Kurtos brings a taste of Hungary to Sarasota
They say scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, but taste has to be a close second. When Aniko Gulyas moved to Sarasota from Hungary in 2004, she says it didn’t take long to adjust. She loved the people, the culture and the weather, but there was one thing missing — the food she grew up with.
“I missed certain tastes,” she says. “There were just some foods I couldn’t get here. You crave some of those things, and the tastes and smells bring you right back home.”
In particular, Gulyas says she found herself craving kurtos kalacs, a traditional Hungarian spit-cake, made with sugar-covered dough spun around a cone and roasted over charcoal until the sugar caramelizes and the surface cooks.
This March, she decided to open Kurtos Inc., a bakery dedicated to cooking the traditional treats she loved as a child and sharing her heritage with her new hometown.
Gulyas took a break from baking inside her kitchen space in Rise Kitchen to talk about the unique Hungarian treat.
“When I was growing up, I remember always eating kurtos at the fair. Everyone would wait in line for them, and it was something you would eat for special occasions. I started to crave them after I moved away, and it wasn’t something I could get here.”
“I wanted to share my heritage with Sarasota. Nobody else in Florida was producing them, and I knew this was a place where people appreciate local, handmade food, so I decided to go for it.”
“I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so I got all the equipment from Hungary. I connected with a woman in Safety Harbor who agreed to teach me the traditional method, and I started to perfect my recipes. I remember being very nervous to roll out the dough. If it’s not even, it will burn. There was a lot of trial and error.”
“The recipe originally comes from Transylvania, and it’s more than 300 years old. First, I roll out the dough with my hands, then I wrap it around a wood pin and brush it with oil. I roll that in raw sugar, let the dough rise and cook it in a convection oven. It cooks slow, to let the sugar caramelize, then I can add other ingredients for special flavors.”
“I reached out to some of the European stores in town, like Geier’s Sausage Kitchen, Taste of Europe and Kiev Deli, and they sell my kurtos in their stores.”
“They’re so much different than what people are used to here. People have fun eating them. They’re unique, and you get to twist them and unwind them when you eat them.”
“I hope the love and passion I put into these comes through. I wasn’t sure how Americans would like them, but people seem to be falling in love with them. That motivates me to keep making more and different flavors. I’m happy people can appreciate the foods I grew up with.”
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