“I have not failed. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps”- answered Thomas Edison, when he was asked about failures. Kata shares this story with me during our discussion when I tell her that I realised how much I suffer from my failures. We come to the subject because of a banal accident with a kalács, a kind of Hungarian brioche dough, but this could be a symbol of a major problem that I am fighting with in my life. It is not only that I get disappointed or sad if I don’t succeed but I actually believe that if I have failed it was a waste of time. That means for me that I made a mistake and mistakes- whatever kind of- are unacceptable for me, in case they are my mistakes. (I don’t mind if other people do mistakes, in that case I think it is part of life- ha! )
When Kata tells me Edison’s example it is like light bulbs goes on in my head, because I realise that we create habits and attitude towards our experiences and even if they are nonsense and silly we keep doing it because they are so familiar and it feels so secure doing the same. Life is about up and down, joy and sorrow, success and failure. We fall, get up and keep going until the next fall. Even if our surrounding world will only notice and appreciate achievement, however, we have to concentrate on the journey itself. Because if we only see the finish line, we will miss the essential part.
And what is the essential part of the journey? To chose the right thing instead of the easy one.
Easier said than done especially that moment when I am standing in the kitchen with a kalács in my hand that is not light and fluffy at all, is salty on top and consider that I am a trained cook and worked as a pastry chef as well.
I was dreaming about a nice cocoa kalács ideal for breakfast, which is soft and light, reasonably buttery and every slice is a new surprise how cocoa and vanilla dough is mixing in it.
I use the recipe of the basic fonott kalács as a starting point but I ignore some important factors in this case.
First, I measure with a bigger teaspoon than I used to work with in my kitchen in our little house (which we are currently renovating), this is why the dough becomes too salty.
Secondly, I forget that I run out of honey in my studio and by the time I get back from the supermarket that butter I melted 10 minutes before became already too firm. I thought it was OK but the dough lost on lightness because of that.
Thirdly, it is worth to listen to my grandmother who told me to add egg yolk instead of whole egg and vanilla sugar to the dough.
The first trial- except the fact that it was salty- is OK, but OK is not enough for me. It would be easy to reduce the amount of salt and share the recipe but it wouldn’t be right.
So I sit down at the table and make a chart with four columns: one for the recipe of challah (very similar to ours) I have learnt at the French Culinary Institute, another one for a recipe from a Hungarian cookbook written by Ilona Horváth, another one for my grandmother’s version and the last one for my own recipe. I write the amount of ingredients into the rows and compare them and brainstorm.
Instead of two eggs I put one egg and an egg yolk, I increase the amount of honey, reduce salt. I incorporate butter at the beginning of the kneading process despite the fact I learnt adding it at the end.
I reduce the amount of cocoa powder and sprinkle the top partly with nib sugar and roughly chopped pistachio. Instead of dividing the dough into four parts and make two-coloured twists, I divide each roll to 3 parts and braid them the traditional way, as we do with challah.
The result is: a perfect kakaós fonott kalács, a braided cocoa brioche whose buttery scent fills up my car on the way home. It has an abstract pattern formed by cocoa and vanilla dough and each slice comes with a little crumble of nib sugar or pistachio.
It is easy to realise that the first version led to the final perfect result, as did a completely unfamiliar and untrodden way to the milestone that Taste of Memories became 2 years old. I like this journey so much and I wouldn’t change it for anything, especially now, when I have this nice roundish fonott kalács in front of me, calling me to have a slice. I cannot resist. While I am having a piece of this heavenly buttery dough, I am wondering that somewhere, sometimes a slice of this kalács might bright up somebody’s Sunday morning, spread with butter, home-made jam or without anything. And if that happens then failure was really worth it. Even if it was a salty kalács at the very beginning.
Kakaós fonott kalács (Challah or Hungarian brioche with cocoa)
500 g flour
150 ml lukewarm milk
30 g honey
35 g caster sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 egg for egg wash
60 g melted butter
1 level teaspoon of salt (11g ) +1 pinch of salt
15 g fresh yeast
1 package of vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon Dutch cocoa powder
- Dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in half of the milk’s quantity, cover it and let it rest for 5 minutes until rises a bit. Dissolve remaining sugar and vanilla sugar in the rest of the milk. Mix flour, a level teaspoon of salt, and honey.
- Add yeasted milk alongside with the rest of the milk, melted butter and the egg and egg yolk. Knead it until it forms a soft and flexible dough, divide it into half and add the cocoa powder to one of the rolls. Knead it until the dough takes up all the cocoa evenly.
- Brush two big bowl with some oil for each roll and cover them with a plastic foil. Let them rest for an hour at a warm place. Put the two rolls on a wooden board, cut each into 150 g pieces and form small balls. (You will get 3 cocoa, and 3 vanilla-colorer roll) Cover them again with a piece of foil and let them rest for another 20 minutes.
- Form long sausage-shape of each, then stick three sausages together on one end and braid it starting from the left. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the fonott kalács on it. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt and brush each of the fonott kalács, then cover with plastic foil and let it rest for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200 ºC and brush the kalács again with eggs before baking. In case of electric oven, bake it in the bottom part of the oven, in case of gas oven it is the opposite, the upper part. Bake it for approximately 20 minutes until it is golden brown. Let it cool down on a cookie wire.