chocolate dessert recipes, crepes, dark chocolate, ground walnuts, Gundel's, heavy cream, Hungarian cooking, palacsinta, warm chocolate sauce
Like Sardi’s in New York or Maxim’s of Paris, Budapest’s Gundel’s is one of those restaurants that people may have heard of even if they aren’t enthusiastic travelers and restaurant-goers.
Gundel’s opened in 1910. Today there are most definitely other contenders for the title of ‘Best Restaurant in Budapest’, but Gundel’s longevity and history give it a special institutional stature in the city.
The fact that this chocolate and walnut crepe appears on restaurant menus all over Budapest as ‘Gundel palacsinta’ (Gundel crepe)” illustrates the point. In its original form, the dessert includes rum and raisins, as well as walnuts and dark chocolate. However, classic recipes, like good institutions, are not rigid, and if you ask a Hungarian waiter to adapt a Gundel Palacsinta to suit your taste (as the one in this post has, for example, been modified), he will not frown and tell you it can’t be done. He will smile and say, “Persze”–which means: “Sure”. Without the fruit and rum, the dark chocolate and ground walnut combination is still a very Hungarian formula and still, by long association, Gundel’s.
Hungarian Chocolate Crepes ~ Gundel’s Style (for 10 crepes)
A Note: There are several parts to making Hungarian Chocolate Crepes–but they are all short, easy steps and, except for putting the dessert together on plates, may be finished ahead of time.
I. The Dark Chocolate Sauce
Ingredients for the Chocolate Sauce:
- 13 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped in pieces
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 6 Tablespoons of butter, cut in pieces and frozen
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
1. Add the chocolate, milk and cream to a heavy saucepan and melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring.
2. Add the frozen butter, a few pieces at a time:
3. Add the vanilla and set the sauce aside until you put the crepes together. Reheat it briefly before using it. Any leftover sauce keeps well refrigerated for many weeks.
II. The Crepes
- 2/3 cup of flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 and 3/4 cups of milk
- 2 Tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 Tablespoon of Cognac
A. Mixing the batter: The batter will make better crepes if it’s mixed a couple of hours ahead of time and left to stand at room temperature.
- 2 bowls
- a mixer
1. Mix the flour and salt together in one bowl. Beat the eggs in a second bowl and gradually add the flour and salt mixture while continuing to beat with the mixer.
2. Still mixing, gradually pour in the milk, butter and cognac.
3. If possible, leave the batter at room temperature for a couple of hours before making the crepes.
B. Making the crepes:
- a crepe pan or a flat-bottomed skillet with sloping sides: the photographed crepes were made in a 9-inch crepe pan
- a little vegetable oil poured into a saucer and a paper towel to dip into it and use to grease the crepe pan lightly between crepes
- a measuring cup with a handle is useful for pouring batter into the pan
- a spatula
- a plate lined with a cotton towel or napkin to hold the crepes as you make them and a second napkin or towel to place over them
1. Rub a little oil all over the pan with a paper towel. Heat the pan until it is hot, as you would if making pancakes, and pour in about 1/4 cup of batter, swirling it around over the bottom of the pan to cover it.
2. In a minute or two, when the bottom is golden and the top is dry, turn the crepe and fry it a little more. Transfer it to the napkin-lined plate, cover it, and continue, wiping the pan with the oiled paper towel between crepes.
Basically, crepe-making becomes easy with practice. Whatever sort of pan you use, after a few tries, you will figure out the best cooking time, heat and best amount of batter for that pan. Crepes freeze very well. Place them between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, and wrap them in plastic wrap. By separating the crepes between sheets of paper, it is easy to take out just as many as you want at a time.
III. Sugared Ground Walnuts (about 1 cup)
- about 1 cup of walnuts
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- a food processor or blender
1. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over a burner or in the oven at 425 F. The oven method will take about 10 minutes–more or less. When the nuts begin to brown and sizzle, they are ready:
2. Cool the nuts and process them until they are finely ground. Add the sugar and process again to mix the nuts and sugar well. Any leftover sugared ground walnuts may be stored indefinitely in the refrigerator.
IV. Assembling the Hungarian Chocolate Crepes:
- Unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling over the finished crepes
- a large plate on which to fold each crepe before transferring it to a dessert plate
- a small strainer
1. Use the Crepes, as they are, at room temperature or, alternatively, warm them in a 325 F. oven: leave them wrapped in a cotton towel, then wrap them loosely, towel and all, in aluminum foil and put them in the oven for about 15 minutes.
2. Warm the Chocolate Sauce.
3. Pour a thick ribbon of chocolate sauce down the middle of each dessert plate:
…A small ladle-shaped spoon is helpful for guiding the sauce where you want it to go:
In any case, this chocolate sauce is very thick and is easy to pour onto the plate:
…and place it on the large plate; sprinkle it with sugared ground walnuts…
…and spoon chocolate sauce down the middle:
Leave a border all around the crepe:
5. Fold the top and bottom sides in towards the center:
6. Fold the left side in to lie along the center of he crepe:
7. Fold the right side in over the left fold:
8. Pick up the crepe and place it on the dessert plate, folded flaps down, on top of the chocolate sauce:
9. Drizzle more chocolate sauce down the middle of the crepe:
10. Lastly, sprinkle the plate and crepe with some cocoa powder:
A Note: The recipe for the Dark Chocolate Sauce is adapted from one in The Dione Lucas Book of French Cooking (1973). The crepe recipe comes from Menus for Entertaining (1960), by Juliette Elkon and Elaine Ross.
A Second Note: Hungarian Chocolate Crepes ~ Gundel’s Style is the Dessert course in the Lunch Menu: Simply Delicious Combinations.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012
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