Beigli, a Hungarian rhapsody

Over lunch one day, a neighbor, who hails from Hungary, asked if I had ever heard of or prepared beigli. Beigli, he explained, are a traditional Hungarian holiday bread treat, customarily prepared in two taste profiles – poppy seed, and walnut. He graciously provided the recipe his family used, and I must admit that at first blush, it’s daunting. Looking online for other recipes, I found one that closely approximated my neighbor’s family recipe, and what’s here is one from, with some tweaks prompted by the family recipe. Once I made them, and gave them to my neighbor, I’m pleased to report that he gave the results five stars. Give ’em a try! They are just sweet enough, and just special enough to warrant their tradition as a special treat for a special time. NOTE: the more you measure and prep ahead of time, the easier and more smoothly these come together.


For the dough:
1 tsp sugar
120 ml milk, lukewarm
15 g instant yeast
500 g all-purpose flour
100 g butter, very cold (see NOTES)
100 g lard, very cold
2 large eggs, at room temperature
50 g powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla flavored sugar (see NOTES)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 egg, well beaten, for an egg wash

For the walnut filling:
100 ml milk
100 g powdered sugar
200 g finely ground walnuts (see NOTES)
2 tbsp raisins, finely chopped (optional) (see NOTES)
1 tbsp lemon zest (see NOTES)
1 tbsp orange zest (see NOTES)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 tbsp apricot jam (see NOTES)

For the poppy seed filling:
100 ml milk
100 g powdered sugar
250 g ground poppy seed (see NOTES)
2 tbsp raisins or dried cherries, finely chopped (optional)(see NOTES)*
2 tbsp cherry jam (optional) (see NOTES)
1 tbsp lemon zest (see NOTES)


For the dough:
Dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm milk, then add the yeast. Let it sit a few minutes to ‘bloom’.
Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter and lard into the flour to create a crumbly mixture.
Add the eggs, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla sugar, lemon zest, and the yeast/milk mixture. Knead thoroughly. Dust in some flour if the mixture appears too wet. Divide the dough into four balls of equal size. Cover and let rest while you make the fillings.

For the walnut filling:
In a sauce pan, heat the milk and sugar, and bring it to a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat; add the walnuts, raisins (if used), lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, and apricot jam.
Mix well, and let it cool completely.

For the poppy seed filling:
In a sauce pan, heat the milk and sugar, and bring it to a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat; add the poppy seeds, the raisins/cherries/cherry jam, and the lemon zest.
Mix well, and let it cool completely.

To prepare and bake:

Preheat oven to 355 deg. Line a couple of half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
On a floured surface, roll out each piece of the dough into a rectangle, approximately 12″ x 14″. Let the long dimension be parallel to your counter edge, facing you. Having a bench scraper handy at this point helps.
Spread the filling on the dough, leaving a 1/2″ border on the three sides away from you; approximately 1-1/2″ on the side closest to you.
Start folding away from you; fold the 1-1/2″ border over the filling; then continue folding. Once completed, place it on the parchment paper with the seam underneath. Gently seal the ends of each ‘log’.
Brush each log all over with egg wash. Using a toothpick, prick the sides of the log to allow vapor to escape.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. If it appears they are browning too fast, tent aluminum foil over them to slow the browning.
The rolls should be kept in a cool, dry place, and sliced only before serving.


Butter – When cooking recipes of a decidedly European origin, I try to use a European-style butter, such as Kerrygold or Plugra. Cut the butter into cubes or pats, putting them back in the fridge (or even the freezer for a very short time) to harden, before cutting them into the flour mixture.

Vanilla flavored sugar – quite common in European pastries. In lieu of the sugar, vanilla bean paste works as well. It’s available in sizes smaller than the 1 qt linked.

Walnuts – can be finely ground in a food processor, but more traditionally would be the use of a rotary cheese grater. The grated walnuts have a more pleasing texture. I used a grater attachment to my KitchenAid stand mixer.

Raisins – when chopping raisins, or other dried fruit, dust them with a little flour as you go along; it will help avoid just a sticky mess.

Jam – apricot and cherry jams are harder to come by than apricot and sherry preserves. The preserves, however, will have solid pieces of fruit in them that make spreading them an issue. My recommendation is to use preserves; heat them in a small saucier to loosen and liquify them, then smooth them all out using an immersion blender. A splash of lemon juice will help keep them at a spreading consistency once added to the walnuts or poppy seeds.

Zest – zest is not necessarily easy to measure in a measuring spoon. I usually use the zest of a medium lemon or orange, without measuring, and find that works well. Don’t hesitate to let your sense of smell guide you, too. When zesting, turn your zester so that the side with edges is up – it will catch the zest, which allows you to eyeball the quantity.

Ground poppy seeds – can be done in a coffee or spice grinder, using a finer setting. Adding some sugar to them before grinding will keep them from becoming sticky. My personal experience is that the poppy seed filling is not as spreadable as the walnut; add some liquid to ensure spreadability.

When you get ready to fold, a bench scraper is a handy tool to have ready.

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