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Heavenly traditional walnut and poppy seed rolls for Christmas

Walnut and poppy seed rolls are based on a 14th century Silesian loaf. Poppy seeds are native to Eurasia and were brought to Central Europe by the Turks. The poppy seed roll was introduced in Hungary in the 19th century.

In the early 1800s, poppy seed rolls were called ‘fine poppy seed sweetbread from Pozsony’ in István Czifrai’s Hungarian national cookery book, but later it became a popular Christmas item as well. Some say that poppy seed rolls are of Jewish origin, and the first ones were made in Krakow in 1610 and in Vienna in 1683. The so-called ‘flodni’, a roll that contains both poppy and walnuts, is very popular in Jewish cuisine. It is probably due to the influence of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy that the Germanic-sounding name of the roll, ‘bejgli’, which is a takeover of the Yiddish word ‘Beigl’ (the Austrian name Buegel means ‘to bend’), had spread in Hungary. Beigl is originally a horseshoe-shaped pastry, a favourite food of Viennese Jews, from which the bagel, originally unfilled and later filled with poppy seeds, evolved and spread to America, and which most resembled the Bratislava bun.

In the old days, baking bagels was a day-long activity: the nuts were cracked, cleaned and ground, the poppy seeds were soaked and then ground, the dough was kneaded and rolled out, and the rolls were baked. The bejgli has also had an impact on the reform kitchen, and many people are still trying to create a low-calorie version.

Ingredients for 4 rolls

For the dough

550 g flour
160 g butter
100 g lard
600 g icing sugar
1 pinch of salt
8 g fresh yeast
2 egg yolks
100 ml milk
1 egg (separated, for spreading on the top)

For the filling

300 g poppy seeds (ground or crushed)
300 g nuts (chopped)
220 g sugar
2 packets vanilla sugar
Cinnamon to taste (ground)
Zest of 1 lemon (grated)
2 handfuls of raisins (to taste)
250 ml milk

Heavenly traditional walnut and poppy seed rolls for Christmas

Preparation

Measure out the flour, butter, icing sugar, fat and salt in a bowl. Mix the ingredients together. In another bowl, measure out the yeast, milk, and egg yolks. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and knead until you obtain a homogeneous dough, which you then divide into pieces of about 25 dkg. Shape into rectangles and cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the fillings. In a large bowl mix the nuts, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, and lemon zest. In another bowl, mix the poppy seeds, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, lemon zest, and raisins. Bring the milk and sugar to the boil, pour half of the milk over the nuts and half over the poppy seeds.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough into rectangles of about 21×28 cm, each of the same thickness. First spread one half of the filling, then the other, over the stretched dough. Fold back the shorter side, then roll up neatly and place the rolls on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and stab with a fork to create holes for the steam to evaporate. Brush lengthways with egg yolk and place in a cool place until it dries on top.

Once the yolks have dried, brush with egg white, but this time in the opposite direction – applying the two layers will result a nice, marbled surface after baking.

When the egg whites are dry, place the rolls in a preheated oven at 200°C and start baking. Lower the temperature to 190°C after 15 minutes and bake for a further 25-30 minutes.

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