If there is one thing that shouldn’t miss on your Christmas dinner table this year, it is Bejgli! This pastry is the true taste of Hungarian Christmas, not to forget the traditional age-old feud between „team walnut and poppyseed”. You can get bejgli in all sorts of forms and flavors, but for Christmas it is the tradition to bake a walnut or poppy bejgli (hence, the feud!)
As I mentioned in my Hungarian Christmas article, all dishes on the dinner table symbolize something, and so walnut stands for health and wealth (understandable when you see the prices of walnuts in the shops these days), poppy seed on the other hand is a more modest choice of filling, as it represents abundance and fertility. In some places they believe that if a girl eats poppy seeds on Christmas Eve, she will soon get married.
Even though most bejgli recipes are passed down from generation to generation, today I will be sharing with you my (successfully tried) recipe. It might not seem an easy recipe at first, but no worries, if I succeed at my first attempt, you can too!
For the pastry:
- 10 g vanilla sugar
- 500 g flour
- 50 g icing sugar
- 200 g butter
- 10 g fresh yeast
- 150 ml milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 pinch of salt
- Lemon zest of half a lemon
- 1 egg (egg wash)
- 2 egg yolk (egg wash)
For the filling
- 500 g walnut (or poppy seed (250 g walnut and 250 g poppy seed))
- 20 g icing sugar
- 300 ml water
- 260 g sugar
- Lemon zest of 1 lemon (for the walnut filling)
- Cinnamon according to taste (for the poppy seed filling)
- Orange zest from 1 orange (for the poppy seed filling)
- 1 pinch of cloves (for the poppy seed filling)
Mix the fresh yeast and icing sugar in 75ml cold milk. Melt the butter and mix this with the other half of 75ml cold milk, together with one egg yolk, a pinch of salt, vanilla sugar and lemon zest of half a lemon.
Prepare in another bowl 500gr flour, and pour both milk mixtures into the flour. Kneed it until it forms a nice dough, then put it aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile start preparing the filling. Heat the water with both the sugar and the vanilla sugar on the stove until it starts to boil and form a sugar sirup.
While the sugar sirup boils on the stove, chop the walnuts finely (easiest way is in a food processor). Add the lemon zest to the mixture. In case you also prepare poppy seed filling, mix the poppy seed with the clove, cinnamon and orange zest.
Once the sugar sirup is ready, slowly pour it over the walnut (and poppyseed-) filling until it soaked up all the liquid. It should be a sticky consistency, not too wet and not too dry. If the sirup is not enough to soak all the walnuts equally, you can add a spoonful of honey. Steer the mixture well and let it cool down while you roll out the pastry.
Once the dough is well-rested, cut it in 4 equal parts. You could measure the weight of the dough, as the equal amount of filling will be needed (but honestly, I just did it off the cuff and it turned out okay).
Thinly roll out the dough (about 4-5mm) and try to aim for a rectangular shape, that way it is nice and easy to roll the bejgli. Spread a thin layer (too thick will make the rolling harder) of filling on the dough. Fold the edges on the long sides of the dough inwards, so the filling won’t fall out as soon as you start rolling. Now you can roll the bejgli, starting from one of the short sides, make sure you have a tight roll without any holes in it (they will crack open even more once you will bake it).
Repeat these steps until you have 4 equally sized rolls of bejgli and you have run out of filling. Place the four rolls on a baking tray. Beat 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks to make an egg wash. Brush the loaves with egg wash and let it dry. After the egg wash has dried, add another layer. This will give the bejgli the shiny finish you want. I added two layers, but the more layers, the shinier the bejgli.
Put the bejgli in a preheated oven for 35 minutes on 190 degrees Celsius to bake golden-brown.
According to the recipe I followed, this all should have been done in 10 minutes plus the 35 minutes baking time… But I took my sweet time and stood in the kitchen for at least a couple of hour trying to recreate this Hungarian dish, so this might be important to take into account before you start baking.
Other than that, it was a true success and it totally recreated the Hungarian flavors that will be sitting on every Christmas dinner table this weekend! On that note, I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas and joyous holidays filled with light, laughter and loving people around you.
If you are curious about other Hungarian Christmas traditions, make sure to check out this article.