For the last couple of years I have been thinking about making the traditional Hungarian Christmas candy, szaloncukor. What was my motivation? I miss the traditional fringed paper. I just like how it looks. I guess it is nostalgic. But it also is (or at least it was) a traditional activity in Hungarian homes. People just didn’t run out and buy szaloncukor when they wanted it. They made it. In November 2017, I decided that this was the year I was going to make szaloncukor.
I bought the tissue paper (and fringed quite a few) when I realized I did not have food safe paper. So I set about on a quest to get the right paper because I wouldn’t want anyone to get sick from a process that is not deemed food safe. I went to a restaurant supply store and they recommended I visit GFS (Gordon Food Store). Incidentally, I now have a box of paper that will last me my lifetime as I can wrap at least 900 more pieces of szaloncukor with what I have left! If you need some for your szaloncukor project, stop by and I will hand you a stack!
I started looking up recipes for szaloncukor. I am not really a candy maker because I do not operate with enough precision for that process. At first I intended to make the very original candy—the one that was not dipped in chocolate in those very early years of szaloncukor. I planned to coat some with chocolate and leave some plain just to try it both ways. I set out to make a coffee-chocolate flavor as well as a lemon flavor. I never got around to the lemon flavored one because I wasn’t impressed with the consistency of the coffee-chocolate flavored candy. It is tasty but it just isn’t the consistency I was hoping for. Again, that is most likely my fault.
In the meantime, I managed to find sheets of aluminum foil and I was prepared to be satisfied with that but my cousin found and mailed some colorful foil candy wrappers to me so I could really do it up right! Thanks, Vicki!
I spent more time looking up quite a few recipes for pralines, bon bons, szaloncukor, truffles and nothing really sounded like what I was expecting as far as taste or texture. I think that is one of the challenges with translations. A well-known candy maker from Hungary refers to szaloncukor as pralines but praline recipes in the U.S. do not resemble Hungarian szaloncukor. So, I kept looking around. I thought about unwrapping the store bought szaloncukor I had and rewrapping it in the old fashioned way but I just didn’t feel like that was really putting all of my effort into the project.
I finally decided upon a bit of a compromise. And, because I cannot stay true to a recipe, I also adapted a close recipe to my family’s preferences a bit too. I made three favors: toasted coconut, toasted coconut-almond, and peanut butter and color coded them so we knew what flavor we were going for. I am sure there are other colors of foiled wrap but these looked great on the tree. Even though the flavors I picked aren’t really traditional, they are really tasty! I know my preference for peanut butter is definitely due to my Americanized taste buds but what can I say? They taste like “Buckeyes” and, since I grew up in Ohio, that taste is a part of my childhood!
What did I learn?
- Shapes about the size of a tootsie roll are really the best to wrap.
- It doesn’t much matter what flavor is on the inside as long as you like it. If you don’t care about what is on the inside, save yourself some time and stick half of a pecan inside or even a small pebble, wrap it up, and call it good!
- Making szaloncukor is not for the faint of heart! Fringing the paper takes quite a bit of time as does gathering all the supplies. This is definitely one of those things that you want to do with a friend or family member!
- If I make a public announcement about making a Hungarian dish, it might take me all month but I will get it done!
- A shortcut for fringing the paper is to use herb shears…each cut makes 4 strips! I didn’t know this before I tackled this project but a reader tipped me off to this idea! (Thanks, Val!)
Have you ever made szaloncukor before to hang on your tree? I would love to hear how your project came out. I may do it again. I do love the way the old fashioned wrappers look!
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