The Street Food that Melbourne had to have!

freshfromtheoven

Budapest loves them, Prague loves them, Berlin loves them and even New York loves them – now it is Melbourne’s turn!

Our street food landscape in Melbourne is growing rapidly as we speak and vendors are finding exciting new products and ways to entice the audience. For dessert we are all familiar with French Crepes, American jam donuts, Spanish churros or even Greek donuts, but finally Melburnians can sample the famous Hungarian Donuts aka “Kurtosh”.

For the un-initiated: Hungary is a land-locked country bordering multiple countries including Austria, Czech Republic and Romania. It is famous for gigantic servings of gorgeous and hearty foods, like Goulash and Schnitzel, and they treat desserts with exactly the same respect.

Originally a favourite dish of the Hungarian aristocracy in the 1800s, the kurtosh (real name kurtoskalacs) is deeply embedded in the history and culture of Hungary. In the past 20 years however, its infamy spread across borders and it has become very much the “peoples’ pastry” throughout greater Eastern and Central Europe. Kurtosh (along with its relatives like Trdelnik) are now some of the most recognised European pastries, served from little vendor huts on street corners and at the many famous Winter markets.

So what makes it so popular as a street food? The pastries are handcrafted and baked fresh in front of your eyes. A milk bread dough is wrapped intricately around wooden pins and baked in a special rotisserie oven. What results is a very uncommon looking “donut” – long, twisted and cylindrical. The warm caramelized crust is then coated with your favourite topping like cinnamon, crushed walnuts, coconut or sprinkles. It is soft and doughy on the inside and because of its hollow shape can also be lined with spreads like Nutella or fruit jams (think of buttering bread – but from the inside!) They are warm and delicious straight from the oven and perfect for our impending gloomy Melbourne months.

Experience some authentic Eastern European food culture but without the airfare!


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The Oldest "New Dessert" in Melbourne

There is something special about finding a place that makes food just like it is in the homeland, and dessert is no exception! As we devour our treats we might visualize being transported to our favourite destinations, like the Piazza Navona in Rome or maybe Montmartre in Paris. If you have visited Budapest you will have been mesmerised by the history, the architecture, the majestic Danube River and the rich food culture. But what were you eating for dessert? There is a humble pastry which is adored by the Hungarians, but still little known in Australia.

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Let's start with the name - "Kurtoskalacs", pronounced Kurt-ursh-kalach. It translates literally as chimney (kurtos) and cake or sweet bread (kalacs). Don't worry, the name is typically shortened to "Kurtosh". It belongs to an unusual family of "spit" cakes that originated in Medieval times (1400s). Its origin is linked to various legends, but all seem to relate back to the battlefields. Some have even linked it to the first conquest of Hungary by the Huns. It is said that fighters made this hollow cake out of the scant ingredients at their disposal. A dough was formulated and rolled onto a wooden club and inserted into the fire. This baking style is an integral part of the pastry's charm, and is responsible for the quirky twisted and cylindrical appearance. The first documentation of the kurtosh recipe was actually not until the late 1700s in Transylvania (at the time).

At the start of the 18th century the dish was reserved for the Hungarian nobility, but by the late century had become widely accepted as a distinctive Hungarian cuisine in regional and urban areas. The dish remained alive due to the old-fashioned cooking techniques being preserved throughout the 1900s. Astonishingly though, it was not until 1989, with the regime changes across Europe, that borders opened to tourism and this ancient dish was (re)discovered.

Only in the last 10 to 20 years has the dessert experienced a renaissance of sorts and is now prominent on the streets of many European cities like Budapest, Prague, Bucharest and Berlin. The dish became an instant favourite with travellers, who have boosted its popularity further in recent years through social media (#kurtoskalacs, #chimneycake). Returning travellers have been so inspired infact that they have started their own businesses, and many vendors are currently popping up across the US, Canada, Dubai, Paris and even Singapore.

This old world pastry is now inspiring a whole new generation of admirers. It may have taken a few centuries to get here but "Kurtosh" may finally become a household name after all!

We are excited to bring this authentic icon of Eastern Europe to Melbourne. Discover where we are baking next by following our Instagram & Facebook pages.