Apple Rétes Made with Rare “Transparent Apples”

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Special Hungarian Apple “strudel” from the Bakehouse

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!” If you want to make it at home, the recipe for rétes is in the lovely Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook! Check out page 236 and see the beautiful photo if you want to get a visual take on it!

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. This fall we’ve gotten our hands on some really special apples to use for the rétes. It’s an old variety I’d never heard of—“Transparent apples.” The flavor is fantastic. The apples apparently originate in the Baltics—they’ve long been a popular item in Latvia and Lithuania. The transparent apples (Popierinis in Lithuanian) came over to the U.S. in the 1870s. An old, early season apple, they’re terrifically tart and not all that sweet, with a soft texture that makes them great for applesauce. Or for filling rétes. The apple flavor comes through loud and clear. 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. Pick up a slice and a cup of coffee. Imagine you’re sitting in a café in Budapest.

Apple rétes will be available at the Next Door Cafe Thursday, September 22nd, through Wednesday, October 5th. Read about our other Hungarian specialties here!