Once a year at Christmastime, my mom (as her mom did before her and her grandmothers did and great-grandmothers did before them) makes what we call kalács (pronounced kolach). Kalács, as it’s known in Hungarian, is actually a sweet brioche-type bread commonly served at Easter, but somewhere along the line, Slovak-Americans and Hungarian-Americans smashed a few different holiday breads together and what was once known as Beigli (and still is in Hungary) is now usually known as kalács in English. The reason for the confusion is that the word kalács (despite being a Hungarian word) is Slavic in origin. But let’s get back to the deliciousness.
While the breads can be filled with a variety of ingredients, the standards are walnuts, poppy seeds and apricots. My mom doesn’t really like poppy seeds, so our kalácses have walnuts and apricots. So we mix up pulverized walnuts with a little sugar and condensed milk. It’s not too too sweet, but you wouldn’t want to eat a cup before getting your blood sugar levels tested. In a second pan we boil down the apricots until they are like jam.
This was my first year making the recipe (under my mom’s direct and strict supervision, of course). As she did when I was a kid, she scraped the dough from my fingers because she was worried I had too much margarine on my fingers and not enough was getting into the dough. Don’t worry though, Internet, she only scraped me with the sharp side of the knife a few times.
Dry margarine-coated ingredients are mixed with egg yolks, yeast and sour cream.
And pretty soon a rollable batter can be turned out onto the table.
We form them into dough balls, which then have to rise. This is fun because while over-kneading is discouraged, you can slam the dough balls onto the table. It’s quite satisfying.
After the dough balls rise a little bit, you can roll them out and spread on a layer of nuts or apricots.
After spreading, it’s roll up time, after which the rolls have to rise for another hour before baking.
Then it’s just a short thirty minutes before kalács/beigli perfection!
I had some this morning. And it was yummy. That’s an old American expression handed down from generation to generation from the non-chefs in the family.
I also “had to” test them and I can confidently claim, they are delicious! 🙂 Thank you.
I love these, but the secret of making them went with my grandmother and great grandmother a few years ago.
Since then, I’ve been trying to rediscover the right recipe to bring them back, much to my father and grandfather’s imense joy, though they say my filling is still too sweet.
It’s interesting because as regimented as my own mother and grandmother are, the recipe is very conceptual, as if they have much more of a feel to it for the recipe than the actual recorded recipe. And I’ve found that the ones in Hungary and Slovakia are much different than the ones that my grandmother makes in the US, though I think she’s tried to blend the cultures!