Hungarian Flaky Scones

Pogácsa

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    12

    scones

Appears in

Almost every subway stop in Budapest has its own bakery (and some have two or three). Piled high in the display cases are many kinds of Pogácsa—a round, flaky scone that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Pogácsa loosely translates into pompom, a reference to their crosshatched tops. Some of them are slightly sweet, sprinkled with sesame or poppy seeds or nuts, but most of them are on the salty, savory side. You’ll also find bite-size Pogácsa made for nibbling with wine or beer.

Hungarians love pork (tepertös Pogácsa, made from pork or goose cracklings, is one of the most popular varieties), and many bakeries’ Pogácsa have the distinct taste and tender flakiness that comes from lard. Because good lard is hard to come by unless you make it yourself, butter Pogácsa is the best choice for the American cook and gives a more subtle flavor that is delicious with morning coffee.

To keep the Pogácsa flaky, the dough is folded like puff pastry and not allowed to rise as much as other yeast pastries. If you make round Pogácsa, the trimmings can be gathered up and cut into more scones, but the subsequent cuttings are never as attractive as the first ones. (Most bakeries turn the trimmings into the bite-size version, in which the lack of flakiness isn’t as noticeable.) You can solve this problem by making rectangular scones, but the round ones are really the prettier.

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Ingredients

  • 1 ounce (½ cube) fresh compressed yeast or 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons milk (heated to 105° to 115°F if using dry yeast)
  • pinch of granulated sugar
  • cup sour cream, or more if needed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
  • 1 large egg, beaten, for glaze
  • tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds, for garnish

Method

  1. Crumble the yeast over the milk in a small bowl and add the pinch of sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast. Stir in the sour cream, then the yolks.
  2. Combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Add the butter. Attach to the mixer and fit with the paddle blade. Mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 2 minutes. Add the yeast mixture and mix to form a soft, sticky dough, adding more sour cream if needed. Gather the dough into a ball. Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Knead the dough on medium speed until smooth and glossy, about 6 minutes. (The dough will look a little rough, but it will smooth out with rolling.)
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12 X 6-inch rectangle. Stretch the corners to give them sharp right angles. Fold the top third down, then the bottom third up, like a business letter, brushing away any excess flour. Turn the dough with the open side to your left. Roll out again into a 12 X 6-inch rectangle with sharp corners. Now fold the top half down to the center of the rectangle, and the bottom half up to meet it. Fold the dough in half at the center, like a book, to make a four-layer rectangle. Rap the dough with the rolling pin, horizontally and vertically, to flatten it slightly and give it an even thickness. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Repeat the rolling and folding steps described above, first folding the dough into thirds, then into quarters. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. If the dough is chilled for more than 2 hours, let it stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before rolling.
  5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11 X 6-inch rectangle, ½ inch thick. Using a sharp knife, score the dough in a crosshatch pattern, making the cuts about ¾ inch apart and 1/16 inch deep. To make rectangular Pogácsa, cut the dough into twelve rectangles. To make round Pogácsa, using a 2½-inch round cutter, cut out 8 or 9 biscuits, cutting them as close as possible. Gather up the scraps, knead very briefly until barely smooth, roll out inch thick, score the top, and cut out 2 or 3 more Pogácsa.
  7. Place the Pogácsa on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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