Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Hungarian Shortbread : "TWD : Baking with Julia"

We've been travelling vicariously through our baking ..we've travelled from Eastern Europe to Ireland, then to Italy and the Mediterranean coast and we are, now, back in Eastern Europe, Hungary to be precise. Hungarian shortbread was the recipe of choice for the fortnightly bake-together of the "Baking with Julia" group.


The Hungarian shortbread, or omlos teasutemeny, is essentially two layers of buttery, crumbly dough that sandwiches a layer of jam. While the ingredients are your basic, pantry items that are used for most shortbread recipes, what is unique is the technique that is used to make them. One is required to freeze the dough and then, once frozen, it is grated into the baking pan in two layers. This creates that unique, crumbly looking texture that you see.

The recipe is heavy in butter and apparently, it is that butter that oozes during the baking process and binds the grated dough together. I reckon the various crumble bars that we see and eat today bear their origin or at least, draw inspiration from this recipe.


While working through this recipe what also struck me was how the preferences and tastes of the home baker have changed over the years. The book, 'Baking with Julia', is your typical old-school cookbook where the recipes are traditional with an emphasis on butter, cream, flour and sugar that sometimes, feels that it borders on the excessive for the purpose of home baking. Today, I feel, we are more inclined towards recipes that use healthier ingredients such as yoghurt, oil, oats and wholemeal flour to a certain extent!! You agree or is it just me who prefers it that way??



Coming back to the recipe, I did make a few changes. I made only half the recipe and since we don't get rhubarb in India, I used some store-bought, organic plum conserve. Some on the group did point out that the dough was a bit too sweet for their liking, so, I reduced the sugar by a quarter. I did also bake the bottom layer for ten minutes before I spread the jam layer and grated the second layer on.


There were absolutely no issues with the recipe. It came together beautifully. Once cooled and cut, these bars were crumbly and buttery and that layer of plum conserve had just the right amount of tartness to counter the sweet dough.

While the recipe does call for a fair amount of butter and you can even smell it during baking, it is that what gives these bars a beautiful, crumbly texture. While I would have preferred the recipe to have less butter, the unanimous verdict on the bars was that they were excellent. These are your no-holds barred, rich, buttery, delicious crumble bars.

Due to copyright considerations, only the person hosting the recipe for the group 'TWD:Baking with Julia' can post the recipe on their blog. The recipe for the Hungarian Shortbread will be available on the blogs of Lynette and Cher. Alternately, you can write to me at bakerindisguise@gmail.com and I will mail you the recipe.

52 comments:

  1. Love plum! Great substitution. Your bars look lovely.

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    1. Thanks Cathleen!! :) The organic plum conserve was excellent...it helped counter the sweetness and even cut through the richness of the buttery crust!!

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  2. Delicious Shortbread & Great pictures!

    I've made some little changes to save on fat and Kcal and was still delicious!
    Greetings from Switzerland.

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    1. Thanks!! :) good to know that they taste good even after reducing the butter.. i was convinced they tasted soo good only because of the butter!!! :)

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  3. Looks delicious with that layer of plum jam sandwiched between the two layers of dough - nice idea. Love the photos that you took - they really do look appetizing! Enjoy the rest of your week!

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    1. Thank you Andrea!! it helped that the recipe was not too challenging to follow!!

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  4. I agree - although not designed to be eaten every day, as a treat, these were devine. Plum jam would have been delish in these.

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    1. I read somewhere that people usually keep this recipe to bake these bars for the holidays.. that makes sense..they are lovely for a special occassion or a huge family get together...

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  5. I used plums too (but togheter with apples), I have to agree with you, this recipe uses too much butter but it's just so good!!!!!!

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    1. Haha.. I agree..it was that butter that made these so good...if only I didnt have issues with my weighing scale.. Sigh!! Plum was a good substitution.. but you made yours while i took the lazier, easier option of using store bought preserve!! :)

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  6. true, a little of this goes a long way. Plum as filling - sounds delish!

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    1. I think most of us went for substitutions as we didnt have access to rhubarb!! One piece is more than enough...

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  7. plums seem to be fairly popular with this recipe this week! :) well, yours are the prettiest bars I have seen so far! Good job!

    Alice @ http://acookingmizer.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you Alice!! :) I guess plum seemed a fair substitution cos its slightly tart and i think most thought it would be a fair substituion for rhubarb!!

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  8. Those look lovely! I think the plum sounds like a great fit. It is hard to justify that amount of butter. Small pieces?

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    1. Thanks Jules!! :) Am already fretting about the butter for pecan sticky buns.... that recipe is a killer!! :)

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  9. I love shortbreads, and these look so delicious!! I am from eastern Europe, to be precise from Moldova, how do you like the easter European cuisine?

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    1. Hi Catalina... I really enjoy baking stuff from different lands and different cultures. As for eastern european cuisine.. i've only baked these shortbreads and the rugelach. I really enjoyed the shortbread but what I loved even more was the rugelach. I used apricot lekvar and fell in love with that cream cheese dough that we used.. it was so beautiful, soft and flaky!! Maybe you could send me something traditional from Moldova.. i'll be more than willing to give it a shot!! :) Thank you for stopping by!!

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  10. Yours look SUPER delicious!

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    1. Thank you Anna!!! They tasted SUPER delicious too!!

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  11. I do love oat bars, but was happy to try something new. Your adaptation seems to have turned out perfectly!

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    1. Thanks Susan!! yeah... this was a fabulous, new technique .. was a bit skeptical about it in the beginnning.. but they turned out beautifully!!

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  12. These are definitely good for a treat. The plum looks really good!

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    1. Buying that plum conserve was one of my smarter ideas that day!!:)

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  13. Your bars look fantastic, and plum conserve sounds delicious!

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  14. I play both teams - the traditional and the health-nut one :) Plum filling is a great idea!

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    1. Well.. i'd love to play both teams.. the weighing scales dont allow me to!!! :)

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  15. Lovely looking bars -- my slices were too big!

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    1. Smaller slices is the way to go with this recipe...a big slice would be a butter and sugar overload!! :) Thank you for stopping by!!

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  16. Your bars look absolutely lovely!

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  17. I love the crumbly look of your bars. Beautiful job!

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    1. Thanks Elaine... I did away with the sprinkling of sugar right in the end cos I thought they looked better this way with the crumbly top on display!!!

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  18. I also made half the recipe to save on the calories. I also went a step further and gave away most of my pan to avoid the snacking. Great post!

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    1. Yeah.. I did the same.. would have been a butter-sugar overkill... if I had more than one!! :)

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  19. I was intimidated with the amount of butter in the recipe, and halved the recipe :) It has the same fat and calories per slice, but feels better to only use 2 sticks of butter instead of 4 :)

    Your bars look great!

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    1. haha...The things we do to assuage our conscience!! you're not the only one who thought that way.. :)

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  20. These look amazing! Good call to reduce the sugar, I will have to try that next time.

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    1. well.. I had to reduce something..read someone on the group say they had reduced the sugar.. so went along with that!!! try it... it was good!!

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  21. Your bars look great. I bet the plum conserve was really good in them. I like the strong purple color in the pictures. My preference is for healthier ingredients too. After a while I felt like I was eating a stick of butter.

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    1. The plum conserve was excellent.. its a local Indian organic food brand that I picked up!! But I think its all a personal preference.. I know quite a few people who enjoy this kind of rich, buttery baked goods!! they find things like the oat bars a bit too healthy tasting!! :)

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  22. Your cookies look lovely. I have to agree - using so much butter and sugar is defintely not how I would nromally bake.
    Great job & thanks for baking along this week.

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    1. Thanks cher! While the ingredients were a bit on the heavier side.. I really enjoyed trying out the new technique of grating the dough.. it was kinda fun!! :)

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  23. I totally agree with you - everyone does expect things to be less buttery creamy sugary these days but I think before you branch out into those newer arenas you have to learn it old school. That's just me though. Your shortbread looks really scrumptious! I love seeing all the different fillings everyone chose!

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    1. Totally agree with you Maggie!! Thats why I said the oat crumble bars definitely got their inspiration of bars such as these!! Everyone's fillings have been fantastic from the traditional to the experimental!!

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  24. Your Bars look great...nice crumbly texture really shows. Plum sounds like a good choice for the filling too. The fig I used in mine came from my fig tree. I have 2 plum trees, but they are not producing enough yet to do much...down the road I hope to have plum jam too.

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    1. Lucky you!! Fig and plum trees in your backyard..!!! I recently discovered the joy of cooking with home grown produce.. so can just imagine how amazing it must be for you!! again you lucky lucky woman!! :)

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  25. These bars are lovely! The plum conserves sound perfect in them! I like that crumbly topping. I'm a bit embarrassed to say most of my baking is of horribly fattening desserts full of butter and white flour and cream cheese and all those things that are not good for us but taste so darn delicious.

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    1. Thank you Reeni!! Honestly, even i love baking with all those fattening stuff.. but my struggles with the weighing scale make me opt for baking with healthier alternatives... but true, nothing to beat the real stuff!! :)

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  26. I love using heathy ingredients in my everyday cooking, but I don't mind all the traditional ingredients in these recipes - it's nice to see the foundations of this sort of cooking. We share our baking with our extended family, so no one's getting too much of it, either. Your plum preserves look so pretty in your squares!

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    1. Thanks Teresa!! I agree.. our everyday cooking is a healthy improvisation on these traditional recipes!! The plum preserve was excellent to say the least!!

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