Ari’s Pick: Dobos Torta

Late 19th-century torte taken to new levels by the Bakehouse

At the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in the second half of the 19th century, the arts, architecture, music, and science all bloomed. So too did pastry-making—like the Rigó Jansci Torta that the Bakehouse makes so beautifully, the Dobos Torta dates to that same era. It was created in 1884, and named after its inventor, József Dobos, one of the best-known pastry chefs of that era, in what’s probably the most pastry-loving country in Europe. (To give you some American historical context, 1884 is the year the foundation was laid for the Statue of Liberty, and also when the Washington Monument was completed, making it the tallest structure in the world!)

a side view of a slice of dobos tortaDobos had a well-known specialty food shop in Budapest that sold everything from caviar to cake. The torte he developed, and named after himself, quickly became a local classic. In 1885 he showed it at the National General Exhibition—over 100 people staffed the pavilion and Queen Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph came by to sample the new creation. He soon became a supplier to the royal court. The Dobos Torta was so popular that an entire book was published about it later that year.

But Dobos didn’t stop there. Long before UPS, FedEx, or DHL, Dobos built wooden boxes in which he started to ship his delicious delicately-layered torte to pastry eaters all over Europe. Later, demonstrating a spirit of generosity that we can all learn from, Dobos donated the recipe for the torte to the Budapest Pastry and Honey-Bread Makers Guild in 1906, when it spread all over the country and eventually all over the world.

The Dobos Torta at the Bakehouse is a beautiful work of art to behold! It’s made of five thin layers of very light vanilla cake, sandwiched around a chocolate buttercream. More chocolate buttercream coats the sides of the torte, which are then dusted with chocolate crumbles. The rectangular cakes are topped with a thin layer of almost-crunchy slightly chewy, delicious caramel. It’s divine. At the Bakehouse, we make the buttercream with Valrhona chocolate and a touch of espresso. Buttercream, by the way, was barely known at the time, so Dobos was on the cutting edge of his field. The cake is topped with a crispy layer of translucent golden caramel. Kudos to the Bakehouse pastry crew for being able to create such a wonderfully delicious and accurate rendition of a Hungarian classic!

overhead view of a dobos torta

Just to put the Hungarian passion for this very special pastry in proper perspective, there was an entire pavilion dedicated to the Dobos at the Millennium Exposition in 1896, and then again in 1962, at a three-day festival set up to honor the Dobos’ creation. Today the Bakehouse makes it so well that we might want to start thinking about our own exposition—I can’t tell you how many Hungarians and Hungarian-Americans have told me the Bakehouse’s cake is as good as anything they’ve eaten in Budapest. One Hungarian-American told me that her 80-year-old grandmother suggested she could just pick one up from the Bakehouse rather than make her own!

You can pick up Dobos Torta as a whole cake or by the slice at both the Bakehouse and the Next Door Café. It’s terrific with an espresso (see the next item on this list) or maybe a cup of the Tree Town blend that the Coffee Company is featuring this month.



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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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