Flodni at The Bakehouse

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

The traditional Jewish pastry that’s made its way into Hungarian hearts

While very few people in the U.S. will have heard of flodni, in Budapest their acclaim probably couldn’t be much bigger. There, flodni are known as one of the city’s traditional Jewish pastries, and they’re so popular that you’ll find them in nearly every good bakery and café. While Jewish food might not seem like it would be all that important in present-day Hungary, before the Holocaust nearly a quarter of Budapest’s population was Jewish. And like so many Jewish foods in Hungary, flodni have been widely integrated into everyday eating for folks of all backgrounds for hundreds of years. Many local Hungarians here in town—both Jewish and Christian—have commented on how excited they are to see them at the Bakehouse. Over the years, we’ve even had a couple of folks who have teared up just at the sight of the flodni—memories of one’s grandmothers’ baking can make a big mark on someone’s soul. A few years ago, flodni made Tablet’s list of “100 Most Jewish Foods!”

Flodni are sweets that would have been baked in this part of the world for centuries, long before chocolate came back to Europe from the Americas over 400 years ago. For those without Hungarian roots, flodni are inch-thick squares, with equal layers of ground poppy seeds, chopped apples, and toasted walnuts all sandwiched between two sheets of lightly sweetened, slightly crumbly, butter pastry. (Given the rules of keeping kosher, it’s likely that flodni might originally have been made with goose fat instead of butter so they could be eaten after meat meals.) The Bakehouse’s Flodni are seasoned with honey, fresh orange zest, lemon zest, Red Flame raisins, vanilla, and cinnamon. They’re sweet, but not too sweet, both light and bright at the same time.

The pastry crew cuts the flodni into smallish squares that I think are pretty much perfect for an afternoon cup of coffee or tea. They make a great accompaniment to your morning cappuccino. Purim is over now, but they’re often featured at Purim festivals in Budapest.

Budapest food blogger Eszter Bodrogi wrote:

Warning! Flódni is very addictive, you simply can’t stop eating it. Once you taste it, you’ll immediately forget the hard work and effort you’ve devoted to its preparation. Making flódni is very time consuming, but it’s worth your time once a year because it’s so abundant that by serving it you can give enough to eat to the whole family and friends. 

The good news for us is that the pastry crew at the Bakehouse is doing all the work for us. All we have to do is eat them. If you want added incentive, Bodrogi adds that “Flodni contains every ingredient that might bring health and affluence for the new year according to the folk tradition.” Writing in Tablet, Ráchel Raj, a Hungarian baker famous for her flodni, reports that:

The key to the cake is its harmony. The fillings don’t overwhelm one another. Everything serves a purpose: The poppy seed offers an earthiness; the walnuts, a sweetness; the apples, a tartness. And the plum adds flavor. Together, they form a unified whole.

Back in 2012, Raj organized a festival at which the world record for flodni was set: 1600 servings were given out from a table that stretched nearly 75 feet. The announcer of the event pointed out that all the flodni had been stacked up they would gave reached 300 feet towards the sky, which Raj added would have been as high as the Hungarian parliament! We haven’t reached that level (yet) here in Ann Arbor, but we are baking them every weekend for the rest of the month of March! If you’re looking for a great new sweet with a superb story to go with it, ask for a taste next time you stop in at the Bakeshop or Deli.