Karcagi Ferdinánd – sweet vanilla-butter snails from Eastern Hungary
Karcagi Ferdinánd – this is the name of these soft vanilla-butter snails that stick together into a round cake form during baking. It’s wrapped in mystery who the pastry was named after, a possible nominee could be Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Ferdinánd’s recipe came from Upper Hungary (Felvidék) and was baked and served for the first time in a wedding reception in Karcag in 1923.
Karcag is a smaller town in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county and the center of the Nagykunság (Great Cumania), which is a part of the Kunság, a historical and geographical region named after a nomadic tribe who formed a confederation with the Kipchaks that settled the area. Mutton stew and Ferdinánd are the typical and well-known dishes of the local gastronomy.
Karcagi Ferdinánd resembles wasp nest, but instead of walnut the rolls are filled with vanilla flavoured butter. The snails are not baked separately, but placed close to each other to form a cake after they are done.
Ferdinánd is baked in a rondeau pan; because of the high butter content of the pastry springform round cake pan wouldn’t be a good choice since it tends to leak, and it would be a sin to let even a drop of melted butter go to waste. Brushing the top with hot sweetened cream after 30 minutes of baking is an important step as cream makes the pastry particularly soft and spongy.
For the dough:
- 500 g (~4 cups) flour
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 300 ml (~1 1/4 cups) milk
- 25 g (~1 3/4 tbsp) butter, melted
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp vanilla sugar
- 25 g fresh yeast (2 1/2 tsp dry yeast)
For the filling:
- 150 g (~2/3 cup) butter
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp vanilla sugar
For brushing the top:
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar
- 150 ml (~2/3 cup) heavy cream
Dissolve yeast with a teaspoon of sugar in tepid milk.
Sift the flour in a bowl. Add egg yolks, salt, vanilla sugar and activated yeast. Knead until the dough starts to hold together. Pour in melted butter and keep kneading until smooth and well combined. Cover the dough and let it rise in a lukewarm place for 40-50 minutes.
Cream together soft butter and sugar until fluffy. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and divide into two equal balls. Roll out the first ball into a thin rectangle and spread half of the butter cream on it. Roll it up and cut into 5 cm/2 inch wide pieces. Repeat the process with the other dough ball.
Thoroughly butter a rondeau pan and place the snails cut side down into the pan leaving a little space between them.
Let the snails rise for 30 minutes, then place them in the oven preheated to 180°C / 356°F. After 30 minutes brush the top of Ferdinánd with hot cream combined with sugar, and bake for further 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pastry from the oven and turn it out onto a platter instantly. Let it cool a bit before serving.