The Flavour of History: Flódni, the “Thousand-Goods Cake”

“If you don’t know what you’re living for, you haven’t yet lived.” Rabbi Noah Weinberg

As a child I heard many stories about life. Almost every bite, every smell and every flavour on the table had its own background to tell, some more remarkable than others. The route that the famous Hungarian-Jewish dessert, the flódni has found its way to my grandmother’s kitchen, has always seemed one of the most romantic, heroic tales out of the family records.

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During the world war after the German invasion, there were initially different local decrees requiring Hungarian Jews to wear a distinctive sign under the General Government. The sign was a yellow badge in the form of a Star of David on the left side of the chest and on the back. The star was intended to humiliate Jews and to mark them out for segregation and discrimination. The policy also made it easier to identify Jews for deportation to camps. All around the country thousands tried to escape prosecution. My Swabian maternal grandparents, who lived and worked as country farmers in the South-West of Hungary, had business relationships in the capital, knowing the tailoring-owner Beck family very well. This relationship eventually led the Beck family hiding in the loft of my grandparents country residence, trying to avoid being collected by the Germans. Throughout my childhood my grandmother communicated many pearls of Lady Beck’s Jewish wisdom, including observations, advices and recipes, therefore, I always assumed that Grandma Meci’s flódni secret has been a part of the good old Jewish lady’s secret knowledge. It wasn’t though. The recipe originates from the wife of a Jewish merchant, referred to as the “Perger Hócs” by my grandfather. They lived in the same village as my grandparents and were liked and respected by all. Our flódni, despite of my paternal grandmother being Jewish is from the friends’ heritage, rather than a family recipe.

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In Hungary many bakers claim that they sure have the original version of the recipe. Well, I believe there is no such a thing. Flódni was the homecooks’ creation and festive treat, therefore, each family had their own original. One of the biggest differences as opposed to my version is that some do not spread a layer of jam under the walnut, poppy seed and apple filling layers, but add the jam as separate layer. The versions all, however, have one thing in common: flódni is not for the faint-hearted. Being called the “thousand goods cake” for a reason, containing all things good as ingredients, it takes time to make and takes time to eat…

” According to the effort is the reward.” Ben Hei Hei, Ethics of the Fathers, 5:26.

Ingredients
For the pastry:
480 g flour, 2 tbsp corn grits, 50 g roasted walnuts, ground, 250 g butter, 100 g icing sugar, 3 egg yolks, 50 ml white wine, 50 ml cognac, a pinch of baking powder, a pinch of salt, 10 g fresh yeast, 3 tbsp milk
For the apple layer:
800 g apple, 2 tbsp honey, zest and juice of 1 lemon, some cinnamon, some ground cloves
For the poppy seed layer:
200 g ground poppy seeds, 100 g sugar, 50 g raisins, 150 ml white wine, juice and zest of one lemon
For the walnut layer:
200 g ground walnut, 100 g sugar, 50 g dried apricots, chopped, juice and zest of one orange, 150 ml white wine
For the assembly:
200 g plum jam, 100 g apricot jam, 1 egg

Method
To make the pastry mix the yeast with milk and some of the icing sugar and let it froth up. Combine it with all ingredients of the pastry and make the dough by hand. When kneaded until smooth, cover in a kitchen foil and rest it overnight in the fridge.
To make the walnut layer heat up the white wine with the sugar, boil slightly and mix with the rest of the ingredients of the walnut filling in a large bowl, finally let it cool. Repeat the method to make the poppy seed filling. For the apple layer peel and core the apple. Once all done and washed, grate and squeeze the apple (so to get rid of the excess liquid) and season with the rest of the ingredients.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it into a rectangle. Cut it into four equal parts, about 25 x 30 cm each. Lay the first pastry into a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread the apricot jam on the top of it, then dub the walnut filling across. Cover with the second piece of pastry and layer half of the plum jam and spoon all of the poppy seed filling on it. Place the third pastry rectangle to cover the poppy seed filling, followed by the rest of the plum jam and the apple. Finally set the fourth pastry on top and finish with an eggwash.
Bake it in a 180 degrees C preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, until the top is golden and the needle inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let it rest for a day for the perfect flavour.

“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

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