Christmas took me by surprise this year – December flew by in a blur of work projects and deadlines, and then suddenly it was December 25 and just as suddenly, it’s now the last day of 2017. Not that this stopped me from my regularly scheduled annual Christmas Cookie Madness – it just stopped me from telling you about it until now. These Hungarian Kifli were a new addition to my Christmas cookie menu, brought about by the twelfth and final instalment of Around the World in 12 Plates, destination (you guessed it) Hungary.
The other Hungarian pastries I’ve made in the past – the hazelnut and egg-rich Esterhazy Torte, the curly Kürtőskalács or chimney cakes, and the Dobos Torte (probably my favourite birthday cake ever) – have all been delicious, and these traditional Christmas cookies are no exception: a flaky cream cheese-enriched pastry folded around a walnut meringue filling, dusted with icing sugar. Never having eaten Hungarian Kifli before, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going for and I won’t lie, these did give me a little trouble – the filing recipe made about three times too much, the pastry unfolded itself in the oven, and some of the cookies ended up a little explode-y because I overfilled them – but with a few tweaks (reflected in the recipe below), they would be a winner.
Shout-out to Gabby at The Food Girl in Town for hosting the #ATW12P challenge this year! I was a slacker for more than a few of the months, but it’s been a fun journey 🙂 Be sure to check out the other Hungarian delicacies made this month:
- Evelyne at CulturEatz made Borleves, aka Hungarian Christmas Wine Soup
- Loreto and Nicoletta at SugarLoveSpices made Hungarian Brioches (Túrós ökörszem)
- Bernice at Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen made Hungarian-inspired Poppyseed Rugelach
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas / Hanukkah / Solstice / whatever winter holiday you do (or do not) celebrate, and all the best in 2018! Thanks for reading 🙂
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together:
227 g cold cream cheese, cubed
1 cup softened unsalted butter
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for later)
1 tsp vanilla
In a separate bowl, whisk together:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch fine sea salt
Add the flour mixture to the cream cheese mixture and stir on low speed until the flour is incorporated and it comes together in a soft, sticky dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a few times if necessary to bring any stray bits of flour into the dough. Shape it into a ball, and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Press each into a disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for several hours, or overnight.
Once the pastry is sufficiently chilled, prepare the filling. In a clean mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, place:
1 egg white
pinch cream of tartar
Whip on medium speed until foamy, then gradually add 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
Increase the speed to medium-high and continue whipping until you get a glossy, stiff meringue.
Fold in 75 g ground walnuts until well incorporated, and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the chilled dough into a square that is slightly larger than 9″ x 9″ (it should be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick). With a fluted pastry wheel or a sharp knife, trim the square to exactly 9″ x 9″, then cut it into nine 3″ squares. Set aside the trimmed scraps of pastry.
Place about 1/2 tsp walnut-meringue filling in the middle of each square, then fold the two opposite corners of the pastry over the filling to make a little tube. Moisten the top corner of pastry with a bit of water to make it stick, and press gently to secure. (Your cookies will be less full than mine – I used way too much filing.)
Repeat with the other 3 discs of dough, then gather all the pastry scraps together and repeat one final time. Arrange the filled cookies about 1″ apart on baking sheets lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
Chill the assembled cookies for about 20-30 minutes, until they are hard. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (325˚F convection) and bake the cookies for about 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.
Transfer to a rack to cool. Once cooled, dust generously with icing sugar. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.