Perfect Pogacsa

bacon cheese pogasca (Hungarian butter biscuits)

My number one regret about Budapest is not eating more Pogacsa*. Pogacsa are what American biscuits dream of becoming when they grow up. Flaky layers, the subtle tang of sour cream and yeast, the permission to customize to your hearts desire. They're delicious fresh out of the oven but not so delicate that you can't take them on an adventure for fear they'll be too dry the next day. Pogacsa are perfection.

Pogacsa are so prevalent and quintessentially Hungarian that when Dan and I did a tasting menu at Onyx the bread cart was primarily different flavors of Pogacsa with a couple of other nice breads thrown in. Dan is usually much better than me about not filling up on the bread cart when we do tasting menus but even he couldn't resist.

The most popular flavors are the classic plain Pogacsa, plain sprinkled with poppyseed (of course), cheese and bacon. I took the liberty of combining the last two in this batch and threw in some black pepper but feel free to add or omit whichever flavorings you like.

*J/K my number one regret about Budapest is ever leaving Budapest. Budapest 4EVA.

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 tablespoons Whole Milk
  • pinch of Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 2 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour (plus more for flouring your work surface)
  • 2 tablespoons Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Coarsely Ground Black Pepper (plus more for the top)
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) Cold Butter (cubed)
  • 3 strips of Bacon (Cooked to crispy but not burned and then chopped)
  • 3/4 cup Grated Hard Cheese such as Pecorino, Parmesan or Grana Padano (I used Grana)

Making the Dough

  1. Heat milk to slightly warm to touch (around 108 degrees) and then mix in dry yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let stand for five minutes or until foamy. (If your mixture never gets foamy there are three possible problems: the milk was too hot and you killed the yeast, the milk was too cold to activate the yeast or you have sad, old yeast. In all cases the solution is to start over)
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal with some larger pea size pieces just like you would for pie dough or scones. (You can also do this with a fork or pastry blender if that's your regular method, but I highly recommend getting your hands in the dough, it's both fun and comforting and I think learning the feel of the dough is the only real secret of getting consistently flaky pastries.)
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the yeast mixture, yolks and sour cream.
  4. Create a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine until you have a shaggy, sticky mess and then dump out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. It doesn't need to pass the windowpane test but don't be afraid to work it much more than you might work classic American biscuits. When you think it's just about ready, sprinkle half the bacon in the middle of the dough, work for a few turns and then sprinkle in the other half and finish kneading.
Pogacsa, hungarian butter biscuits

Making All Those Layers

  1. Give your work surface a fresh dusting of flour and then roll out your dough to a 12 inch by 6 inch rectangle. Try to get your corners as sharp as possible. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of your grated cheese. Fold the top third down and then the bottom third up like you're folding up a letter (in fact, this is called a letter fold). Turn the dough 1/4 turn and roll out again to 12 inches by 6 inches. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Fold both ends of the dough to the center and then fold in half (this is called a book fold). Lightly flatten with your rolling pin, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for thirty minutes.
  2. Once your dough is chilled, repeat step one (minus the cheese). Wrap again and chill for at least two hours (I did mine overnight).

Shaping and Baking

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheetpan with either parchment or a silicon baking mat.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge. If you've let it chill for more than two hours, let it sit at room temperature for about twenty minutes.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 3/8 inch thick. Yes, really. If all has gone well, starting with raw dough 3/8 inch thick will get you a finished biscuit of about 2 1/2 inches. I'm not even joking a little bit. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the dough in a cross hatch pattern (I went a little too deep on mine but they were still delicious).
  4. You can either cut your Pogacsa into squares or use a ring cutter to cut into circles. I used a 3 inch ring cutter and got eight Pogacsa total. If you use a ring cutter, make sure you don't twist it because twisting can seal the outside layers together and you won't get the same rise. You can re-roll the scraps once, but I wouldn't recommend more than that.
  5. Space evenly on your sheetpan and brush with a beaten egg. Crack more black pepper on top. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and serve while still warm or at room temperature.

Optional: Make a decadent breakfast sandwich with cheddar and avocado that would be totally normal in America but in Korea is a luxury and makes you feel like a Queen.

avocado, egg and cheese on pogacsa

Thanksgiving Basics: Parker House Rolls

Look, I get it, there's a lot to do for Thanksgiving, do the rolls really have to be homemade? If you've got a great bakery near by taking Thanksgiving pre-orders or if you just really really love the squishiest grocery store rolls you can possibly find then, hey, go for it, but if you find digging your hands in to dough and the yeasty smell of fresh baked bread soothing, maybe throw these into your Thanksgiving production mix. I'll honestly be making mine a few days in advance and freezing them until the big day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons Warm Water (105-115 degrees if you want to bust out the thermometer OR just warm to touch)
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (this is the same as one grocery store packet)
  • 2 tablespoons Honey
  • 3 ounces Unsalted Butter 
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 cup AP Flour plus extra for kneading
  • Additional 1 oz butter for finishing
  • optional: bacon fat for greasing the pan

  1. First things first, we want to get our yeast happy and active. Combine the warm water, dry yeast and sugar in a small bowl and mix until the yeast is dissolved. Let it hang out for about 5 minutes. At the end of five minutes it should be at least as foamy as the picture above. More foamy is fine but no foam means you've probably done something to kill your yeast. If you don't have foam, throw away and try again with slightly cooler water.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt 3 ounces of butter. Add honey and milk in with the butter and heat just until lukewarm. Pour the milk/honey/butter mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast mixture, bread flour and salt. Mix this together with a wooden spoon (or in my case a silicone spoon) until well combined. It shouldn't really look like dough yet. Mix in 3/4 cup of All Purpose flour. I started this with the spoon but mostly ended up lightly kneading it in until it looked like a sticky ball.
  3. Turn your messy, sticky ball out on to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Or, if you're fancy, until it passes the windowpane test). Form your dough into a ball and put it in a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. This will probably take about an hour but if you're kitchen is super warm because of all the other Thanksgiving things you're whipping up or your milk got a little warmer than lukewarm when you were heating it, it could be less time.
  4. Grease a 13 by 9 inch pan with either butter or bacon fat (I did bacon fat, obvs). Turn your dough out onto a counter (not floured) and divide into twenty equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball* and place into pan in four rows of five. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. Uncover and use a chopstick to create a crease down the center of each row. Loosely cover and let rise again for 15 minutes.
  5. While rolls are doing their final rise, preheat the oven to 375. Melt 1 oz of butter. When the rolls are done rising, brush with butter and put in the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the rolls in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a rack. I always want to eat them immediately at this point but the flavor and texture really will be better if you wait 15 minutes.
  6. Store in an airtight container up to 24 hours and warm in oven to serve. This is the kind of roll that really isn't that great more than one day old so if you want to make the rolls more than 24 hours in advance I recommend freezing them.

*Here is a not very good video of me making my dough into balls. Next time I try to make a video of something, I'll do it when my husband is home and make him hold the phone. He might have the sense to hold it horizontally.