I recently spent a few months in Tel Aviv. I couldn’t leave without reviewing (and, most importantly, consuming) one of the city’s finest dessert surprises.
Behold the kurtosh! A traditional Hungarian dessert / yeast cake tube thing, which must be a regional dish, as I have it on good authority it is rather absent from the cake shops and cafés of Budapest (at least those visited by my cake-greedy family and friends). It’s actually pronounced “kyortosh”, in case you’re wondering. There is a chain of Hungarian cafés in Tel Aviv that make and sell it. The process is quite exciting, as the dough is wrapped, strap-like around giant wooden skewers and then baked in the oven. The fillings are worked into the dough before the wrapping and the whole thing is then caramel glazed and covered in various, usually nutty toppings.
I chose the chocolate and halva variety because it is perhaps the most Israeli in style. They say Israel doesn’t have an original cuisine, but rather a style involving juxtaposition and the fusion of styles. What can be more so than a Hungarian cake mixed with a very obviously Middle Eastern filling? Halva is basically sweet, hardened sesame seed paste. I never know how well known it is outside of Middle Eastern countries (apart from India). To top off the Middle Eastern look and feel, the kurtosh is covered in sesame seeds.
The kurtosh is eaten by ripping bits off (which if you’re careful, will produce rings of dough). The dough is the same sort as the kind used in cinnamon swirls. In fact, they do make cinnamon kurtosh which tastes rather similar to those.
As you can see in the pictures, in this case, the chocolate is definitely not the main star of the show. You can see the swirls of it every once in a while, but they are not an overwhelming part of the dough. The experience is more about the combination of flavours. Neither of the fillings was very generous and both were noticeable more as an undertone that came through after the initial sensation of sweet caramel and slightly savoury sesame subsided. I found that the top half of the kurtosh had more in terms of the chocolate in it and the lower half seemed to have more of the halva. As each tube is handmade, I expect there to be a level of variation from one kurtosh to another.
I wasn’t sure at first about how the sesame and the chocolate would blend, but the caramel glazing and the dough seemed to tie it all together into a seriously addictive combination that created a whole new thing. It was sweet but moreish at the same time. Not too overbearing and overall quite light.
Luckily, I had company and help in consuming this, but when I was temporarily left alone with the tube, it took some determination to prevent me from eating far more than my fair share.
I’m interested in hearing from people who might know the original Hungarian kurtosh. What are the traditional fillings in the original?