Bejgli or Poppy Seed/Walnut Roll.

Merry Christmas Everyone, and a peaceful time together with your loved ones! Christmas is by far my favourite holiday (right after it follows Easter) mainly because the whole family is together, spending a wonderful time, eating yummy things. Can we wish for anything more? My Grandpa used to love Christmas too. We would decorate the tree on the 24th and drop by my grandparents’, eat, sing and such, and when returning home, miraculously the presents would already be under the tree. I never figured out how my parents did it. And this would repeat every year. I loved each and every Christmas with these great family traditions. Now that I live far away we are building our own little traditions, but one never forgets the old ones, and I miss my family so much. Next year whatever happens, we are going to celebrate together one way or another. This is my vow.

For me one of the best culinary aspects of this holiday is bejgli, the traditional Hungarian Christmas dessert. A baking feat everyone is afraid to embark on, and which even grandmas mess up sometimes. There is a shroud of mystery around this wonderful dessert, which is actually terribly easy to make, but also easy to ruin in a blink of an eye. Exactly what happened to my first batch of pastry, but which I will spare you from having to see here. This dessert originates from the Silesian area of Germany and Poland, but I’m not sure if they still make it. The traditional fillings are with ground poppy seed or ground walnuts, although, recently, certain new flavours have stolen their way into our hearts such as marzipane, cocoa, chestnut paste, etc.

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I’m using this recipe as a base and it’s flawless: I even get the marble-like surface each time, which is one true attribute of a good bejgli. 🙂

Ingredients for 2 roughly 250 g rolls. The filling is actually too much so I usually make a double portion of the batter.

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 120 g unsalted butter  (cold, cut into cubes)
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 g fresh yeast
  • 50 g powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100 ml cream
  • 1 egg to smear on top

For the poppy seed filling:

  • 150 white sugar
  • 150 ml milk (I used 0.1%)
  • 230 g ground poppy seed
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 50 g semolina (or any ground sweet biscuit)
  • 100 g raisins (optional)

For the walnut filling:

  • 100 g white sugar
  • 100 ml milk
  • 230 g ground walnuts
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 50 g semolina (or any ground sweet biscuit)
  • 100 g raisins (optional)

Prepare the fillings first as they have to be completely cooled down before you start filling the pastry. Warm the milk with the sugar until boiling point and add the rest of the ingredients. The filling has to be on the dry side, so you may need to add more semolina (or ground biscuit) to drink up the excess liquid. If the filling is too moist, too warm or made with too much sugar, your pastry might be torn apart on the outside.

For the pastry, first knead the butter, flour, salt and powdered sugar until all the pieces of butter are incorporated. Then add the yeast, egg yolk and cream and continue kneading until totally incorporated. It should look like pie batter. You may need a little less cream. Divide the batter into two equal parts and until working with the first one put the other in the fridge lest the butter starts melting.

You may need a little extra flour on your rolling board and rolling pin, but this time I did not. Roll the batter into a roughly rectangle form, the larger the better. Mine was quite small so my roll doesn’t have a very nice spiral inside. You will need the same amount of filling for one roll as the batter weights. Mine was about 270 g each. So 270 g filling for a 270g roll. Measure the filling with a kitchen scale and spread it over the rolled out pastry leaving a 1 cm border clean. Push it down a little. Wash your hands so as not to smear filling on the outside. Fold in the borders and roll the pastry up tightly. There are good photos on the original link.

Spread egg yolk on top and put the white apart as we’ll be needing them later. Repeat these steps with the other half of the pastry. Keep the rolls in a cold place (e.g. fridge) for roughly 8 hours. Cover them with a plastic bag or kitchen foil to keep them moist.

When nicely risen, smear the egg whites on top and make deep holes inside the rolls with a toothpick, which will let the steam out without cracking the rolls. Preheat oven to 180 Celsius degrees, line a baking pan with baking paper and bake the rolls for roughly 25-30 minutes. Let them cool down completely before devouring them.

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