My husband, Doug, the crazed baker, assigned himself a new challenge this summer: Danish rye bread. His model was the fabulous house-made loaf at Tørst, the hip beer bar in Brooklyn. It’s a dense, dark, moist brick studded with flax and sunflower seeds, and it’s meant to be sliced thin, toasted and topped with butter and radishes or smoked fish.
Doug finagled the recipe out of the Tørst baker, but it has taken a few tries to perfect it in our oven. When we decided he had nailed it, we took a loaf to Amaryll Schwertner, chef-proprietor of Boulette’s Larder and Bouli Bar in San Francisco. Schwertner is Hungarian, the most ingredient-obsessed chef I know, and the person I would choose to cook my last meal. When she sent Doug a rave review by e-mail, he practically levitated.
I was craving Doug’s Danish rye last week when Jon Bowne of Gypsy Cheese Company told me that he makes Liptauer cheese with his feta. Liptauer. Danish rye. Can you see where I’m going?
My first attempt at making Hungarian Liptauer was too salty. I used feta and a mashup of recipes from Hungarian cookbooks. Then I got smart and called Schwertner.
“We ate it all the time,” says Schwertner, who was born in Budapest. “It was just a staple in our fridge.”
Liptauer, a paprika-laced cheese spread, is popular throughout Eastern Europe and varies with the maker. Some recipes include capers, dry mustard, garlic, chopped cornichons or anchovies, but Schwertner keeps it simple: just farmer cheese (often made by her), sour cream, Hungarian paprika, shallots and toasted caraway seed. She serves it frequently at the restaurant, she told me, with crudités or little scones or “some very moist rye like your husband makes.”
“At our house, the Liptauer was always in a pretty bowl with a knife next to it,” recalled Schwertner. “If my grandmother was trying to be fancy, there might be radishes or fresh Hungarian peppers.” According to Schwertner, Tierra Vegetables is selling these sweet, elongated peppers at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market right now.
Farmer cheese is a fresh, spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese but lighter and tangier. Imagine a cross between natural cream cheese and cultured cottage cheese. Belfiore in Berkeley makes a good rendition, and it’s salt-free so you can season to taste. Many Whole Foods sell Belfiore farmer cheese. Serve Liptauer with toasted Anna’s Daughter’s Rye Bread or as a schmear for bagels. Pair with Grüner Veltliner, an Octoberfest brew or Lagunitas Pils.
Classic accompaniments include rye bread or rye toast, thinly sliced sweet onion, sweet peppers, radishes or cornichons. You can substitute a California sweet paprika but smoked Spanish paprika is not the right taste.
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1/2 pound farmer cheese
- 2 tablespoons cultured sour cream
- 1-1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika, or more to taste
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
Toast the caraway seed in a small, dry skillet over moderate heat until it darkens slightly and becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
Put the farmer cheese, sour cream, paprika and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Alternatively, for a coarser texture, combine the ingredients well by hand with a wooden spoon. Stir in the shallots and caraway seed. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for a day, but bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes about 1 cup.