Chimney cake (Kürtöskalács in Hungarian or Trdelník in Czech) is a sweet bread with a crispy outside and soft fluffy inside. Its cylindrical hollow shape gives it the name ‘chimney’.
I recently travelled across Eastern and Central Europe with my childhood friend of more than three decades. Being foodies, we had done tonnes of research and made a long list of the local delicacies and popular dishes that we had to eat throughout our trip. When I saw pictures of this chimney cake, it definitely featured high on my list, and oh boy, it sure was a treat! We tried the unicorn choco chip chimney cake and we snacked through it while taking a night cruise across Danube river on a full moon night in Budapest. Perfect setting for the perfect street food.
Traditionally, to make these chimney cakes the yeast dough (enriched with eggs & butter, similar to the dough used in my chocolate swirl buns) is rolled out and wrapped like a ribbon around a baking dowel and rolled in sugar. They are then baked fresh over an open rotisserie grill until the surface becomes golden-brown. While baking, the sugar caramelizes providing a crispy crunch in every bite.
Since I don’t have a grill, I researched online and found a way – wrapping my wooden rolling pin tightly in layers of aluminium foil, brushing it with butter, balancing it over a baking sheet such that middle part is kept suspended, and turning it 1-2 times while baking to get it an even golden brown colour. First couple attempts were tricky, but I got the hang of it by the 3rd time.
You can go wild with the toppings – I just went with cinnamon sugar to keep them as close to traditional in my first attempt. I also smeared some Nutella (you know I had to ♥♥). We saw so many varieties across streets of Budapest & Prague – filled with ice cream, whipped cream and strawberry, coconut flakes, chocolate – choices are endless!
- 250 g all purpose flour
- 7 g active dried yeast - 1 envelope/2 tsp
- 50 g sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 100 ml whole milk - lukewarm
- 1 large egg
- 75 g unsalted butter - melted
- additional melted butter for greasing
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
To make the sweet dough
- Activate the yeast - take the lukewarm milk in a small bowl or a mug, add a teaspoon of sugar, sprinkle the yeast and mix. Let it rest for 10 minutes. The yeast will start getting frothy and bubbles will come up. (If this doesn’t happen, your yeast has either expired or the milk is too hot).
- In a large bowl, sift your dry ingredients - flour, sugar and salt.
- Whisk the egg into the melted butter. Add the melted butter-egg mixture and activated yeast-milk mixture to your dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon till you get a shaggy dough.
- Transfer everything to a clean surface and knead it for about 10 minutes till you get a soft and elastic dough. You can use your stand mixer with dough hook attachment as well for this.
- Put the dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let it rest for 60-90 minutes in a warm dry place till it doubles in size. (I keep mine in a switched-off microwave oven).
Preparing & baking the chimneys
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Prepare your wooden rolling pin by wrapping it up tightly with 2-3 layers of aluminium foil. Grease it with melted butter.
- Punch the dough in the bowl and take it out on a clean surface. If you are using a long rolling pin, use half of the dough and keep half aside. If your rolling pin is small like mine, use a quarter of the dough at a time. Take one part of dough onto your surface and keep rest of the dough covered in the bowl.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch. Cut into long ribbons of dough. Spiral the dough from one end of your rolling pin to the other, covering it but not overlapping the dough too much. If you run out of dough, gently press the start of another ribbon onto the end and continue with the new ribbon.
- Gently roll the rolling pin onto your counter to press the edges together. In a plate, mix together the cinnamon and caster sugar and roll your pin into the sugar to coat it completely.
- Suspend the rolling pin on a baking sheet such that the dough isn’t touching anything. Place it in the oven and bake at 200C for 15-18 minutes. Make sure you turn the rolling pin every 5-7 minutes to get even browning.
- Once golden brown, remove from oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Gently loosen it up and slide it off the rolling pin to create a hollow cylinder. You can re-roll the hot chimney cake into more cinnamon sugar, or brush them with sugar syrup and sprinkle coconut or colourful sprinkles. Roll the rest of the dough and wrap the rolling pins and bake again.
- Eat them while they are still hot or allow them to cool and fill them with toppings of your choice.