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Swiss-Hungarian Sweet

January 8, 2012

Once upon a time, in Hungary…  Or to be exact, in mid-to-late 19th century Budapest, the coffee house culture was flourishing.  These establishments didn’t only provide food and beverages (often with a full menu and bar!) but intellectual fodder as well: the most prominent writers, journalists, artists and political thinkers all frequented coffee houses.  Many of these places are still (or once again) open and serving great fare; and one of the best known ones is Gerbeaud in downtown Pest.  The French-sounding name in fact comes from a Swiss confectioner, Emile Gerbeaud: he joined an already existing business at this place in 1884, and after the death of the original owner, he bought the whole establishment.

And why the history here? These delightful bars were one of Monsieur Gerbeaud’s inventions – and to this day, they are named after him.  Making them is easy, the taste is absolutely delicious – and these “gerbeauds” can bring a touch of European coffee house to the side of your cup.

First, to prepare the dough: combine 350 g of flour (right around 2 cups) with 200 g margarine (a little less than 2 sticks), crumbling them together.


Crumbled flour

Now add 50 grams of sugar (1/3 cup or so) and a whole egg.  If the dough is too dry, add a little warm milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s easy to work with and elastic, but not sticky or too soft and gooey.

Split the dough into three equal parts.  Roll the first one out to fit a 9-by-11 inch cookie sheet, and lay it down on the cookie sheet.  For the first filling on top of that, use apricot jam (home-canned, for the best flavor).  If the jam is too firm to spread, microwave it for a few seconds to get it a little softer.  Top the jam layer with a mixture of ground walnuts and powdered sugar – there’s no hard-set ratio on the nuts and sugar; just sweeten it to your liking.


Three (mostly) even-sized parts



Roll out the second dough sheet, place it on top of the first and poke it gently with a fork; then repeat the same toppings of jam and walnuts.  Finally, top the sheet off with the final dough portion rolled out to size.

Ready to rise

Ready to rise

Let the assembled bar sheet rise for about an hour at a warm, draft-free corner of the kitchen; cover it up with a lightweight kitchen towel for this time.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and once the dough is done rising, put it right in.  In my experience, this takes 25-35 minutes – when the dough sheets are golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out easily, it’s done.


Fresh out of the oven

As the dough is out of the oven, prepare the chocolate coating for the top.  In a small saucepan, combine 150 g powdered sugar with 3 heaping tablespoons of baking cocoa, whisking them together completely.  Add 5 tablespoons of boiling water to the mix, then gently heat it, stirring constantly until all lumps disappear.  Remove from heat and add about a tablespoon of butter or margarine to the coating: this will give a nice sheen to the final coat.  Pour it over the whole sheet of bars while both are still warm, then cool the whole sheet overnight.

Chocolate for the top

Chocolate for the top

Full sheet

The finished sheet, before cooling and cutting

Cut it in two-bite-size diamonds with a long, sharp knife, and serve it with coffee, tea or milk – and definitely some interesting conversation.

Enjoy your meal!

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