Friday, February 11, 2011

Rigó Jancsi: The Ultimate Valentine's Day Dessert

When I was very young, I lived for a time with my grandparents in Hungary. I, as an American child, considered chocolate and beef to be dietary staples (Hamburgers and Milky Ways were my favorite foods). I didn’t understand why, therefore, my persistent request for Rigó Jancsi, a traditional Hungarian cube shaped chocolate sponge cake and chocolate cream pastry, was never honored. 

My loving grandparents.  Thier vegetable gardens,  grape vines,
chickens and pigs they tended are in the background

My grandparents lived in a small home that my grandfather built, stone by stone, and the majority of what we ate came from the vegetables and fruit they grew themselves, or from the animals they tended to.  Chocolate and sugar were. at that time, luxuries they just couldn’t afford.   I cringe, to this day, knowing how my grandmother would have made this dessert for me, every time asked, if she were able to. 

My daughter had a friend over earlier this past week in order to plan what they were going to do during their sleepover scheduled for tonight.  My daughter looked at me, with her doe llike eyes, and asked, ever so sweetly, “Mom, can we make that special dessert?”  I couldn’t refuse.   I just wish I could send a piece overseas to my grandmother as my valentine's day gift to her.

This special dessert is the ultimate Valentine’s day cake, not just because of its decadence, but because it is attached to a romantic love story as well.

Clara Ward and Rigó Jancsi, 1905 
Rigó Jancsi gained popularity in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and is named after Rigó Jancsi a famous Hungarian Gypsy violinist who seduced and married Clara Ward, Princess de Caraman-Chimay, the only daughter of E. B. Ward, American millionaire and the Belgian Prince de Caraman-Chimays wife.

Rigó Jancsi (born Johann Rigó in Székesfehérvár) had traveled in England, France and Germany before he met the love of his life. He found Princess Klara, née Ward, daughter of a Detroit millionaire in the Paris restaurant during the 1896 Christmas season. They traveled through Europe, including a stay in Rijeka before coming to Székesfehérvár to visit his parents who were dirt poor. All of Hungary was scandalized by the love affair and the Caraman Schimay family did everything they could to undermine the relationship.

But Princess Klara divorced Prince Josef and Rigó divorced his wife. They became Hungary's beautiful couple in 1905, sometimes requiring police protection from the crowds who surrounded them.   They often stayed at Nemzeti Szálló, a hotel still standing in Blaha Lujza tér. It was there that Rigó is supposed to have invented his confectioner's masterpiece, a chocoholic's dream, the Rigójancsi sütemény, in honor of his blonde princess. A friend of his, a confectioner, collaborated with Rigó in the making of the sweet. From 1910 it became enormously popular and available from cukrászdas.

Considered the "queen" of Hungarian cakes, it is cube-shaped, with two large layers of chocolate sponge cake - top and bottom - between which is a thick layer of very rich, heavy cream filling, and topped with a chocolate fonadant.  The filling is extremely delicate and difficult to make, since if the chocolate is too warm when mixed with the foamy cream, the cream will run. Or, if it is not warm enough, the chocolate will end up as lumps in the filling.

Rigó and Klara settled in a castle in Egypt where she taught him to read and write. But, she turned out to be fickle. When they went back to Paris on a visit, she fell in love with a Spaniard and lost her passion for Jancsi. In the end, she married an Italian, Ricciardi, who was a mere stationmaster of the Vesuvian Railway.   The only remnant of this romance is Sütemény Rigójancsi. Today, more than 170 cukrászdas in Hungary sell about 32,000 pieces of Sütemény Rigójancsi every year.

Reproduced courtesy of The Budapest Sun, Hungary's leading English-language newspaper

Rigó Jancsi: The Recipe


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a jellyroll pan. Tap the edge of the pan on a table to knock out the excess flour.

Melt the chocolate over low heat in a heavy 1-quart saucepan or in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Set the chocolate aside to cool to lukewarm.

Cream the unsalted butter and 1/4 cup of sugar by beating them against the side of a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, continuing to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.

Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt in another mixing bowl, preferably of unlined copper, with a wire whisk or rotary beater, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the whites form stiff, unwavering peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate base, then pour the chocolate mixture over the rest of the whites. Sprinkle the flour lightly on top. Gently fold the flour into the mixture until no white streaks are visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared jellyroll pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cake shrinks slightly away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, loosen it from the pan by running a sharp knife around the sides, and turn it out on a rack to cool. shopping list


  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 10 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken in small pieces
  • 4 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Combine the cream and chocolate in a heavy 1-quart saucepan and stir over medium heat until the chocolate melts. Then reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring almost constantly until the mixture thickens into a heavy cream. Pour it into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When the mixture is very cold, pour in the rum and vanilla and beat with a wire whisk or a rotary or electric beater until the filling is smooth and creamy and forms soft peaks when the beater is lifted from the bowl. Do not overbeat or the cream will turn to butter.

Cut the cake in half to make two layers, each 8 1/2 inches wide. Spread the filling, which will be about 2 inches thick over one layer. Set the other layer on top. Refrigerate on a rack for about 1 hour.


·         1 cup fine granulated sugar
·         1/3 cup water
·         7 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken in small pieces

Heat the sugar, water and chocolate in a heavy 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar and chocolate are dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let the glaze cool for about 20 minutes. Set the rack holding the cake on a jellyroll pan and, holding the saucepan with the glaze in it about 2 inches about the cake, pour the glaze over it. Refrigerate the cake on the rack for 10 to 20 minutes longer, or until the glaze is firm.

Serve this dessert by cutting it into 35 small pieces (5 in each row across and 7 in each row down). Use a sharp knife that has been dipped in warm water for cutting. Rinse the knife and dip it again in warm water before each cutting

 Sounds simple, doesn't it?  Wish us luck in making it today!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Benefit for Kelsey Corlito: Prayers and Support for a Precious Angel

 (written by Lisa White Corlito's daughter)

I am writing to you to invite you to a very important benefit for a dear friend of ours; Lisa “White” Corlito who’s tiny little angel, Kelsey, is fighting the fight of her life and the family needs all the prayers and support we can give.

On June 17th 2009, Lisa and her husband John got the most precious gift of all, a little bundle of joy, which they named Kelsey.

Kelsey was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect at birth, a condition that is usually mended by one "simple and easy" procedure, a "3-4 day hospital stay."

There has been nothing simple and easy about Kelsey's condition; Kelsey has undergone a series of corrective surgeries, including two mitral valve replacements, multiple cardiac catheters’, internal bleeding, pulmonary edema and countless hours of fighting for her life.

As of January 10th 2011, Kelsey has endured her 7th open heart surgery; so much for such a fragile little girl to handle but through prayers and support, Kelsey will get better and be stronger than ever.

Through all of the surgeries and hospital care it has cost to care for little Kelsey, it has crippled Lisa and her husband John financially, enough that they almost lost their house and livelihood.

Please, if you can, consider joining us for this benefit which will take place on Friday April 15, 2011 at Winchester, MA Son’s of Italy at 7PM.

For this benefit, we are hoping to have many items to raffle off at the end of the night so any items or services you would like to donate to this very important cause would be much appreciated. If you with to donate any items or services, please contact either Kristen Chute at 781-859-9458 or Carolyn Rogers at 781-718-6668 and we will make arrangements with you to pick up the items.

Please take a moment to visit Kelsey’s blog  to learn more about this special little girl and hopefully we will see you at the benefit.
We are also requesting for a $ 15.00 donation to be made at the door and, in addition, we will be selling raflle tickets in denominations of $5.00 up to $20.00 for the bigger ticket items up for raffle. All the proceeds will be going to Lisa and her husband John so they can get back on their feet.

It is never easy to ask people for help, especially financially. But any contributions would help change Kelsey’s good health and future from a possibility and prognosis, to a reality. Our family would like to thank you for your prayers, your kindness, and your generosity.  Most of all, we’d like to thank you for helping make miracles happen.

To help this family, please make checks Payable to:

Kelsey Corlito
PO Box 2561
Westwood, MA 02090

Monday, February 7, 2011

The History of the Modern Kitchen at the MOMA

A friend shared a great link from NPR on The history of the modern kitchen at the MOMA

Bruce Aleksander @Facebook added wikopedia info:

The Frankfurt kitchen was a milestone in domestic architecture, considered the fore-runner of modern fitted kitchens, for it realised for the first time a kitchen built after a unified concept, designed to enable efficient work and to be built at low cost. It was designed in 1926 by Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for the social housing project Römerstadt in Frankfurt, Germany, of architect Ernst May. Some 10,000 units were built in the late 1920s in Frankfurt.

Motivation and influences

German cities after the end of World War I were plagued by a serious housing shortage. Various social housing projects were realised in the 1920s to increase the number of rental apartments. These large-scale projects had to provide affordable apartments for a great number of typical working class families and thus were subject to tight budget constraints. As a consequence, the apartments designed were comfortable but not spacious, and so the architects sought to reduce costs by applying one design for large numbers of apartments.

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky's design of the kitchen for the Römerstadt thus had to solve the problem of how to build many kitchens, without allowing it to occupy too much of the total space of the apartment. Her design departed from the then common kitchen-cum-living room. The typical worker's household lived in a two-room apartment, in which the kitchen served many functions at once: besides cooking, one dined, lived, bathed, and even slept there, while the second room, intended as the parlour, often was reserved for special occasions such as a rare Sunday dinner. Instead, Schütte-Lihotzky's kitchen was a small separate room, connected to the living room by a sliding door; thus separating the functions of work (cooking etc.) from those of living and relaxing, consistent with her view about life:
Erstens besteht es in Arbeit, und zweitens in Ausruhen, Gesellschaft, Genuß.
"Firstly, it [life] is work, and secondly it is relaxing, company, pleasures."
— Margarethe Schütte-Lihotzky in Schlesisches Heim 8/1921
Schütte-Lihotzky's design was strongly influenced by the ideas of Taylorism, which was en vogue at the beginning of the 20th century. Started by Catharine Beecher in the middle of the 19th century and reinforced by Christine Frederick's publications in the 1910s, the growing trend that called for viewing household work as a true profession had the logical consequence that the industrial optimisation pioneered by Taylorism spilled over into the domestic area. Frederick's The New Housekeeping, which argued for rationalising the work in the kitchen using a Taylorist approach, had been translated into German under the title Die rationelle Haushaltsführung in 1922. These ideas were received well in Germany and Austria and formed the base of German architect Erna Meyer's work and were also instrumental in Schütte-Lihotzky's design of the Frankfurt kitchen. She did detailed time-motion studies to determine how long each processing step in the kitchen took, re-designed and optimised workflows, and planned her kitchen design such that it should optimally support these workflows. Improving the ergonomics of the kitchen and rationalising the kitchen work was important to her:
Das Problem, die Arbeit der Hausfrau rationeller zu gestalten, ist fast für alle Schichten der Bevölkerung von gleicher Wichtigkeit. Sowohl die Frauen des Mittelstandes, die vielfach ohne irgendwelche Hilfe im Haus wirtschaften, als auch Frauen des Arbeiterstandes, die häufig noch anderer Berufsarbeit nachgehen müssen, sind so überlastet, daß ihre Überarbeitung auf die Dauer nicht ohne Folgen für die gesamte Volksgesundheit bleiben kann.
"The problem of rationalising the housewife's work is equally important to all classes of the society. Both the middle-class women, who often work without any help [i.e. without servants] in their homes, and also the women of the worker class, who often have to work in other jobs, are overworked to the point that their stress is bound to have serious consequences for public health at large."
— Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in Das neue Frankfurt, 5/1926-1927
This quote succinctly sums up the reasons for the appeal of Taylorism at the time. On the one hand, the trend to rationalise the household was reinforced by the intention to reduce the time spent in (economically speaking) "unproductive" housework, so that women had more time for factory work. On the other hand, emancipatory efforts to improve women's status, also in the home, called for rationalisation to relieve women and enable them to pursue other interests.

Schütte-Lihotzky was strongly inspired by the extremely space-constrained railway dining car kitchens, which she saw as a Taylorist ideal: even though these were very small, two people could prepare and serve the meals for about 100 guests, and then wash and store the dishes.

 Kitchen plan

The electric stove of the kitchen
The resulting Frankfurt kitchen was a narrow double-file kitchen measuring 1.9 m by 3.4 m. The kitchen had a separate entrance in one of the short walls, opposite which was the window. Along the left side (as seen from the entrance), the stove was placed, followed by a sliding door connecting the kitchen to the dining and living room. On the right wall were cabinets and the sink, in front of the window a workspace. There was no refrigerator, but a foldable ironing board, visible in the image folded against the left wall.

The narrow layout of the kitchen was not due solely to the space constraints mentioned above, it was equally a conscious design decision in a very Taylorist attempt to minimise the number of steps needed when working in the kitchen. The sliding door also helped minimise the walking distance between the kitchen and the table in the adjacent room.

Dedicated, labelled storage bins for common ingredients such as flour, sugar, rice and others were intended to keep the kitchen tidy and well-organised; the workspace had an integrated, removable "garbage drawer" such that scraps could just be shoved into it while working and the whole thing emptied at once afterwards.
Because conventional kitchen furniture of the time fit neither the new workflows nor the narrow space, the Frankfurt kitchen was installed complete with furniture and major appliances such as the stove, a novelty at that time in Germany. It was the first fitted kitchen. The wooden door and drawer fronts were painted blue because researchers had found that flies avoided blue surfaces. Lihotzky used oak wood for flour containers, because it repelled mealworms, and beech for table tops because beech is resistant to staining, acids, and knifemarks. The seating was a revolving stool on castors for maximum flexibility.

User acceptance

Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt kitchen was installed in some 10,000 units in Frankfurt and as such was a commercial success. The cost of a single kitchen, fully equipped, was moderate (a few hundred Reichsmark); the costs were passed on to the rent (which reportedly increased the rents by 1 RM per month).
However, the users of these kitchens often had their difficulties with them. Unaccustomed to Schütte-Lihotzky's custom-designed workflows for which the kitchen was optimised, they often were at loss as to how to use the kitchen. It was frequently described as not flexible enough—the dedicated storage bins often were used for other things than their labels said. Another problem with these bins was that they were easily reachable by small children. Schütte-Lihotzky had designed the kitchen for one adult person only, children or even a second adult had not entered the picture, and in fact, the kitchen was too small for two people to work in. Even one person often was hampered by open cabinet doors.

Most contemporary criticism concentrated on such rather technical aspects. Nevertheless, the Frankfurt kitchen became a model for a modern work kitchen. For the rest of the 20th century, the small, rationalised work kitchen was a standard in tenement buildings throughout Europe.

Sociological aspects of the "work kitchen" were criticised only much later, in the 1970s and 80s, when feminist criticism found that the emancipatory intentions that had in part motivated the development of the work kitchen had actually backfired: precisely because of the specialised rationalisation and the small size of these kitchens such that only one person could work comfortably, housewives tended to become isolated from the life in the rest of the house. What had started as an emancipatory attempt (although all proponents such as Beecher, Frederick, or Meyer had always implicitly assumed that the kitchen was the woman's domain) to professionalise and revalue work in the home was now seen as a confinement of the woman to the kitchen.

The Frankfurt kitchen today

The cupboard of the survived and refurbished kitchen in the house Im Burgfeld 136

The characteristic aluminium drawers
Most Frankfurt kitchens were thrown away in the 1960s and 1970s, when modern kitchens with easy to clean surfaces like Resopal were affordable. Often only the aluminium drawers survived, which aren't typical of a modern kitchen. They were also sold separately for a few years by Haarer, the manufacturing company and chosen by architects and cabinet makers for their furniture.
When the public interest on the work of Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in the late 1990s was growing, most kitchens did not exist any more. Some homeowners have built replicas; a very few originals still exist. The original house Im Burgfeld 136, Frankfurt was chosen to be a museum because of the surviving Frankfurt kitchen.

In 2005 the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired a 'Frankfurt' kitchen for its traveling exhibition.  Modernism: Designing a new World“ with steps in London, the USA and Germany showed a Frankfurt kitchen. The kitchen was dismantled from its original place, restored and repainted.

Original kitchens on auctions

One kitchen was sold in 2005 for 22,680 €], another for 34,200. But these prices seem to apply only for the classic type: A white variation without the characteristic wall cupboard was sold for 11,000€

Other furniture with the original drawers

On auctions sometimes furniture is found with the original drawers without having ever been part of a Frankfurt kitchen. 2010 a piece of furniture with 6 drawers was sold for 380,-€, another with 10 for 1000,] and another with 9 for 1200-€

The Frankfurt kitchen in museums

The Frankfurt kitchen is found in the following public collections:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gifts for My Daughter: Fostering Awareness of Cultural Identity in Children

1930 Kalosca Costume
Both my parents immigrated to the United States from Hungary in the late 1950's.  Although I have been able to maintain a connection to my Hungarian ancestry, I am sad that my kids don't feel one as strongly as I do.  I try.  I make Goulash to help keep us warm on cold winter nights (let me know if you would like the recipe!).   I  teach my kids words in Hungarian:  Helló (hello), Jó (sounds like Yo, meaning Good), Szeretlek (I love you).  I also do my best to find gifts for them that will help connect them to the Hungarian culture. 

My sister and I, in our 70's finest
I am ecstatic about a vintage 70's dress I found today for my daughter's upcoming birthday from Dolly Rocker Vintage, (for $24).  It not only evokes fond memories of  a beloved dress I had as a little girl in the 70's (yes, I am dating myself) but it also reminds me of Hungarian Kalocsa embroidery, which is noted for its compositions being simple, clearly arranged, and whose motifs are borrowed from nature: clusters of grapes, lilacs, lilies of the valley, roses, forget-me-nots, violets.

1920's Hungarian Peasant Girl's Dress

1970's Dress from Dollyrocker Vintage
Other Gift Ideas
Being connected to one's ethnicity takes more than just having material items from thier family's country of origin.  I believe, however, that gifting items, along with a story, can help start a dialogue that can aid in strengthening a child's tie to his or her cultural past. 

When I was decorating my daughter's nursery, I gave her a cute Hungarian porcelin figurine of a little girl getting dressed that my grandmother had given to me as a child.   It looks wonderful displayed in the bookcase her papa made for her.  I found a picture of the book case. Unfortunately, the figurine is right behind her head so you can't see it displayed, but you can see how the color of the little girl's pants fits in perfectly her decor!

My sister, who has two daughters, converted to Judiasm when she was in college.   A great gift for my neices would be a Hungarian silver cup from the late 1800's that has Hebrew text on it. This would help honor their birth, ethnicity, and religion. 



When creating our wedding registry,  my husband and I chose the Hungarian Herend Rothchild Bird motif for our china pattern.  I have always adored this pattern because it reminds me of my grandmother.  When I was in my early 20's, she hand embroidered a gorgeous table cloth and napkin set for me with the Rothchild motif for my hope chest.  One day, my kids will inherit this gorgeous set but, in the meantime, I can add to what I already have in a way that compliments the pattern,  but also brings enjoyment to them apart from the china set itself.   

 My daughter, for example, would love the delicate handpainted Herend Rothchild bird figurines, or their sweet, rose shaped, placecard holders.  These would serve as pretty accents in her room for now, but one day, they would be wonderful accents to a holiday dinner table, or on display with the rest of the china set.

A child learns to appreciate thier ethnicity from many different sources; hearing family stories, sharing close bonds with relatives, learning to make traditional foods, looking through family photo albums, travels home, books, music, etc.  Finding unique gifts that fosters an appreciation of their ancestry and that raises their interest in learning more about thier family's customs and traditions is a gift that will last them a lifetime.