Three Cubed: Better Than Cake


The Book: Flavors of Hungary: Recipes and Memoirs by Charlotte Biro (1973, reprinted 1992 version still available)

As can be said for most April days here in Baltimore, it was dark, grey, and raining. Unwilling to leave my cozy kitchen for any purpose or ingredient not already pantry-side, I cracked open another cookbook in my stash that I had yet to actually use: Flavors of Hungry. The book, once part of a larger grandmotherly collection, had been passed on to me by a friend. She suspected that, going on as I do about my Hungarian roots and how my own grandmother never measured anything the same way twice, I might put it to good use.

Page 127 was an illustration, but page 128 was a recipe for what looked like a basic bread but contained both riced potatoes and cake flour. Rye flour was a suggested alternative to the potatoes so, having the latter but not the former, appropriate substitutions commenced.

As it turns out, the Hungarian aversion to measuring that my grandmother professed must be a universal. Water was to be added “as needed” and just how much potato was required (or how much rye flour was to be added, if that was the swap) was left to the cook’s own judgement. Assuming a certain skill level, the instructions only go so far: for example, you are to work the dough “until the texture is right” and you’re on your own as far as figuring out what that might be. This was probably more than obvious to most women in 1973, but it made me reflect on the requirements of recipes today.

Having a bit of bread-making experience in my hands, I felt pretty confident moving through the steps and ended up with a lovely round loaf with a thick, crisp crust. If I had it to do again, however, I would opt for the loaf pan version. The cake flour in this recipe, though only a small portion of the total, is what I suspect made the crumb so soft and just slightly glossy/chewy/stretchy. Unlike some homemade bread that can’t handle sandwich duty without crumbling to bits, this tasty rye could easily flex to withstand the weight of a turkey slice or the pull of a thick peanut butter even (gasp!) untoasted.

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2 thoughts on “Three Cubed: Better Than Cake

  1. Is it just me or do potatoes and rye flour not seem like interchangeable ingredients? Also assumes a lot on the part of the baker.
    But the part about measuring sounds familiar. The first few times I asked my mother how to do povitica, she demonstrated that flour should be added “until it feels right.”

  2. I know, right? I decided to just go with it, assuming I had a handle on the “feels right” aspect, but still, who knows. Trying to gauge how much rye flour and water equals one riced potato of no indicated size was pretty random.

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