Do you know your grandma’s name?

I talked about my life changing trip to Hungary on my great grandmother’s 100th birthday in another post, and I was reminded of that time by Facebook, because it has been 5 years, almost to the day since then!  Both my grandmother’s and my great grandmother’s “name days” were also recently, so I thought it would be interesting to write about this Hungarian tradition.  Hungarians not only have a birthday, but a “name day” as well. Birthdays are usually celebrated just by your immediate family. Name days, however, are widely known and celebrated. Common first names are assigned to one or more days of the calendar, based on religious traditions, historical events, the birthday of a famous person who had the same first name, or on other facts.  Name days are celebrated in work places, among friends and in the family. People usually gift flowers, desserts (like CHIMNEY CAKES!) or other small gifts. Sometimes there are even parties thrown to celebrate.  On a day with a popular name, you will see people with flowers all over the place.  One of my name days actually falls on my birthday, but my parents said it was just a coincidence! Different countries can celebrate the same name on different days.  When is yours?

Since we are on the subject of names, another interesting tradition is that, the first name is the last and the last is the first.  So for example, I was Papp Viviane, and that is what people would actually call me, not just like here when your write your name “Papp, Viviane”.  Once I got married, I could do the “modern” Hungarian name change, which is the same as here, and become Moravick Viviane.  Or I could have picked the traditional Hungarian custom.  To do this, I would have taken the entire name of my groom with “-ne” suffix at the end.  (“Ne” is the equivalent of “Mrs.” in Hungarian). So I would have been Moravick Ryanne!  Even though people who knew me would call me by my previous first name, Viviane, you wouldn’t know my “real” name from my legal name! And vice versa!

Funny story about this- about 5 years ago, my aunt in Hungary asked me my grandmother’s name and I had absolutely no idea what it was.  I only knew her legal name, (which was my step grandfather’s name) from seeing it written on mail, and since I just called her “grandma”, I never learned her first name, even though she is probably the closest I am to any relative.  And now that name is the business namesake!  My aunt found this totally hilarious and we still hysterically laugh about it every time I go visit.


The Game of Cones

This weekend we hosted a friends and family tasting to test our process and get feedback about our product.  The response was amazing and overwhelming.  We created a FB event for our friends and family to come by and sample our chimney cones, and got about 60 RSVPs and 25 maybes.  So Ryan and I got up in the morning and made 80 cones, based on RSVPs, in preparation for the day.  This way they were still fresh, but cool enough to put ice cream into them without immediately melting it.  People starting coming around noon, and by about 1, we were already almost out of cones.  Shout out to the people who got thirds and even left and came back later for more!!! (Disclaimer: we do not have insulin on hand!)

We had planned to do the event from 12-6 and we were already out of cones within the first hour!! Ryan had to take over customer service, ice cream, filling and toppings, the grill AND taking orders, while I made more dough and rolled them onto the spits.  It was pure insanity in the most awesome way.  Ryan handled it all amazingly, especially for our first run through.

Meanwhile, I could only make one batch of dough at a time, because we learned that fresh yeast is VERY sensitive to heat, and since we are in North Carolina in the dead of summer, it is hot and humid outside.  If I made two batches, by the time I rolled the first one onto the spits, the second batch would be over-proofed, making the dough difficult/impossible to work with, not to mention it would make a less “springy” and delicious final product.  By the time I finished rolling all the dough that I had made onto the spits, we were almost out and I would start from the beginning with the dough again.  Ryan was grilling and pulling them off almost to order!!

Thank you so much for all who came, made suggestions and passed along great ideas. Keep em coming!  We learned so much from this experience and everyone there.  We had opened a box of 250 count containers and when the day was over, we only had one left in the box.  Over 200 chimney cakes made and served in 6 hours.  It was such a fun day and we can’t wait to do it again!

Life, liberty and the pursuit of doughiness

Last time I wrote, I was headed to NYC to pick up my equipment to start the business.  Boy was it an exciting adventure.  Ryan (my husband) wasn’t able to get time off work, and it had to be picked up this particular weekend, so I went alone.  Obviously I set aside some time to eat all the instagram famous foods I’ve been watching for months. Starting off the trip, the flight into Newark was delayed about 4 hours due to thunderstorms, so they put me on another flight into Laguardia.  During this switch, somehow my luggage got lost.  Not a great start, since I only had one day, now half a day, in NYC to explore and eat all my things.  Many people who know me, know I keep lists for each city of things I want to do.  Below is my list for NYC.  Insanity:

Fronuts from Donut Project

Frozen Smores from Dominique Ansel

Milk & Cream Cereal Bar

Soft Swerve Ice Cream

The Doughnut Plant

Russ & Daughters

375 Thrice Cooked Fries

Katz’s Deli

Odd Fellows

Dun-Well Donuts

Union Fare Gastrohall

Broadway Bites

Urbanspace Vanderbilt

Gotham West Market

Ample Hills Creamery

Yes, I ate at in half a day.  My top picks are Ample Hills Snap Mallow Pop, Milk & Cream soft serve, DunWell, Gotham West Market, and not listed above, the Bagel Train in Mahwah!  On a previous trip I also visited Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, which was a top contender also.  I am a big fan of the food halls, as you can hit multiple vendors without walking for hours.  You can check out all my photos of the foods on the Mag_Dough instagram page.

Now onto the more relevant stuff.  After this food filled day, I finally received my luggage at 2am, just in time to leave at 6am to catch a bus up to Suffern to meet the guys selling me the equipment.  They picked me up from the bus station, took me to get a U-Haul and then we went back to their place, where they taught me how to assemble, clean and use all the equipment I was buying.  Not to mention tons of other trade secret business tips they were kind enough to share.  This was an opportunity I could not pass up.  We even started from scratch, making the dough and the ice cream base.  I learned so much in one day, it probably would have taken weeks or months to figure all of this out on our own.  I even improved my Kurtos making skills in just a couple hours under their watchful eye! Check out the first batch vs the second batch in the photos below.  They even took me to the amazing bagel place in town (mentioned above) and for real NY pizza after we baked and loaded the U-Haul.  Not that I needed to be eating more food after my previous night on the town.  I stayed the night up there and then drove the 8 hours, which turned into 11 with DC traffic (ON A SUNDAY), in the morning, all the way to NC.

I had SUCH a fun time learning, I can’t wait to get even more creative with the recipes and ideas and bring this deliciousness to the southeast! Now I just have to teach my husband and family how to bake so they can help with the hard labor!!

On another note, my health inspection is coming up tomorrow afternoon, so things are moving in the right direction.  If you made it this far, thanks for reading my novel!!

The Ameri-cone Dream

Our trip to Hungary was amazing! We stayed with my grandmother, who lives about an hour outside of Budapest, for 10 days.  It was 10 days of eating, cooking, washing dishes, and repeat, until bedtime.  Preparing food and cleaning up is a little different when you have a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher.  My grandmother is 84 years old and has been doing things her own particular way for a long time.  Like me, she likes order and cleanliness to the extreme.  Because she can no longer stand for a long time, or get around very easily, she directed me around the kitchen, which made for a great learning experience, but also some funny frustration at times.  I didn’t get as many photos of us making the kürtős as I would have liked, because she kept yelling at me to “pay attention and put my phone away” while we were cooking.

Everyday we got up early and stayed up late chatting, it is amazing how we never run out of things to talk about, and she always has funny and interesting stories to tell.  She told me a lot about when she started her business and we even searched for some photos, but unfortunately we couldn’t find any.  Her set up was a more permanent location, in a rural market, during communist times.  In addition to experimenting at home, she tried and practiced onsite for 2 weeks to perfect the recipe and process.  Her and her husband even became frustrated at one point, because the recipe wasn’t working, and she said her husband threw the whole batch on the ground and said they were done with this business, in front of the other vendors!  Imagine all the wasted dessert!!

The most difficult part of this process for me, has been the legal paperwork, permitting and dealing with the department of agriculture.  I asked her how all that worked back in communist Hungary, assuming it was much easier.  But apparently, during those times, all the permitting, health inspections and tax auditing was very intense, and you had to be very careful with every aspect.  She said undercover auditors would come count how many you sold in one day, a couple times a year, to get an average, in order make sure you were claiming the correct amount of money each year! One of the most important realizations I came to on this trip is that everyone goes through a learning curve when starting a business, and I need to remember to be patient.

Because the basic yeast dough that kürtős is made from is very common in Hungarian cooking, grandma thought that it was “too easy to practice more than 3-4 times”.  So, in addition to a couple rounds of making kürtős, she taught me how to make a few other things.  Pörkölt with nokedli, túrós csusza, pogácsa, somlói galuska, meggyleves, madártej, gesztenyepüré, and beigli, were just a few of the dishes I learned.  If you aren’t Hungarian and want to know what these are, feel free to ask!! I am happy to share the deliciousness with the world.

In addition to tons of discussions and practicing with my grandma, we visited (and sampled of course) a couple other street vendors in Hungary and Austria.  We were able to watch their process and ask a few questions, like thickness on the roller, time in the oven, etc.  People were actually very helpful and excited that kürtős was going across the pond!

I am happy to say that after all that, we did perfect the recipe, and even came up with some exiting menu items! Next step is going to New York next weekend to pick up my equipment.  The gentlemen selling everything to me are kind enough to show me the process with the actual equipment I am purchasing, to help ease some of that learning curve.  I can’t wait to bring everything home and get things really started!

On another note- check out how beautiful her garden is- she can barely walk and she still does this all herself!!

Experimenting in the kitchen

To continue from my last post about Ryan and I experimenting and researching Kürtős, in the summer of 2016 we decided to try a few recipes from my great grandma’s recipe book.  We didn’t have the proper equipment, so being the daughter of an engineer, I figured I could fashion a device from some simple items from the hardware store.  After a few epic fails (and a couple edible ones), pictured below, I called my grandmother and she walked me through a few recipes and tried to teach me her skills over the phone.  I do have a bachelors degree in Chemistry, but this apparently does not transfer to baking.  It is definitely more of an art!! We found it difficult to describe the texture and appearance of the dough, especially with the language barrier.  Although I am fluent in Hungarian, it is more conversational and some would call it Hung-Lish (Hungarian-English).  Being that my grandmother speaks 0 english, these recipes were becoming a bit frustrating.

By this point I had put together a business plan, did my market research, even wrote a menu and brainstormed names for a possible business.  I had even been in contact with a few other businesses in the US that had been selling Chimney Cakes.  The recipe was the only part that was still not quite right.  So, the only thing left to do was go to Hungary and stay with my grandma to learn! Ryan and I will be traveling overseas tomorrow to do just that (and of course some market research and taste testing)!!

My grandmother’s name is Magda, and I definitely wanted to use her name in my business name, but I couldn’t decide what to use, as I don’t have one creative bone in my body.  That is more Ryan’s strength.  One night we were brainstorming names, and Ryan came up with MagDough, after I had said Madga’s Dough out loud.  The business was born!!


“I am going to eat everything in the whole world”

Through high school and college, I became busy and wasn’t able to take as many trips to Hungary due to school, schedules and finances.  In 2012 my great-grandmother turned 100 years old, so my father and I took a trip to celebrate her birthday.  I definitely couldn’t miss that one.  This trip quite literally changed my life.  This is when I first realized how fortunate I had been growing up how I did and how many opportunities I had, that might not have existed if my parents stayed in Hungary.  That story will be for another post.  Her and my grandmother’s stories rekindled my excitement and passion for my Hungarian culture and since then, I have made it a point to go every year to visit family and explore the country.

Although I had seen a lot of the sights during my visits growing up, it is absolutely a different experience as an adult. When I met Ryan, my now husband, in 2014, I knew I had to take him there for him to fully understand who I was.  In 2015, the day after Christmas, we left on our first European vacation together.  We explored Budapest, Ryan met all of my extended family, tasted all the foods and drinks, and fell in love with the culture.  On New Years day, Ryan proposed in the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular, and the rest is history!

One of our favorite treats, while eating our way through the Christmas markets, were the Chimney Cakes.  I had been eating these my whole life, as they are a very popular central European street food, but this was new for Ryan.  When we got back from our trip, we reminisced about all the foods we ate and wished we could get them here in the states.  My whole life, when I would talk to others about Hungarian food, I always wanted to be able to provide a taste!  One discussion lead to another, and that summer, we decided we wanted to bring the Hungarian food culture to the Triangle, and started experimenting with making chimney cakes at home.


Where it all started

Food is a big deal in Hungary. In the 1960s my grandmother started a business making Kürtőskalács in Budapest, as she always loved to cook and bake, especially desserts. This was passed on from her mother, my great grandmother. I decided to continue this family tradition here in the United States. I traveled to Hungary every summer growing up and spent months in my grandma’s kitchen learning the ins and outs of Hungarian cooking. 20 years later, this tradition continues and at 86 years old, Magda is still teaching me new tricks in the kitchen.