Kiflis (Hungarian Christmas Cookies)
There are a few kifli recipes on the internet (and in some cases, kiefli recipes) but none I’ve found that are really like my great-grandmother’s kifli recipe. Wikipedia will tell you that a kifli is a essentially a dinner roll, with a possible sweet variation having a walnut filling. Wikipedia is confused.
A kifli is a crescent shaped pastry cookie with walnut and raisin filling, rolled in sugar and baked to tender perfection.
As with any good family recipe, handed down with incomplete written information, this recipe comes with a bit of a squabble attached as to the proper way to make it. Naturally, I will share with you in this post the true proper way to make kiflis, as passed down my my grandmother and whose accuracy in flavor is attested to by my father.
In my father’s childhood there would always be a crock full of these cookies at my great-grandmother’s house. (Edit: I was misremembering the stories: actually my great-grandmother also only made kiflis at Christmas time.) As they’re a bit labor intensive, we only make them at Christmas time, but they are probably the single most important Christmas food tradition in my family.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of making kiflis, please, make them according to the original recipe and do not try to healthify them. Healthy is not the point of these cookies. Flaky, tender pastry with filling is the point of these cookies. I made the mistake of using a healthier white flour when I made these in the video (flour with no wheat bran, but the wheat germ left in). They’re still good, but they taste a bit like a cross between a kifli and graham cracker, which is not ideal. (I actually meant to use plain white flour and forgot. Bad me.)
You may, however, use organic raisins in the filling if it makes you feel better.
Oh, and also the amounts I give you here are for half an original batch. It will still make many dozen kiflis and you try to make a full original batch you’ll end up with half the dough and filling sitting around in your fridge for weeks waiting for you to have time to finish using them up. If you do have leftover filling it’s quite good in muffins. If you have leftover scraps of dough you can sprinkle them with sugar and bake them (along the lines of pie crust cookies).
Healthiness rating: Not healthy
It could be argued that with walnuts and raisins in the filling it’s not as unhealthy as it could be, but if you’re even having that argument, you may be missing the point. It’s a Christmas cookie. Healthy is not the point. Live a little.
Yumminess rating: Yummy
Admittedly, raisins aren’t everyone’s thing, and my husband’s siblings don’t love these cookies. But my husband and I both like these cookies a lot, despite not normally being raisin people, so I see no reason to demote the kiflis yumminess status on that basis. (Edited 2015: It turns out my husband’s siblings had only had slightly stale kiflis when they had the ‘meh’ reaction. They are much bigger fans of still warm, fresh from the oven kiflis.)
Kiflis (or Kiepfles or Kieffles or Kiefflis)
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1-2 TBSP cold milk
4-5 cups white flour
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup raisins
3 egg whites, beaten
Dissolve yeast in milk.
Work together the flour and butter with a fork, pastry blender or two knives, until the mixtures resembles coarse crumbs (such as for a pie crust). Make a hollow in the center of the flour mixture and put the yeast/milk mixture, egg yolks and sour cream. Mix. Knead for about five minutes until silky.
Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least six hours.
The next day, start the filling. Finely chop the walnuts and mix with the rest of the filling ingredients. Cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or so, until the mixture is a golden to dark brown. If needed, add a splash of water to keep the filling from sticking to the pan or scorching.
Cut the dough in fourths and return three quarters of the dough to the fridge. Spread sugar on your counter and across the top of the dough, adding more as needed to keep it from sticking. Roll out the remaining quarter of the dough until it’s very thin–thicker than cardstock, but thinner than corrugated cardboard. (See the video for a visual of thin it should be.)
Cut dough into small squares (perhaps two and a quarter inches–experiment to see what size works well for you). Cut the squares diagonally to make triangles. Put a small amount of filling (perhaps half a teaspoon) on the long edge of the triangle opposite the point. Roll up the triangle toward the point. Bend into a crescent shape. Roll in sugar again.
Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned and cooked through but still soft. Remove from cookie sheet to cool.