropical fruit until 1957. Cocoa and green coffee beans appeared after the revolution. You had to roast the coffee beans and grind them to make espresso. Vegetables were available in season or canned. There were no green vegetables during winter. The first green thing that appeared in the spring was green onions. They were expensive. Nobody had central heating. We burned coal and wood. Everyone was poor in September. That is when the winter fuel was delivered. We kept it in the basement. Each apartment had a stall in the basement. If you lived on the third floor and your house had no lift, you had to haul it upstairs in metal bins. You woke in a cold room. About 10:00 AM we opened up the windows for fresh air, mom went down to the basement and brought up the daily wood and coal and started the fire. That was a happy time. Only communists had cars. We traveled on foot or by streetcar. There was a short line of metro and later buses. Most deliveries were conducted by horse drawn buggies. We had a 6 day workweek. People worked for 48 hours. We went to school on Saturday. We had one day off, Sunday. All the museums and galleries had free admission on Sunday. Movie theater was cheap. The busiest was the 2:00 PM showing. Before the movie there was a News Report. It had interesting things in it but mostly just propaganda. Sometimes in the intermission there was a magician or a couple of acrobats. I always felt sorry for them. Our tickets were numbered. Grandma and I liked the 2nd row in the middle. We only ever saw Hungarian or synchronized Russian films. The first American film I saw was the Red Shoe. There were lots of indexed books. Opera and live theater was state subsidized and cheap. You could be poor and cultured at the same time. I had one dress but I had season tickets to the opera, live theater and the Music Academy. Only communists were eligible for post secondary institutions. All public bathrooms had an attendant. You had to pay to pee. We carried tissue paper with us because all they ever gave you was a small piece of toilet paper. We used cut up newspapers at home. Magazines were shiny and not very absorbent. Newspaper worked better. Not everyone had a bathroom. We had an indoor toilet, but no bathroom. We bathed in the kitchen. Mom would heat up some water and poured it into a very large basin on a stool. You washed your hair and the upper body first. Next we would put the basin on the floor and step into it to wash the rest. The bathwater was poured down the toilet. Kids shared the bathwater. It was a treat to visit a relative with a bathtub. You got married twice if you were religious. No church could marry you unless you had a civil ceremony. That might still apply. If you practiced a religion it meant you were the enemy of the state. From grade five on you had to learn Russian. We hated everything Russian. Especially the Russian soldiers. We had to sing the the Russian anthem with the Hungarian anthem. People tended to be opportunistic. Once I got a pair of sheepskin gloves for Christmas. It was a big deal. Two days later I dropped one on the street and before I bent down to pick it up someone snatched it away from me. There were several people around but I couldn't tell who took it. I was ten years old and just stood there crying. What would half a pair of glove do for somebody? We used handkerchiefs to blow our noses. Laundering them was really gross. So were the cloth diapers. I didn’t know anyone with a washing machine. On washing day all my mother did was wash. For drying we had a large ceiling rack in the kitchen. It worked with a pulley. It would be lowered for hanging the clothes and then pulled up. We had them drying overhead for days. All the heat we had in the kitchen was from the stove. Only one room was heated. In the afternoon my grandmother's door would be opened to let in some warmth. The toilet and the entrance was always very cold. The only source of running water was an iron wall sink in the kitchen. That is where we got our drinking water, washed our hands, brushed our teeth and filled the pots for cooking and bathing. Dishes were washed on the kitchen table in a large basin. Everything had to be dried with a kitchen towel. I remember the day when a second basin was put next to the dish basin for rinsing off the soapy dishes. My family had two rooms. Grandma had the small room and we had a slightly larger one. That is where we lived, ate and slept. For meals the table was pulled out and a table cloth laid on it. There were no napkins. My dad wiped his face into the corner of the table cloth. We used spoons and forks but I don't remember using knives. We were not allowed to speak during the meal. “Magyar ember evés közben nem beszél.” There were no drinks on the table. We drank water after we finished eating. Getting ready for bed was complicated. One by one the day-night bed and the day-night armchairs were opened up and bedding laid on them. The room turned into a wall to wall bed. We had to crawl over each other's bed to get to our own. Before I left home nine people slept in the room, my parents and the seven children. The youngest slept in a cardboard box for two months. After that the state gave my parents a 4 room rental unit overlooking the Eastern Railroad Station. A month later I left for Canada. I was eighteen. I went back four times. The last time just before my mother passed away in 1990. It was the year of the first free election. Being used to Canadian elections I couldn't believe the American style electioneering on the streets of Budapest. The whole country was drunk on the belief that the thousand years of  oppression was over. I warned they were only exchanging overlords. My brothers said I didn't know what I was talking about. Twenty seven years later Hungary is a full fledged fascist dictatorship. Racism and antisemitism is as strong as ever. Freedom is imaginary.  State run propaganda strangely resembles the communist era. Only the bogeyman is different. I don't see any difference between the old left and the current right wing dictatorship. The rhetoric changed, but the method stayed the same.      

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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!