Popular Hungarian dessert a blank canvas for fillings

Daniel Neman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

If you are in Budapest and you happen to be at the mall just outside the Ors Vezer Tere stop on the Red Metro line, be sure to stop at the food stand that sells palacsinta. It is reported to be wonderful there.

Palacsinta are thin, egg-based pancakes that are rolled and stuffed with fillings that are usually sweet. Jams, nuts, sweet cheese and chocolate are popular fillings. Savory versions often include meat cooked with sour cream, paprika and tomatoes.

It sounds like a crepe, right?

Palacsinta are Hungarian crepes. Actually, palacsinta are different from crepes in one key respect: They are a bit thinner.

Making palacsinta thinner than crepes is easy. You make a batter that is similar to a crepe batter, and just before cooking it, you add soda water.

You can put anything you want in palacsinta, from ice cream to strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar. One colleague whose grand-

mother was Hungarian said her family used to just sprinkle granulated sugar on them before rolling them up.

I decided to start with a traditional sweet cheese filling, and it was simply astounding.


Yield: 3 to 4 servings (3 pancakes per serving)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon superfine sugar, see note

Pinch of salt

1 cup milk

Generous 1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup carbonated water

Butter, for the pan

Note: To make superfine sugar, blend granulated sugar on high in a blender for several seconds.

Combine the eggs, sugar, salt and milk. Stir in the flour to form a smooth batter. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Just before cooking, stir in carbonated water. Put a skillet over medium heat and add just enough butter to coat it when it melts. Swirl the butter to coat. When hot, pour 1/2 ladle of batter into the skillet. Tilt the pan so the batter coats the surface of the pan evenly. When golden, flip the pancake to cook the other side.

Fill with sweetened cheese filling (recipe below), jam, chocolate sauce, berries or strawberries marinated 1 to 2 hours in balsamic vinegar.

Per serving: 318 calories; 9 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 198 mg cholesterol; 13 g protein; 45 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 892 mg sodium; 136 mg


Sweet Cheese Filling

Yield: 3 servings

1 egg yolk, see note

1 tablespoon superfine sugar, see note above

A few drops of vanilla extract

2/3 cup ricotta or cottage cheese

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Note: This recipe uses raw egg. The USDA warns that no one should eat raw eggs, unless the eggs have been pasteurized in their shells.

Beat the yolk with the sugar and vanilla until creamy. In a separate bowl, soften the ricotta cheese with a large spoon or fork, then beat in the egg mixture and add the lemon zest.

Use to fill palacsinta or other crepes. If desired, mix with jam to fill palacsinta.

Per serving: 134 calories; 9 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 90 mg cholesterol; 7 g protein; 6 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 49 mg sodium; 122 mg calcium