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Kurtoskalacs: A Transylvanian Treat!

I’m back from Transylvania and I just had to share with you my favorite food discovery! We ate these kurtoskalacs twice and I wish I would have had a chance to eat them a few more times!

Kurtoskalacs are a traditional Hungarian pastry and, depending on who you talk to, they are the oldest Hungarian pastry. History and Geography are two of my worst subjects but Transylvania, which is now part of Romania, was once part of Hungary. Or something like that. Anyway, there is still a sizable Hungarian population in Transylvania and these yummy kurtoskalacs, which I believe originate from Transylvania, are widely available.

So here’s what I was able to determine after eating some of these tasty Transylvanian treats and watching part of the assembly process. They are made with a yeasted dough, similar to a sweet roll dough. The dough is rolled or cut into long strips and then wrapped around a cylindrical mold. Then it gets brushed with oil and rolled in sugar.

Now for the interesting part. They get cooked over open coals, kind of like the way we roast marshmallows.

The spirals of dough are watched carefully and turned so that each part gets evenly browned. When they are perfectly caramelized, they are taken off the coals and rolled in a topping such as crushed nuts, cinnamon, coconut or colored sprinkles. They don’t have to be rolled in the additional topping, it’s up to you. They taste great with just the plain caramelized sugar glaze!

After the additional topping is added, the pastry is slid off cylindrical mold and allowed to cool briefly before being placed in a paper bag and sold to the next lucky customer. The regular-sized kurtoskalacs look huge but since they are hollow, looks are deceiving. I could easily eat one by myself 🙂

They also sell them in a smaller size. The small ones are great if you want to sample a few different flavors at once. The first time we visited the kurtoskalacs stand, we bought the small ones and sampled three different flavors: coconut, cinnamon, and pecan. They were all great but I think I liked coconut the best. Our friends tried one with sesame seeds and loved it!

The second time we visited the kurtoskalacs stand, I decided I had to get a large one. This time we tried it plain and I think it was my overall favorite. The sugar coating is just right…not too crunchy and not too sticky. And the bread is light and airy with a texture that reminded me of the inside of a glazed donut.

But my favorite thing about kurtoskalacs is the way they unravel as you eat them!

Since I wasn’t able to get photos of the bakers rolling the pastry dough onto the molds, I decided to see if anyone had posted a kurtoskalacs video on the Web. Sure enough, one of my favorite bloggers has a great little video clip of the kurtoskalacs being made. Go visit Ms. Adventures in Italy to check it out.

I also found that another one of my favorite foodbloggers has some experience with kurtoskalacs! Check out the photos and description at Habeas Brulee.

As for the rest of my Transylvanian adventures, you can check out my photos on Flickr. I have only uploaded about half of them but the rest should be up by tomorrow.

See you soon!