By Dina Eliash Robinson
The epitome of romantic, sensual, Old World are as descriptive of Budapest as of the famous Gerbeaud Café which has been the focus of glamour for 155 years in the heart of that picturesque Hungarian capital. During that time, famous names that have been inscribed in this elegant establishment’s gilded guestbook, included the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Empress Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Elizabeth II, former Czech president Vacláv Hável, Madonna, Ralph Fiennes, Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas Brad Pitt and many more.
While its 17th century ornate but never ostentatious style and social cachet did draw the carriage trade, Gerbeaud Café’s main attraction has always been gustatory—namely, its superb confectionery creations. These ranged from the classic Dobos Torte and Esterházy cake to the Royal Orange Caramel and Chocolate delight.
But sorry, as far as I’m concerned, you could have them all—including Gerbeaud’s own invention, the super-charged hot chocolate with an Everest of whipped cream—in exchange for my favorite and Gerbeaud masterpiece, the Austro-Hungarian Chestnut Purée. Thankfully, with towering whipped cream included. Here is the recipe (translated from Hungarian & kg & liter measurements), directly from Gerbeaud Café’s own master confectioners:
- 2 and a half (and a bit more) of peeled fresh or frozen chestnuts
- 4 and 1/3rd cups of milk
- Two-thirds of a cup of powdered sugar
- 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt (or less)
- One vanilla stick
- Fine brown rum to taste and to help consistency
- Whipped cream for topping
- If chestnuts are raw, peel and cook with vanilla stick until chestnuts are soft
- Heat milk, but don’t let it boil
- Purée cooked chestnuts (preferably with industrial strength machine to assure smoothness and avoid pieces or lumps)
- Let cool completely
- Mix powdered sugar with salt and warm milk and add slowly to puréed chestnut
- Knead together and while kneading, add rum to taste and to achieve a consistency that is firm but pliable enough to squeeze through a forming bag when serving.
- Whip only enough cream for portions being served
- Remaining chestnut mass can be divided into portions, each individually wrapped in parchment paper and frozen for as long as 6 months
- Frozen portions should be defrosted in the refrigerator as many and when needed.
- Whip cream for portions being served.
Should you want to visit or know more about this European gem, look up Gerbeaud Gasztronomia, 1051 Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7-8, P.O.Box 1364 Bp. Pf. 211