Hungarian Christmas treat: beigli

by Réka Morvay on December 12, 2010

Beigli (or sometimes spelled bejgli) is a real Hungarian Christmas treat. This pastry is ubiquitous around Christmastime, you can buy it in practically any shop or bakery. It is basically a rolled up crust with lots of filling. Walnut and poppy seed are traditional, but these days experimental folks are filling it with chestnut puree  or even Nutella.

However, as it is true for all Hungarian pastries, it is SO much better when made at home. You can try your hand, though this is probably not a pastry for the beginning baker. If you have some experience baking things at home, though, and you’re up for a Christmas challenge, you’ll be rewarded!

Since this is such a traditional food in Hungary, there are as many recipes as there are families. The dough, for example, can either be risen dough or crumbly dough. Some recipes call for cooking the filling in milk, others simply direct you to mix it with grated apple for added moisture. The recipe I am including here today is the one I have cobbled together from various grandmothers’ (some of them my own) recipes over the years.

To help you along, I am providing detailed pictures (source: http://desszert.eu/dios_bejgli) to show you the process.

Ingredients for the dough for 4 rolls:

1 kg white flour
200 g butter
150 g lard (no, you shouldn’t substitute)
80 g sugar
3 tablespoons 20% fat sour cream
1 egg
10 g fresh yeast (can be bought in cubes) started in 1 dl warm milk
pinch of salt

Process:

In one bowl, combine flour, butter, lard, sugar, salt, and crumble them together.

In another bowl, mix together milk, yeast and egg. Mix until smooth.

Pour the liquids into the solids, and knead until you get a smooth dough. Do not overknead! Stop as soon as the dough becomes uniform.

Once the dough is smooth, divide it into 4 equal parts, roll them up into balls, cover with cling wrap and let them rest in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Ingredients for the filling for 4 rolls:

300-350 g ground walnuts
300-350 g of ground poppy seeds (both can be purchased ground fresh at your local market – do NOT buy imitation stuff from the supermarket)
150 g sugar (adjust to your taste)
2 lemons
vanilla extract
honey
rum extract (or hey, real rum!)
ground cinnamon
1 l milk

Mix the ground walnuts (or the poppy seed – whichever you are making) with the other spices in a saucepan, and add enough milk to make a thick paste. Add the zest (scraped off rind) and juice of one lemon.  Don’t make the filling runny, or it will leak out of the dough later. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring continuously and carefully to avoid burning! Set aside to cool. (Alternatively, you can mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and boil the milk separately, then douse the dry stuff with the milk. Just be careful to achieve a thick consistency.) Remember: each of the two types of filling (walnut and poppy seed) will fill TWO rolls, to make a total of four at the end. So divide your walnut filling into two portions and your poppy seed filling into two portions.

So here is the trick to making pretty beigli. Once the dough has been well rested in the fridge, use a rolling pin to create an even rectangle of dough. The width should be the width of the cookie sheet in your oven (so that it fits). Make sure the thickness is even. (And honestly, if anyone has figured out how to roll a ball of dough into a geometrically perfect rectangle, please let me know how you do it…)

Now spread the filling uniformly on the rectangle of dough, making sure to leave a quarter of an inch free around the edges. If your filling is firm enough, and you are precise enough, you can make balls of filling, cover them with cling wrap and use the rolling pin to create rectangles slightly smaller than your dough. Just remember to remove the cling wrap before you put the filling on the dough…

Now fold the edges over the filling and press down, on all four sides.

Here comes the fun part: roll up the dough along the longer side.

Make holes in the top with a fork to let steam escape. This will help to keep the rolls from splitting along the top.

Spread egg yolk on the top of the beigli with a brush. Let it dry. Then spread egg white on top of the beigli. Let it dry. (The yolk adds a nice golden color, the egg white adds shine. And the time you wait for the two coats to dry allows the dough to rise some more.)

Put the rolls on a cookie sheet covered with baking paper. Put them in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 15 minues, then lower the heat to 190C, and bake until golden and the beigli are firm to the touch, which is aproximately an additional 15 minutes. So total baking time should be around 30 minutes, but this of course depends on your oven, on the thickness of your beigli, etc.

Once they are done, wait for them to cool before slicing and serving.

You will astonish your Hungarian friends with your amazing beigli-fu, guaranteed!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Margareta December 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm

These remind me of the ones at the Market Hall in Budapest. I absolutely love these!

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Beatrix November 3, 2012 at 6:26 pm

How much of each spice do you need to put in the filling?

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L Dobos December 9, 2012 at 1:22 am

The pictures don’t show up on your website, only the first beigli picture of cut beigli shows, the others are only an X for instructions.

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Jillian December 10, 2012 at 3:54 am

A trick that has been passed through our generations, if you’re using a raised dough method, knock on the top of your pastry when its brown in the oven, if it is solid/crispy and sounds a bit hollow, you’re done!

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Réka Morvay December 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Beatrix: You add the spices to taste. Sorry I can’t be more specific! Keep tasting it! :)

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Andreea December 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

The BAJGLI is never missing from over tabel on Christmas:)

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Julie December 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm

My father was from Hungary. Even though he is no longer with us, the beigli is made every Christmas. My kids love it! Thank you for such a detailed recipe.

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Rachel December 25, 2013 at 7:36 am

My Grandparents used to make this, my dad and two uncles don’t make it so I took on the tradition now that GParents are gone. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same.

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D December 31, 2012 at 7:54 am

Where are used the “3 tablespoons 20% fat sour cream” ? Are they mixed with the flour or with the egg ?

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Kathy Newbery July 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

Hi, I am in Yorkshire,U.K.
In your Bejgli recipe you use 1dl of warm milk but I don’t know what that is.
Can you help me please?

Kind regards,

Kathy.

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Réka Morvay July 23, 2013 at 11:42 am

Hi Kathy,

1 dl is one deciliter, or 1/10th of a liter, also the same as 100 ml. Hope this helps!

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Gabby November 21, 2013 at 11:37 am

Hi. Am going to try making for first time, and its been tough finding a recipe (wish I’d got my gran to show me), i am guessing the flour is just normal plain flour, and the sugar is caster sugar? or is it granulated.
Thanks
Gabby

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Réka Morvay January 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Hi Gabby,

Yes, the flour is regular flour and the sugar is granulated white sugar.

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dawn November 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Please could you tell me how long these would keep fresh in an airtight tin or box? In other words, can I make them at all in advance? Looks a very good recipe. Thanks for posting it. Dawn

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Réka Morvay January 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Hi Dawn,

These pastries do very well over time; they keep fresh for a week or two if you cover them. Usually in Hungary they’re placed out on the coffee table for the entire Christmas season and are still good to eat in the New Year. :)

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dawn January 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Thanks Reka.
Happy New Year to you!
Kind regards,
Dawn

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Erin Kassay June 27, 2014 at 12:49 am

Exactly the info I was looking for myself. Making these for my family reunion. We need more Hungarian dishes there!

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BUDAI A. Endre December 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm

In the modernised metric system, or SI, the preferred units are
litres (L) or millilitres (mL), kilograms or kilos (kg), bypassing some intermediate, traditional units, like deciliter or dekagram.

Those who use measuring cups in kitchen weigh scale’s stead, here are some pointers.

4 cups = 1 litre 1 cup = 250 mL or millilitres, “mil” in kitchen jargon
1 Tsp or tablespoon = 15 mL
1 tsp or teaspoon = 5 mL

Some Aussie and Canadian cookbooks began to use the correct SI measurements.

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Eva December 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Hi Réka,
Thanks for the awesomely detailed recipe. I’ve tried many different recipes and followed each one to the letter. However, I have a big problem, that my beigli splits while baking in the oven, every time. I always make sure to poke holes in the end after the egg has dried in order to let the steam escape. I’ve tried rolling it up looser, not rolling the dough out so thin, kneading the dough more, or for less time, but it always splits and I’m out of ideas for what to do. If you have any suggestions, that would be really great. Many thanks

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Réka Morvay January 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I think you may be using too much yeast or allowing your dough to rise for too long, OR your oven is set too low and allows the dough to rise some more before it bakes in the oven. That’s my guess.

I just made these for Christmas, and I note that my recipe comes with detailed instructions for allowing the dough to rise alternately in cold and warm places… I’ll update this recipe on the website with the info when I get home.

With that said, one of mine split, too!

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Eva January 2, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Thanks Réka. I will try again with less yeast this time, and also wait for your update.
Never mind about the one that split, I guess it happens to all of us at some point. But the batch you made for this post look so pretty :)

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Paula January 19, 2014 at 9:29 am

I have not made these, but I do bake bread, and when bread splits it’s because the crust formed before the loaf had finished rising. There are several ways to get around that, depending on the desired outcome. One is to make sure it has risen enough before baking. Another is to slice the loaf prior to baking, which wouldn’t apply here. A third is to keep the surface moist for the first several minutes of baking (during the “oven spring”), which is usually done with steam. If you feel you have proofed the rolls enough, try keeping them moister. Perhaps your dough is too dry. Do you live in an arid environment? Try adding a small amount of water to the yolk. You could try a little steam in your oven as well.

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Lily March 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

We are vegetarian . . . Can we replace lard with an equal amount of butter?

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Réka Morvay March 24, 2014 at 12:26 am

Hi! I would go for vegetable shortening instead of butter, in that case!

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Laura k June 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

My mom put white raisin in hers, and we let it raise for a will before baking

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Emma Horvath June 14, 2014 at 12:19 am

Hi Réka! Thank you so much for this recipe :) My dad speaks fondly of a dessert his great-grandmother made. Unfortunately, that recipe was lost. He doesn’t remember the name of it but beigli matches his description, with one exception. My great-great-grandmother would form it in a circle before baking it, so that it resembled a ring or a bundt cake. Have you seen that done before with beigli or is that another dessert? I’d appreciate any suggestions that come to mind! Köszönöm!

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Laura k June 30, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I make my own Thank you

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