Tag Archive for Christmas

Kiflis (Hungarian Christmas Cookies)

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)

Dough

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

Filling

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.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

This is my third year making Christmas pudding. The first year I followed the traditional instructions to make it a month ahead so it can age for proper flavor. It went moldy.

The next year I decided to make it only a week or two ahead of time, and as an extra precaution, poured rum over it as a mold preventative. I served it with a simple brandy sauce (recipe below) and it was amazing.

Christmas pudding is very dense, like a hearty bread pudding. Lightly sweet, with dried fruit and spices, it has a good medley of rich flavors, but none of them overwhelming.

I used a white flour in this years pudding, but it’s one I got through Azure Standard with the wheat germ left in and only the bran removed. With the bran removed you have no pesky phytates to worry about, and a lot of the nutrition is still intact because of the wheat germ.

I used homemade bread crumbs this year. I save bread heels and overdone (but still not burnt) toast and other such odd bits of bread in a bag in the freezer, and just throw them in the food processor when I need bread crumbs. This means my bread crumbs were in about the same ratio of wheat to white as the bread we eat–mostly whole wheat, but with a bit of white thrown in here and there. In previous years I’ve used store bought panko bread crumbs.

The last two years I haven’t been able to find suet in our local grocery store and had to fall back on grated frozen butter. This year I wasn’t even going to try to look, but as I was poking through the meat on manager’s special I found beef suet  just sitting there for seventy-five cents. So I finally get to compare and see if it turns out better with suet! I have to say though, I didn’t notice any problems with using the butter instead.

To puree the orange, cut it in quarters, with the peel still on, and put the whole thing in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, with no large pieces of peel. Last year I used a whole lemon instead of a whole orange, but I didn’t happen to have lemons on hand this year.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I rate this as kinda healthy, because you can really make it as healthy as you want to depending the ingredients you choose (there’s very little innately unhealthy about the ingredients: dried fruit, spices, breadcrumbs that can be whole wheat, etc). But then, this is a Christmas pudding recipe. Healthy isn’t really the point.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

The brandy sauce tastes especially amazing, but the pudding is very good too. Let me put it this way: How good do you think it would have to be for me to decide it’s worth it to go through the bother of making and steaming a Christmas pudding every year?

Yep, it’s pretty good.

Christmas Pudding

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups bread crumbs

6 oz suet or 1 1/2 sticks frozen butter, grated

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup craisins

½ tbsp molasses

½ apple, peeled and grated

½ carrot, finely grated

1 orange, pureed

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp of ginger

1 egg

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Run hot water over a thin cotton dish towel (not terry cloth!). Wring out as much as possible. Sprinkle flour on cloth.

Dump mixture on to the flour in the middle of the cloth. Smooth mixture into as tight a ball as possible, then tie opposing corners of the cloth over the christmas pudding ball. Make it as snug as you can (you’ll probably have small divot in the bottom of your Christmas pudding from the knot), then tie the two remaining corners snugly.

The next step is to steam the pudding. I don’t have any fancy steaming equipment, so I’ve used a few different strategies over the years.

I’ve tied the longer ‘tails’ of the corners of the towel to my stockpot handles, suspending the pudding in the middle of the pot above the boiling water.

I’ve skipped the dishcloth altogether, packed the pudding mixture in the bottom of a 2 qt stainless steel bowl and boiled the whole thing, keeping the water level low enough that the water never got in the bowl. (This option  is nice for aging and reheating as it can just stay in the same bowl for that entire process.)

This year I set my mesh strainer in the top of my stock pot and put the pudding-tied-inside-a-towel  inside the mesh strainer, keeping the pudding out of the boiling water but still in the steam.

Whatever method you use, the pudding with need to cook for about 2 1/2 hours. When it’s done it should be one cohesive pudding and no longer crumbly.

When it’s cooled enough to handle, remove the pudding from the towel, poke a few holes in it with a skewer, and pour over it 2 TBSP of rum, slowly to give it time to soak in.

Put the pudding somewhere cool and dry to age for a week or two (or four if you’re a traditionalist).

To reheat the pudding, use any of the methods listed above for steaming the pudding, but only steam it for about an hour.

Pour brandy over the pudding and light it just before serving. Serve with brandy sauce.

If you want to serve it for Christmas breakfast (which is not as scandalous as it sounds, because the alcohol is cooked off the pudding, even if you serve it flaming, and you can easily cook the alcohol off the brandy sauce as well, if desired) you may want to put it in a small bowl inside your slow cooker, put a couple inches of water in the bottom of the slow cooker crock, and steam it overnight so it’s ready in the morning with no fuss.

Brandy Sauce

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups milk

3 TPSP sugar

1/4 cup brandy

(All these measurements are approximate, as I really just eyeballed measurements for a white sauce, then added sugar and brandy to taste)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk. Add sugar and wait for it to thicken. Remove from heat and add brandy. (If you prefer, add the brandy and cook for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol.)

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