Bratislava crois­sants of­fer a taste of the past

The China Post - - LIFE - BY VERA COSCULLUELA

For Slo­vaks, it is the stuff of Mar­cel Proust’s madeleine rec­ol­lec­tions: a scrump­tious, cres­cent- shaped pas­try filled with wal­nuts or poppy seeds that trig­gers a rush of mem­o­ries.

All but for­got­ten un­der the decades and drab­ness of com­mu­nism, the tasty Bratislavske rozky — or ba­jgel, as they are also called — are mak­ing a come­back.

Slo­vak pedes­tri­ans munch away on the tra­di­tional treat at cafes and snack shops or just walk­ing around the nar­row cob­ble­stoned streets in the old town of Bratislava.

The re­ward? A re­minder of the rich his­tory and vi­brant cul­tural melange of this cap­i­tal cut through by the Danube at the heart of Europe.

The cousin of the French crois­sant, the Ital­ian cor­netto and the Aus­trian Kipferl, the ba­jgel harks back as far as the 16th cen­tury but its ex­act prove­nance re­mains shrouded in mys­tery.

Turk­ish, Ger­man or Slo­vak? For ex­pert San­dor Pap, it is to the res­i­dents of Bratislava, known as Press­burg un­der the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire of the late 19th- early 20th cen­tury, to which the cres­cent cookie owes its begin­nings.

“Back then, peo­ple didn’t care about ques­tions of na­tion­al­ity or faith,” said the em­ployee of the state-funded Bratislavske Rozky As­so­ci­a­tion.

Case in point:

the

his­toric Sch­wap­pach pas­try shop, an in­sti­tu­tion that has been around for cen­turies, goes by a Ger­man name but refers to its crois­sants by yet another term — their Hun­gar­ian des­ig­na­tion, Poz­sonyi ki­fli.

The bak­ery be­gan churn­ing out the treats over Christ­mas 1785, when master pas­try chef Wil­helm Scheuer­mann in­cluded them in a hol­i­day win­dow dis­play to much fan­fare.

‘ Re­count their child­hood’

To­day, the Bratislavske rozky la­bel comes with strict cri­te­ria.

“The crois­sants must be mar­bled and golden, mean­ing you have to brush on two lay­ers of egg yolk. Their filling must make up 30 per­cent of the to­tal weight and they have to be baked chem­i­cal- free,” said Eva Bole­mant, whom the as­so­ci­a­tion em­ploys to mar­ket the sweets.

“The shape varies with the filling, al­low­ing clients to tell them apart: those with wal­nuts are in the shape of a C, while the poppy seed va­ri­ety look like a horse­shoe or U.”

The pas­tries were widely avail­able un­til the end of World War II. But com­mu­nism’s com­mand econ­omy shut­tered many fam­ily pas­try shops and the orig­i­nal recipe got lost in the shuf­fle.

Bratislava’s crois­sants sur­vived in home bak­ing un­til they could resur­face at pas­try shops and cafes after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“When we sell them at pub­lic events, like now at the Christ- mas mar­kets, older peo­ple stop by and re­count their child­hood mem­o­ries,” said Bole­mant.

“And how their grand­moth­ers made the pas­tries. But they re­gret that they no longer have the recipe.”

While Pap and Bole­mant in­sist there is no of­fi­cial orig­i­nal recipe and ev­ery fam­ily uses its own, there is a ver­sion patented by the city’s well-known master pas­try chef Vo­jtech Szemes.

The pas­tries gained their Euro­pean Union-leg­is­lated “tra­di­tional spe­cial­ties guar­an­teed” trade­mark in Slo­vakia. Yet two of the for­mer Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire coun­tries — Aus­tria or Hun­gary — could just as well have claimed it: Press­burg, alias Bratislava, lay at the cross­roads, right on the bor­der with the two “mod­ern” states.

Bratislava’s crois­sants are now start­ing to make a name for them­selves out­side Slo­vakia.

One store, the Fan­tas­tiCo, a small but trendy glass-win­dowed cor­ner shop that makes only Bratislavske rozky which are touted as among the city’s best, be­gan sell­ing the rolls last year on an “E-shop.”

Or­ders quickly came in by the dozens. To­day, they ar­rive in the thou­sands, with more and more com­ing from abroad.

AFP

This pic­ture taken on Dec. 19 shows Slo­vakia’s tra­di­tional del­i­cacy pas­try Bratislava Rolls (dat­ing to the 16th cen­tury) filled with poppy and nuts at Fan­tas­tiCO pas­try shop in Bratislava.

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