Potato Bacon Rétes at the Bakehouse

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Flaky, filled Hungarian pastry for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

The Bakehouse’s work with Hungarian foods has been, for me, one of the most inspiring stories to come out of the ZCoB in the 21st century. It’s a testament to what the willingness to study deeply, to go to the source to learn, to stick with something (as Paul always says) long after the initial glamor has worn off, can make happen. Thanks to the leadership of Amy Emberling (co-managing partner at the Bakehouse and a member of our Stewardship Council) and Frank Carollo (Bakehouse co-founder and former co-managing partner) and the great work of everyone at the Bakehouse over the years, the Bakehouse has become one of the country’s most prominent artisan producers of traditional Hungarian baked goods.

Even after a decade of having these items in our regular baking rotation, I’m inspired anew every time I taste one of the Hungarian products that the Bakehouse makes so skillfully. I’m not alone in that. It’s a rare week that a customer who either grew up in Hungary or has family roots there doesn’t tell me how authentic and excellent the Bakehouse offerings are. While the beautiful chocolate tortes (Dobos Torta, Rigó Jancsi, Esterházy) get most of the initial attention, the Hungarian offering that I almost certainly eat more of than any other is the Potato Bacon Rétes. And, I’m happy to say, Potato Bacon Rétes are back this month after an autumn sabbatical.

Rétes is the Hungarian name for what most of the Western world will know as “strudel.” Rétes comes from the Hungarian word réteges, meaning, appropriately, “layered.” Potatoes, like paprika, are not, of course, native to Hungary. They came from the Western Hemisphere as part of the colonial excursion that came to be known as the Columbian Exchange, at the end of the 15th century and into the 16th century. They became important in Hungarian cooking only when the government ordered people to grow them after famine led to widespread hunger from 1770 to 1772. The rétes are made with Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon; the sweet smokiness of the bacon offsets the creamy texture of the pretty much perfectly cooked potatoes and the flakiness of that delicious pastry that the Bakehouse staff works so successfully to stretch so incredibly thin. Amy 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!”

The Potato Bacon Rétes is terrific for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They’re easy to bring to work for lunch, or even to eat in the car while you’re driving. We enjoy them at our house for dinner once a week or so, usually accompanied by soft scrambled eggs. When she first moved here from San Francisco many years ago, Tammie told me one night that “the rétes are like God’s gift to the Bakehouse!”

You can get the rétes every day—while supplies last—at the Bakeshop on Plaza Drive and at the Deli. FYI, if you’re feeding a family, you can also buy a whole, unbaked frozen “log” of them to finish off at your house. Guaranteed your whole home will be filled with wonderful aromas and in about 50 minutes you’ll have a marvelous meal!