I've never been much of an adventurer and can safely say, whether I like it or not, wanderlust simply isn't part of my makeup. That said, I do enjoy travelling now and then, and hope to do some serious sightseeing in Australia and abroad with my partner in coming years when we retire. We have a few must-see destinations on our bucket list, which include places that renowned cookery writer, Diane Holuigue, so eloquently refers to as 'the well known byways' and 'well-worn paths trodden along the sights (sites) that best delineate the beauty of a region.'
One of our plans is to enjoy coffee and cakes (note plural) at the iconic and elegant Gerbaud coffee house in Budapest’s Vörösmarty Square. The one and only time I've been to Gerbeaud, was in 1994, when I visited relatives across Europe with my parents and my young son and daughter. It seems like such a long time ago now.
Gerbaud café was borne in 1883 from a partnership between confectioner, Henrik Kugler and Swiss pastry chef, Emile Gerbeaud. Together with the much loved Dobos Torte, their Gerbaud slice is one of the classic offerings on the menu to this day.
With its layers of sweet yeast pastry, ground walnuts, apricot jam, cocoa and rich, dark chocolate glaze, Gerbeaud slice is rich, delicious and very ‘continental’ (as one friend who tasted my version described it). And while it may be considered fiddly to make, it's popular with Hungarian home cooks and often baked in quantity for events such as Easter day and weddings. I remember enjoying Hurka sausage (similar to black pudding), Zserbó Szelet and lavishly sweet Tokaji Aszu wine at numerous weddings that my family attended over the years.
My mother, Iren, the artisan baker that she was, didn’t need a special occasion to make Gerbaud slice. She baked it often throughout her life, and she baked it very well! Here is my take on her handwritten recipe, which I treasure .
My mother's birthday fell on 27 March and she slipped away, aged 75, on 29 March, which also happened to be Easter Saturday of that year. This post is written with much love in her honour.
IREN'S GERBEAUD SLICE
For the pastry:
170 g softened unsalted cultured butter, plus extra to grease pan
500 g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for rolling
4 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup milk
7 g sachet dried yeast
1 egg yolk, lightly whisked
2 tablespoons ‘lite’ sour cream
For the filling:
300 g thick apricot jam
20 g cocoa
200 g caster sugar
200 g ground walnuts
For the chocolate glaze:
350 g dark chocolate buttons or chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Rub the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or your gingers. The mixture will resemble breadcrumbs. Add the four tablespoons of caster sugar, lemon zest and bicarbonate of soda and mix to combine.
Heat the milk to lukewarm temperature, either over the stove in a small saucepan on medium heat or gently in the microwave, sprinkle over the dried yeast and the teaspoon of caster sugar. (Hot milk will kill the yeast, so just to lukewarm.) Mix and set aside in a warm spot for ten minutes.
Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the milk/yeast mixture, the whisked egg yolk and the sour cream and mix to make a good dough that is not too wet or dry (add a little more sour cream if it seems too dry). Knead the dough briefly. Cover with a clean tea towel and set it aside in a warm spot, free from draughts, for ten minutes.
Prepare a 23 x 33cm slice tin by greasing it and lining it with baking paper. Cut the dough into three even-sized pieces. Press out the dough into a rectangular shape and then roll out on a lightly floured board. Line the base of the tin with the first layer of pastry. Spread with a layer of the apricot jam (about half the quantity). Sprinkle with half of the combined cocoa and caster sugar and top with a layer of ground walnuts. (Note: you will have used half the filling mixture at this time).
Roll out the second sheet of pastry, layer it over the pastry with filling already in the tin. Spread another layer of apricot jam and finish off by sprinkling over the remaining cocoa and sugar mixture, followed by the remaining ground walnuts. Roll out the third sheet of pastry and place it on top of the layers in the tin.
Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until nicely browned. Set the slice aside and allow to cool.
To make the glaze, melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over gently simmering water. Don’t allow any water to come into contact with the mixture or it will seize. Melt until well-combined and then pour evenly over the top of the slice. Use a spatula or palette knife to smooth it over. Set aside to chill. When the glaze has set, use a sharp knife dipped in boiling water to cut the slice into pieces.
NB: the slice is particularly delicious on day two as the flavours develop. I see from mother's notes, once the layers were assembled with the nuts, cocoa and jam, mum used to allow the slice to rise for half an hour before baking it. I have done so on occasions and not on others. The result is successful either way.
The process in pictures...
And the finished slice, 'very continental'...
* This recipe for Gerbeaud Slice was first published by Michael Shafran on The Melting Pot.
Tell me, are you an adventurer? How do you satisfy your wanderlust? And what wonderful destinations are on your bucket list to visit?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.