Chimney cake

Chimney cake

Another Daring Bakers challenge – thanks to Swathi from Zesty South Indian Kitchen.

Chimney cake (its anglicised name) or Kürtőskalács is a brioche/enriched dough treat from Hungary and Romania. It’s name reflects the shape, caused by coiling dough round a wooden cylinder and baking the whole thing together.

This cake is a legacy of medieval cooking methods and actually pretty much every European culture and country will have had it’s own equivalent speciality. These cakes were borne out of the fact that  all cooking was done over an open fire using either spits suspended across the flames or a cauldron sat on a trivet or brandreth. Cakes and puddings could be made in cauldrons – they were wrapped in cloth and floated in liquid simmering away in the cauldron (the root recipe for many favourites like suet and sponge puddings in Britain) or they could be made on a spit – which means either wrapping a cylinder mould with dough or basting a batter mix over it.

The German tree cake or baumkuchen is a marque of a master konditor (pastry cook) and forms part of the critical part of the Konditormeister mastership examination. This is another example of these cylinder cakes, but here batter is basted over a mould on the spit while it is turning, rather than a coiled dough. In many countries these cylinder cakes have been lost to history so it’s lovely to see some still kept alive. The English version was ‘trayne roste’ or train roast and is more closely related to the baumkuchen. I’m making a guess here that it got its name because the batter was trained over the spit. I say just English, Great Britain didn’t exist at that time (and not for a few hundred years more) but no doubt Scotland and Wales had their own variations (they just weren’t written down anywhere).

One of the earliest examples of trayne roste includes figs, dates, raisins, almonds, fruit (unspecified – I assume whatever was in season), wine or ale (as water wasn’t potable outside of natural spa areas), ginger, saffron and cloves. You can read the earliest known written recipe as a pdf or ebook within a book listed as Harl Ms. 2016. I’d urge you to have a look not least because the language is fascinating (serue of hit a pece or two in a dissh – serve a piece or two in a dish, for example).

Anyway, back to chimney cake or Kürtőskalács. The unique method of cooking this over a flame or in a modern specially made oven to accommodate the spits seems to be getting more popular and bakeries are now springing up outside of Hungary and Romania. There are several dotted around the UK that appeared in the results while I was asking Mr Google about the cake.

So… onto the recipe. I’ve actually tweaked the recipe a little to accommodate a nod to the historic recipes. Kürtőskalács is a brioche-type recipe (but with less butter) and I’ve added cinnamon, nutmeg and a few finely chopped raisins to mimic those medieval tastes.

Notes

To replicate the specialist mould you’ll need to wrap a rolling pin with foil and find a way to suspend it so that the dough doesn’t touch anything. I did this by balancing the rolling pin ends on a couple of upturned ramekins.

This amount of dough will make two chimney cakes.

Equipment
  • Rolling pin, covered in foil
  • Something to balance it on – a wide tin or a couple of ramekins
  • Bowl
  • Dough scraper
Ingredients
  • strong white flour (fine – suitable for brioche/choux etc) – 250g
  • yeast, easy blend – 7g
  • milk, slightly warmed – 120 ml
  • caster sugar – 35g
  • salt – pinch
  • eggs, room temperature – 2 medium
  • unsalted butter, softened – 50g
  • raisins, chopped – small handful (about 20g)
  • cinnamon – 1/3 tsp
  • nutmeg, freshly grated or ground – 1/3 tsp
  • extra butter melted, to brush onto the cake
  • extra caster sugar, to roll the cake into
Method
  1. Put the yeast into the (slightly) warmed milk and give it a whisk with a fork. Leave it to froth up a little – this’ll take about 5 mins.
  2. Prepare your rolling pin(s) by wrapping it completely in foil and rubbing some oil all over.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (not the raisins) together and when the yeast is ready, tip the milk/yeast mix in and the melted butter and mix it all into a sticky mess.
  4. Leave for 5 mins, then knead for five mins (by hand or in a mixer). It’s much more gooey than bread and should be this way, so don’t be tempted to add additional flour. It’s best to knead without flour – it’s messy and sticky but will improve as you knead. Use a scraper to help you get it off the table.
  5. Drop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise until about doubled in size – this can take a good couple of hours (alternatively leave it in the fridge overnight).
  6. When risen, add the raisins and give it a light knead.
  7. Chop the dough into two and tease each ball of dough out into a long rope by pulling/rolling it. Get it to as long as possible while keeping it at about an inch across.
  1. Roll this rope flat – repeat for the other ball of dough. These are now ready to wrap round the foiled rolling pin.
  1. Heat your oven to 180C fan/190 conventional.
  2. Start at one end of the rolling pin and coil the dough round in a spiral. Wet the edge of the dough slightly as you wrap it round to help it keep together. Keep going until the whole of the main cylinder of the rolling pin is wrapped (any extra dough can be made into mini Chelsea buns).
  1. Brush the cake with melted butter and roll in the caster sugar.
  2. Balance your rolling pin on whatever you’ve managed to arrange to go into the oven (to keep the rolling pin suspended) and put into the oven.
  1. It will take about 20 mins to bake – you’re looking for a golden brown colour.
  2. When it’s done, let the cake cool on the rolling pin.
  3. To get it off (if it won’t slide off the foil) actually slide the whole of the foil and the cake together off the rolling pin, then gently pull the foil off the inside of the cake.
  4. Trim one end to ensure it’s flat so the cake will stand. Leave long for people to tear off a piece or chop into manageable, shorter tubes
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