Marcel Proust's madeleine recollections: a scrumptious, crescent-shaped pastry filled with walnuts or poppy seeds, triggers a rush of memories for Slovaks. The tasty Bratislavske rozky, or bajgel, as they are also called are making a comeback in Bratislava. This reminds the people of the rich history and vibrant cultural mix of the capital cut through by the Danube at the heart of Europe.
The croissants were widely available until the end of World War II. But communism's command economy closed many family pastry shops and the original recipe got lost in the shuffle. Bratislava's sweets survived in home baking until they could resurface at pastry shops and cafes after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Eva Bolemant, who markets the sweets for Bratislavske Rozky Association said, "When we sell them at public events, like now at the Christmas markets, older people stop by and recount their childhood memories. And how their grandmothers made the pastries. But they regret that they no longer have the recipe."
The pastries gained their European Union-legislated traditional specialties guaranteed trademark in Slovakia. Two of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire countries, Austria or Hungary, could have claimed it. Employee of the state-funded Bratislavske Rozky Association, Sandor Pap said, "Back then, people didn't care about questions of nationality or faith."
Pap and Bolemant insist there is no official original recipe and every family uses its own. However, well-known master pastry chef Vojtech Szemes has patented a version.
Bolemant said, "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. 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 croissants are now starting to make a name outside Slovakia.