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Hungarian Palacsinta

I love palacsinta, the Hungarian crepes, and this looks like a great recipe, kindly provided by Anna Babarczy courtesy of producer Marika Gutmann.

Recipe for about 20 palacsinta:

10 ounces of flour
3 whole eggs
milk (enough to make a runny, smooth dough (it needs to pour like syrup)
1 teaspoon sugar (not more or they burn!)
1 pinch salt

Take a small omelette pan and put it on medium heat.

Add a teasp of butter or margarine in (margarine doesn’t burn as quickly).
Put enough dough in to cover the bottom of pan, best with a soup ladle. keep the palacsinta thin, like a crepe.

When it releases from pan and has browned a bit, turn the palacsinta over (use your fingers at the side of you need to).

The first one always comes out sucky. add another dab of marge and do the second one.
it’s smooth sailing from there.

Add a dab of margarine every time you put in new dough.

They should be lightly browned at the edges and have a few darker marks throughout the surface. they shouldn’t blacken.

Put apricot marmalade, nutella or sugar/cinnamon on them and roll them into delicious doughy cigars.

recipe by
Anna Babarczy
Bóly, Hungary

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  1. Like Jim, I have a powerful fondness for palacsinta...though mine is additionally fueled by the comfort food quotient -- palacsinta is trhe dream food of my childhood, the dish i cajoled my mother to make, rarely, when she wanted to do something very special for me. I've been looking for recipes most of my adult life (though I generally just eyeball the texture and color to get it to that sweet Proustian spot that reminds me of my mother's kitchen) and would add the following notes:

    1. Beyond everything else, margarine is an abomination that should never be inflicted on crepes, much less on palacsinta...such a post WWII approach to palacsinta! The flavor of the butter, especially the nuttiness of the browning butter/batter interface, should not be compromised.

    2. My own favored recipe is George Lang's, which also calls for 3 eggs and a t of sugar and pinch of salt, but only about half as much flour I think (1 1/4 cups). It's either much thinner than this or much less eggy, depending on how much milk one puts in. In my view, egginess is a good thing in palacsinta, i like them best when they are discernibly pale yellow rather than pallidly grey-white.

    3. Lang, like many of my parents' contemporaries (but not, most of the time, my mother) adds a cup of carbonated water. The thought seems to have been that this lightens the batter and gives it a frothiness than translates when cooked into a somewhat more aerated palacsinta. I go both ways on the subject, don't frankly notice the difference other than that, in the final analysis, adding more liquid means lowering the proportion of egg, and i think I like it eggier. But then, and you can see what a problem this is as memory tugs against palate, and different memories collide, many, many authentic palacsintas are not very eggy at all and have a more springy, almost rubbery texture, that I think comes from more flour and the carbonated water, and less egg proportionately. And even if I don't like the taste quite as much the redolence of palacsinta past more than makes up for it.

    Ok, so you do what you want/like about amount of flour, addition of seltzer water, egginess of batter.

    3. I view the sugar as optional.

    4. The pan is the problem. This recipe is absolutely right that the first one always sucks. But don't feel depressed if the second and third and fourth ones do as well. It's basically a question of how well-seasoned your pan is. Because the right way to do this is to use a very heavy pan that lets go of heat only begrudgingly, and that pan needs to be suffused with years of fat. Maybe just butter if you use it only for palacsinta, or maybe that wonderful hungarian temporal melange that comes from year after year of layered vestigial butter, lard, goose fat, chicken fat, and more butter (and more goose fat...) so that the molecules of iron slowly lose their primacy and the fat molecules become the majority party when the batter hits the pan...The best way to approach this is to melt 1/4 lb butter, clarify it, keep it warming in a pan next to the palacsinta pan, and ladle in (ideally using a Hungarian goose quill brush) clarified butter every time the batter starts to stick; the more it sticks the more you ladle in next time. Keep the pan shiny and hot and buttery and as the batter pours in it will swiftly bubble, the bubbles will brown and harden a bit, the crepe itself will stay soft, and then you can flip it (the second side's always easy) and let it firm up a bit, then pile it on top of the others, cover loosely with tinfoil and stuff it in a warming oven until it's ready for the next palacsinta to join the crowd.

    5. Apricot jame is the name of the game, at least when I play it, and the quality of the jam is everything. Lumpy but soft, tart and very apricot...look for a jam that has good healthy hunks of apricot in the mix. Loosen it up a bit with Tokaji or Amaretto or warm water so it just barely pours off the spoon with the chunks plopping onto the crepe.

    6. The best palacsinta I've found in Budapest is outside the IKEA at the Ors Vezer Metro station...a little shed among the fast food grannies, makes palacsinta and langos (fried dough with cheese, etc.) exclusively.

    7. Sadly, just the other day the only disappointing thing about an otherwise quite wonderful meal at Blaue Gans in Tribeca was the palacsinta. They used the Austrian spelling (with a 'k' near the end...palatschinken), and that disappointed me until I tasted them...They were cold and dry and lifeless with sad apricot filling. They can keep the 'k' in their name...

    8. A final thing, a kind of creme brulee touch. If you sprinkle a small handful of superfine sugar over the finshed palacsinta on a plate and then heat a two-tined kitchen fork until it's almost red hot, and then bring it down like a branding iron on the sugar, you'll get pleasingly caramelized markings...

    1 Reply
    1. re: farago

      Great post and thread!
      Anyone have a recipe for the poppyseed filling?

    2. I had to laugh about the first one sticking and being a mess, always seems to be for me too. My grandmother taught me to make these about 30 years ago. Her recipie was

      1 cup flour
      1 cup milk
      1 egg
      1 scant teaspoon sugar
      A pinch of salt

      She always greased the pan with shortening rather than butter, and told me that the palacscinta (she prounounced it pollacsinki) should never be allowed to get brown, they should be uniformly pale. The trick was getting the heat in the pan just right so that they cooked through, wihtout browning.

      Usually we had these rolled with jelly or jam, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Grandma also said that her mother used to make some sort of "casserole" with them, but she didn't know exactly how. She thought that maybe the palacscinta was filled (rolled around) a cottage cheese filliing, and these rolls layered in a pan with either cream or sour cream poured over, and then the whole thing baked. Apparently this was a dish her mom made when there was unexpected company... a sort of "peasant" food fit for guests. If anyone has any clarification, I'd love to know more.

      4 Replies
      1. re: KaimukiMan

        Was your grandma high class back in Hungary? The non-browning part seems like an aristocratic-leaning touch....

        ciao

        1. re: KaimukiMan

          I know what you are talking about with your grandma's mother's recipe. My grandmother used to make "placinta" which I finally found out is a different version of the palacscinta. She made the crepes, but the filling was cottage cheese (or maybe ricotta) with sugar and cinnamon. Then you put them in a pan, brush with sour cream that is mixed with sugar, and then bake them. I have a recipe, but I am going to get another one soon. After comparing I will get back to you.

          The recipe I have now is from my grandmothers church cookbook published in 1980, but I recently met a chef from transylvania, which is where my father's family was from, and I was asking him about placinta. He said that the transylvanian saxon language was slightly different, so it is not the same as the hungarian palacscinta recipes. When I described what I remembered he said he would write "our" version down for me, step by step, so I could make them, and he would throw in somed extras! I will be going back next week to get the recipes and have some delicious transylvanian food (he said he would make me something special) and then I will let you know!

          1. re: danhole

            Just wondering if danhole ever found out more.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Unfortunately, the day I was supposed to go back the chef had an unexpected layover and was out of town. And the weather here has been so stormy that I haven't gotten with him, yet. But I will! When I do I will let you know.

        2. This sounds good. Is it always a sweet dish or can it be savory (thinking of dinner tonight). What kind of pan works best? The regular non-stick for pancakes? Thanks.

          1. Apparently great grandma was something of a perfectionist when it came to this sort of thing. She passed away when I was quite young, but stories about her cooking - especially her streudel dough (which allegedly you could read newsprint through) are family legend. Although Czech herself she always said that Hungarians were the best cooks (hence a family penchant for goulash - see other posts)

            In reply to chowser, I've always cooked them in a cast iron skillet (what else...LOL). I imagine a non stick pan would work well, or even a crepe pan if you have one, as that is almost what they are. Can't wait to hear what danhole has to say when he gets back.

            8 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              I'll use our cast iron since it's well seasoned. Do you flip w/ a spatula or tongs? I'm thinking it might be hard to get a spatula under the edges of a crepe with the higher pan. Thanks! Oh, no vanilla? I'm a vanilla freak w/ things like this.

              1. re: chowser

                not with tongs, dont think it would hold together. if you need to cheat, lift up the corner with a knife or thumbnail.... Never used vanilla, this is more of a "background" to whatever you are cooking, but if you want to break tradition...LOL

                1. re: chowser

                  The traditional way (at least in my childhood in the Budapest area) is to throw the palacsinta into the air with the pan and catch it after flipping over. With a lightweight pan it takes surprisngly little amount of practice.

                  1. re: woto

                    humm... only ever cooked them in a cast iron pan... not the easiest thing to flip from... comedic perhaps.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      where i come from it's a cast iron pan, but one with a very low edge (1/8 inch or so) and the flip is pretty lowkey, just enough to clear the pan, an inch or two perhaps ... if the pan is well greased and hot enough to bubble the batter a tad, it's a deft little flick o' the wrist

                      1. re: farago

                        I learned my technique from my mother who used a ridiculously inefficient little butter knife to release and flip her palacsinta in the pan. I now use the a similar silly little knife for that purpose. Just goes to prove it's not about the equipment.

                        1. re: Nyleve

                          kind of wonderful...my mother used a beat up old blunt and dull small dinner knife that she reserved fo that exclusive function

              2. I don't think I quite get it. That recipe is a standard dessert crepe recipe without the butter. What makes it Hungarian?

                6 Replies
                1. re: OldTimer

                  It's all in the intent. If you don't have a heightened intent, it's all just ingredients and methods. :)

                  1. re: OldTimer

                    Of course it's just a crepe. Just as a blintz is just a crepe, or any number of thin flexible pancakes from around the world are just a crepe. There are archetypal recipes and, yes, this is one of them. Having said that, Jim is right - it's all in the intent. Serve it folded with melted bitter chocolate and wrapped in a sheet of waxed paper and it's a crepe. Serve palacsinta on your nicest china, with apricot jam and dusted with icing sugar (if you're being shmancy); put on your most wonderfully cloying Hungarian accent and it's a whole nother thing altogether.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      Hey...I'm not talking about the serving method. I am one of the world's greatest crepe lovers. Its just that the recipe is for plain old crepes ordinaire. There is nothing Hungarian about eggs flour and milk mixed. It almost sounds like menu hype. Might as well call them Cornish crepes, Israeli blintzes, whatever. My point is, naming them Hungarian doesn't make a plain crepe a national treasure. Its not the "intent", its the method of service.

                      1. re: OldTimer

                        and calling them crepes doesnt make them anything other than an eggy pancake. not sure what your point is. their use with various fillings is apparently an important part of Hungarian cuisine. No less valid a name than that used in any other culture.

                        1. re: OldTimer

                          Ah - but which came first - the palacsinta or the crepe? I don't think we'll ever know but they are indeed a very significant Hungarian specialty. No one "named" them Hungarian. Palacsinta are served widely in Hungary - it is NOT a Hungarian version of a French dish. There is a difference in the way they are presented and served as well as the place they occupy on a typical Hungarian menu. In our home, they were typically the final course of a meatless meal - like a dessert but not entirely. You might serve them, as well, as a lunch dish, but I personally never had them with a savoury filling. They were always sweet to some extent.

                          Certainly this is a simple dish made with ingredients that are available throughout Europe, at least. Given some eggs, milk and flour it is almost inevitable that someone would have invented this type of thing eventually, so of course it is a common theme. Maybe all these crepe/palacsinta type things all came from a single source (but I doubt it) but even so, each culture has put its stamp on it and each culture owns their own version. Palacsinta is, indeed a national treasure.

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            I'm laughing and nodding at the crepe/palascinta thing, because wow, did I have the same confused recognition when I sat down to breakfast in Burgundy and realized their local brioche is almost identical to my grandmother's (Polish) bapka. Convergence!