Most everyone has heard of Proust, I don’t think it is just a French major kind of thing. Many have heard of the his story of having tea and madeleines and having the experience cause him to recall things from the past. My madeleines are in the form of kalács.
The less well-known ethnicities are harder to pin down for their specialties. Because the previous generation is almost completely gone, we have pretty much no one to remind us of the things we used to enjoy so regularly. When we think about some of the wonderful ethnic things we have, we realize that some of them may already be lost to us.
For special occasions or even for no reason at all, my grandmother and mom used to make kalács. They made it in three forms: walnut, poppy seed, and cheese. The first two were always in the shape of a roll and the last one in a 9 x 12 or smaller pan. Luckily, Mary Kay followed my mom and grandmother around the kitchen and learned to make them although she doesn’t make them that often.
The word, kalács, usually means cake. This is what we called it. As I have found out, there is a distinct question in the Hungarian cooking world about whether or not it is kalács or beigli.
MK pulled out the recipe, made it, and tweaked her recipe. At first she was unsure as to her directions but now she has it down. The yeast dough that is used is a recipe my mother found to replace the original as it is easier and better in quality. I am not good with yeast so I refrain from even attempting it.
The nut roll generally has relatively thin layers that feature the thin ‘cake’ layer, with a layer of chopped walnuts (or poppy seed) mixture. For the ever so slightly sweet cheese kalács, we now use ricotta cheese to replace the dry cottage cheese we once used, something my mother had already started.
Maybe this doesn’t appeal to everyone, but smelling this dessert bake and then having some put my mind in the past, making me think of generations of people who had made this, tying me clearly to my previous generations.
I am hoping that this renewing of the making of the recipe continues as this is pure heaven.