A Hungarian Apple Square is all I need ...
Updated: Apr 18
... or two, or three 🤫. Hungarian Apple Squares are the kind of food that you CAN'T eat JUST ONE. Impossible! I challenge you to try. So what is this delectable pastry? In Hungarian, they are called Almás lepény or Almás pite. In English, I have commonly seen them referred to as Apple pie; but I really don't like that name. The words apple pie, in MY mind, conjure up a completely DIFFERENT expectation of this Hungarian pastry. I prefer to call them Apple Squares! Whereas I would describe apple pie as very sweet, gooey, syrupy, thick, chunky, warm, and served à la mode; Hungarian Apple Squares are fresh, light, moist, refreshing, tart, grated, bite-sized, and served at room temperature without ice cream.
This pastry holds a special place in my heart ❤️. It has become a FAMILY FAVORITE and a dessert that our friends and family have come to associate with my mom. She makes Apple Squares very frequently and NOONE makes them like her! So in preparation for this blog, I enjoyed baking with my mom and will take advantage of sharing her delicious recipe with you.
As you review various Hungarian recipes you may notice that Hungarians have an affinity for sour cream. As such, we add sour cream to MANY of our dishes, both savory and sweet. These Apple Squares are no exception. A generous dollop of sour cream incorporated into the dough holds the dough together, makes it soft and pliable, and prevents crumbling.
You may also notice that this recipe does not add any sugar to the dough. Hence the sweetness imparted to this pastry is primarily from the sweetness of the apples themselves, aided by just a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar added to the apple filling, as well as a dusting of powdered sugar on the surface of the pastry just prior to serving. So YOU CONTROL the sweetness or tartness of this pastry, depending on YOUR TASTES, by the selection of apples that you choose. If you prefer a tarter flavor profile, then increase the number of granny smith apples. If you prefer a sweeter flavor profile, then increase the number of sweet apples. Experiment with the ratio of tart to sweet apples until you find your perfect balance.
This recipe also calls for margarine. I have tried it with butter, before, but found that with butter the dough is more difficult to work with and crumbles very easily. Even amongst different kinds of margarine, for whatever reason, the brand 'I can't believe it's not Butter' seems to produce the best results in our kitchen.
Lastly, the dough calls for a splash, or two 😉, of rum. For which Hungarian pastry doesn't enliven from a touch of liquor? After all, a Hungarian party is NOT a party without pálinka ... but in this case, rum!
Hungarian Apple Squares recipe
3 cups all-purpose flour
2.5 sticks margarine (use 'I can't believe it's not Butter', if possible); softened
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 Tbsp Rum
couple of pinches of salt
handful of plain (unflavored) bread crumbs
4 medium tart Granny Smith Apples
8 medium sweet Red Apples (I used Gala)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk
splash of water
1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, margarine, 3 egg yolks, sour cream, rum, and pinches of salt. Mix well, knead a bit and then separate into 2 dough balls. Let stand for about 15-30 minutes.
2. While the dough rests, peel, core, and grate the apples into a large bowl. Grate them with a box grater or a food processor. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Mix together and let stand.
3. On a well-floured surface, roll out one dough ball into a thin rectangle to the size of your cookie sheet. (I used an 11" x 14" cookie sheet which I greased well with the margarine wrappers.) I also put a little flour onto my rolling pin to keep the dough from sticking to it. Once the dough is thin and the size achieved, roll the dough onto the rolling pin to facilitate its transfer to the cookie sheet. Unroll it onto the cookie sheet. Trim extra edges with a knife and use those scraps to fill in any deficits around the edges, until the bottom surface is evenly covered.
4. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with a handful of plain (unflavored) breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture. Next, squeeze out excess juice from the grated apples and layer the apples over the dough.
5. Roll out the second dough ball, again, on a floured surface to the size of the cookie sheet. Then roll the dough onto the rolling pin to facilitate its transfer to the cookie sheet. Unroll it onto the apple layer. Trim redundant dough edges and fill any deficits. Poke with a fork in multiple places to allow venting of the steam. Baste surface with an egg wash consisting of one egg yolk mixed with just a little water.
6. Bake for 1 hour in a pre-heated oven at 350 F.
7. Allow to fully cool. Cut into squares, plate, and dust with powdered sugar.
Be sure to store any extra apple squares in the refrigerator where they will keep for about a week, IF they even last that long. Apple squares also freeze very well without change in flavor or texture upon thawing.
This recipe is very easy, fast, and most importantly DELICIOUS! It is so refreshing and light. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't LOVE them. A large platter of Apple Squares is always a hit at family gatherings, parties, church socials, with boyfriends & girlfriends, Americans, Hungarians ... you name it. Once you give this recipe a try, I am confident that you will want to keep it handy and at the TOP of your recipe pile.