In Hungary, what Germans and Austrians call strudel is known as “rétes” (pronounced “ray-TESH”). If you go to Hungary, you’ll find that rétes holds near-religious significance and is a regular item in pretty much every bakery and cafe. Chef Helen Czégény & Clara M. Czégény, co-authors of Helen’s Hungarian Heritage Recipes, called it, “the ‘King’ of pastries in Central Europe.” Thanks to the skilled pastry crew at the Bakehouse, over the last ten years or so, rétes has become a regular item to enjoy here in Tree Town too!
Author and renowned restaurateur, George Lang, gave credit for strudel’s origination to the Ottoman Turks and said that the strudel was a legacy of the Turkish influence on the region. While strudel’s delicacy might reasonably be taken as a mark of something that started in high society, Lang let us know that, “In Hungary strudel is a village specialty, and even in luxury restaurants it’s always a farmer girl from the provinces who’s hired to make it.”
All the strudels that the Bakehouse is making are exceptionally good. Ultra-thin, hand-done dough wrapped around a variety of fillings—as George Lang wrote, “so thin and light one can blow it away with a puff of air.” Amy Emberling, co-managing partner at the Bakehouse said of the strudel making process: “The dough is one of those wonders of the baking world that is rewarding to make. It’s like a magic trick!”
While the work of making the rétes dough stays the same, the fillings can be changed out with the seasons. We do a great series of savory rétes (bacon and potato; or, on occasion, my favorite, cabbage and goose fat) and also some superb sweet versions, like apple.
Big thanks to the talented pastry crew at the Bakehouse for making it so the rest of us can simply stop by, buy a slice or two or three, and enjoy it after dinner or even as a morning snack or lunch with a salad. They come out at the Bakeshop every morning. Pick up a slice and head over to the Coffee Company to get some of that Tree Town blend. Imagine you’re sitting in a café in Budapest. Better still, while you’re sipping and snacking, snag a spot on one of our Hungarian Food Tours for next year.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
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- Buy rétes in frozen form from the Bakehouse. Simply pop in your oven at home (instructions are on the package) and in under an hour you’ll have a house full of wonderful smells and a great sweet treat to take your day to the next level.
- If you want to make rétes at home, the recipe is in the lovely Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook – check out page 236!