If you ask me what I really miss from the Hungarian kitchen I could give you a long list including special ingredients, proper jam, ripe and full-of-flavour fruit and crispy pastries. And you know, I love croissant, specially the almond one from the best London bakeries but I feel I can not live without its Hungarian relative, kifli. It reminds me of my childhood, my school years and then my years at uni when we often ate kifli with kefír for lunch. Plus the mákos guba is prepared with leftover kifli slices.
You may wonder why it is such a special treat for me. Well, I think it is just like baguette for French people, bagel for Jewish community or pretzel for Bavarians. Unfortunately, unlike these other kinds of specialty bread, kifli is little known outside Central Europe so I have to bake them at home myself.
Although it has a Hungarian origin, the crescent shape yeast bread roll is well known in Austria, Serbia, Bosnia, Poland and Slovakia too. It differs form the French croissant in many ways. Its dough has a soft, bread-like texture instead of the flaky, butter-based puff pastry and kiflis have to be cooked in salted water before being baked. It is used like bread, eaten with butter, meat slices, cheese or any sandwich-filling.
There are some other biscuits (hókifli) and sweet pastries (diós kifli, Pozsonyi kifli) we call kifli in the Hungarian kitchen, but those are made by entirely different techniques. My favourite of them is the hókifli. It is very rich, not to sweet, ground almond or walnut based cookie. When I was child and the Christmas or Easter season rolled out we always could be sure that these delicious treats would make an appearance in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Plain Kifli (10)
- 600g flour
- 60g vaj
- 16g fresh yeast or 8g dried
- 8g sugar
- 4g salt
- 300ml milk
Rub the softened butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yeast, sugar, salt and milk to it and mix together with your hands until the dough is well combined.
Cover it with a tea towel or cling foil. Set aside for 1hour in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, take it on a floured work surface, roll out and fold it single and double twice.
Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces, form small balls from them and set aside for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven for 200°C and place a saucepan filled with boiling water at the bottom of the oven. Line a sheet pan with parchment papper.
Roll out each ball to an oval shape and roll them up from corner to corner. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Bring water and 2 tablespoon of salt to a rolling boil in an saucepan.
Place the kiflis into the boiling water, one by one, for 5 seconds each. Remove them from the water and place them on the sheet pan.
Bake until golden brown in colour, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool down.