How to Make a Hungarian Christmas Cake: Poppy Seed or Walnut Roll Recipe
While I live in Cyprus, I'm originally from Hungary, and that's why I like to keep Hungarian Christmas traditions alive. Christmas is a very special time when I like to bake these cakes. This is one of my favorites. It's very traditional and very Hungarian. It tastes pretty good too.
History of Poppy Seed Roll
In Hungary, we don't have many Christmas cakes, although this one is very popular. You can't celebrate Christmas without them. You can live thousands of miles from your home country, but you have to bake this delicious pastry because it belongs to Christmas. I did a bit of research (on Wikipedia), and I know now that this particular type of pastry is also made in the following countries, but of course, it has different names:
- Russia: bulochki s makom.
- Poland: makowiec.
- Slovakia: makovník.
- Austria: Mohnkuchen.
What Is a Poppy Seed/Walnut Roll?
It's basically a pastry with poppy seed or walnut filling. You can either make it with the bittersweet filling of poppy seed or with minced walnut paste. In Hungarian, we call it mákos beigli (poppy seed roll) and diós beigli (walnut roll).
I've been living abroad for a while, and many people think that filling pastries with poppy seeds is quite odd. Well, it's part of our tradition, and it's not dangerous at all. Yeah, you've heard me right. I had friends (obviously not Hungarian ones) who thought that eating minced poppy seed filling is bad for you. Don't worry, it's healthy, and you can try it at home.
Ingredients for the Pastry and Filling
- 40 dkg (14 ounces) flour
- 15 dkg (5 ounces) butter
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 deciliter (100 grams) sour cream
- 1 dkg (0.35 ounces) yeast, dried is fine too, in Hungary we use fresh one
- 15dkg (5 ounces) sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons of milk
- 5 dkg (1.76 ounces) raisins, (optional)
- Half of a lemon rind, (optional)
- 20 dkg (7 ounces) ground poppy seed and ground walnut
- 1 tablespoon apricot jam, (optional)
- Pinch of cinnamon, (optional)
- Mix flour, butter, salt, sugar, dried yeast and sour cream together. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and slightly springy. When it's done cut it into 2 equal pieces and leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Note: Some people mix yeast with water and 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Allow to stand until the yeast forms a creamy layer.I just added the dried yeast to the mix and it was completely fine.
- Mix sugar with 2-3 tablespoons of milk and stir to combine. Let cook on very low fire then add the ground poppy seed/walnut to it. If you want you can also add apricot jam, a pinch of cinnamon, lemon rind and raisins as well.
- Roll each piece out into a 12x16-inch rectangle and spread the poppy seed/walnut filling over each rectangle. Then roll them up like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together or tuck ends under to prevent filling from leaking out. This recipe gives 2 rolls but you can double the amount make it 4 or even more. You have to leave them rest for 10 minutes then brush them with beaten egg yolk, another 10 minutes of rest, then brush them with egg white and pinch them with a fork so they can "breath".
- Preheat oven to 338 degrees F (170 degrees C).
Substitutions and Tips
- I replaced sour cream with yogurt because in Cyprus, you can't really buy sour cream. It's also perfect for baking, and it doesn't make any difference.
- Once the rolls are sliced, you can sprinkle them with icing sugar. There're many recipes that exist, but I think this is one is the easiest.
Enjoy this very traditional and very Hungarian Christmas cake, Jó étvégyat (Bon appetit in Hungarian) and Kellemes Karácsonyi Ünnepeket! Merry Christmas!