Preparation time: 1 hour
Resting time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Oven temperature: 200° C (400° F)
Rétes, or strudel, is one of Hungary’s most renowned dishes. In the old days, bakers would form long pieces of rétes pastry into a circle and bake them. They are sometimes still made in this way in Kistelek and the surrounding region, but these days it is more usual for the strudel to be prepared in a long strip. The round version of rétes was also known as “lie-in” rétes, because it was taken to women recuperating from child birth. The strudel was stuffed with apples, sour cherries or cottage cheese and baked in a round pan. Another variation from the Kistelek region was eight-layer rétes, consisting of a stack of eight thin pastry sheets.
You can sample this delicious pastry with various fillings: beside apple, cherry and cheese, you’ll also find versions containing walnuts, poppyseed or even cabbage!
It’s best to make rétes on a warm day, since the dough can be rolled more easily in a hot room.
Poppyseed and walnut rétes bake faster than cottage cheese or apple rétes. Therefore, place the poppyseed and walnut variety on one baking sheet, and the cottage cheese and apple on a separate one.
- Combine the lard, vinegar and 2 tbsp. flour.
- Combine the remaining flour with enough salted lukewarm water to form a workable dough, neither too sticky nor too stiff.
- Knead it until it comes away from the sides of the bowl, then divide into 16 pieces.
- Roll one piece into a 2.5 cm / 1” thick sheet and brush it lightly with the lard mixture.
- Roll out another piece and place it on top of the previous one. Brush with the lard mixture.
- Continue until you have four layers, but do not brush the top layer with lard.
- Cover the layered pastry with a bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the process with the remaining 12 pieces of dough so that you end up with four layered “tortes” which will each be rolled out separately.
Rolling the dough
- Lay a table cloth on the table. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Place one of the layered dough portions on it and start stretching the dough with your hands. If you are working alone, move around the table, always stretching the sides of the dough towards the edge of the table.
- If the dough is too elastic, let it rest for 5-10 minutes. If two people are stretching the rétes, they should stand on opposite sides of the table.
- The dough should be stretched until paper thin. Any thick parts left around the edges should be cut off.
- Sprinkle the filling over the pastry in an 8-10 cm (3-4”) strip. Fold the hanging edge of the pastry over the filling with the help of the table cloth.
- Fill the other half of the pastry the same way and roll together. Cut the rétes into pieces that will fit onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with melted lard.
- Bake in a 180° C (350° F) oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until crisp and golden.
Grate some apples, flavor with sugar and cinnamon.
Mix ground walnuts with sugar and a few drops of milk.
Mix ground poppyseed with sugar, a few drops of water and the grated zest of a lemon.
Pit the cherries; combine them with breadcrumbs and sugar.
Chop the cabbage and braise slowly in a covered pan with salt and pepper.
Combine 900 g (2 lb.) cottage cheese with 30 g (1 oz.) vanilla sugar, 3 eggs, 2 tbsp. lard, raisins and sugar to taste.
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