JMC's Recipes

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Hungarian family recipes:
  • Kolach bread (a Hungarian co-worker tells me the original spelling is kalács)
  • Kifli cookies (also spelled keefle in the midwest)

Other recipes:


The Horvath Kolach Recipe:

This recipe is based on my grandmother's, but as with most recipes of that time, a lot of important details could only be picked up through observation or taste. In this version, I've tried to spell out everything so that you can get similar results without so much trial and error. This is traditionally made around Christmas time.

Ingredients for bread:

  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 pkgs dried yeast, not "rapid rise"
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs, medium or large (extra large tend to make the dough too moist)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 lb unshelled walnuts
  • 9 to 10 double graham crackers (a box of crackers usually contains 3 individually wrapped packets of 9-10). Use ordinary honey grahams, not cinnamon or chocolate. One double graham looks like the picture linked above, even though it will probably have lines to split it into 4 parts.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Other ingredients:

  • about 1 cup powdered sugar
  • about 1 cup extra flour
  • about 1 tbsp milk
Things you need:
  • a large bowl. I use ceramic because it insulates well, but any bowl large enough to hold all the dough should work.
  • a blender or food processor to chop up the nuts and graham crackers
  • either 1 large pan (lasagna size) that will make 2 long loaves, or 3 "bread" pans to make 3 short loaves. I think the large option works better, and I recommend a ceramic pan as there is less risk of burning it. You need a strip of aluminum foil to separate the two loaves.
  • a rolling mat or clean place to roll out the dough. You should not use a freezing cold counter or you might inhibit the second stage of rising.

Warning: This is a tricky recipe because the dough has to rise twice. If it rises too much during the first stage, the yeast won't have enough sugar left to rise again, and the kolach will end up too dense. Therefore you have to be careful about both the temperature and the type of yeast. I once tried to substitute 1 tsp dried yeast from a jar for the packaged yeast, and it was too active; I've also avoided "rapid rise" yeast for the same reason. The original recipe called for "two cakes" but I've never seen yeast sold this way. If you have more experience with baking bread, you can probably substitute your favorite yeast once you learn how much it's supposed to rise during the first stage. Also, you can easily double the recipe if you're fast enough in rolling and filling it (if you're too slow, the last ones you make won't rise enough).

You might want to make the filling first, if you can't get done in the hour while the dough is rising (it depends how good your blender or food processor is). However, if you put it in the refrigerator, the cold might inhibit the second rising stage, so you should try to let it warm up to room temperature or above.

Dough: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. The original recipe said to sift it, but I don't think this is necessary with modern ingredients as long as you mix it well. Soften the yeast in the warm water and add it to the dry ingredients. Combine butter with scalded milk (you can heat these up together so the butter melts; scalded means almost boiling but not quite), and add to the bowl of ingredients. Last, add eggs and vanilla. Mix well (this is difficult because the dough is very sticky and thick; you may want to use your hands), cover, and let rise for 1 hour. I suggest covering it with plastic wrapor waxed paper; if you don't, it will dry out. You should let it rise somewhere warm (80-90 degrees), like a sunny area or inside an oven that was on.

Filling: While the dough is rising, or before, grind up walnuts and graham crackers in blender, and add sugar, milk, and vanilla. The end result should be light brown and with a consistency like sludge. You want it to be easily spreadable but not so runny that it will ooze out of the roll when you roll it up later. You can always adjust the sugar to taste. Also, there are alternative fillings involving adding golden raisins to the walnut filling, or even making the filling out of poppy seeds instead of walnuts, but I prefer the raisinless walnut kind.

Here is a picture that shows kolach dough and filling for a double recipe.

Combination: Separate the dough into either 2 or 3 equal pieces, depending on how many rolls you will make. Roll each one out in a rectangle. The dough will still be fairly sticky, which is where the extra powdered sugar and flour come in. Mix this in equal parts and use on your rolling pin and the surface you're rolling on so the dough won't stick to it. One dimension of the rectangle should be the same as the length of your pan, and the other dimension should be longer. Roll the dough until it about as thin as it will get without tearing (about 3 mm?). Spread the filling on it evenly, but leave about 1 inch from each edge except for one of the short edges (where it can go almost all the way to the edge). Roll up the dough starting from this edge, and don't let the filling ooze out the sides. Transfer the resulting loaf to the pan where it will bake. The seam should be down to keep it from popping open while it rises or bakes. If you use the "two loaves in a lasagna pan" option, separate the two loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil so they won't stick together. Optionally, once a pan is filled, brush the top of the loaves with a little bit of milk and some powdered sugar to keep them from drying out.

Last: Cover (with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out, but not so tight it will keep it from rising) and let rise again for at least an hour in a warm area as before. It might take 2 hours; you want to be sure to let it rise as much as it's going to, although it will expand still more as it bakes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 35 minutes if you use separate pans for each loaf, or 45 minutes if you put two in one big pan. The top of each loaf should be medium-dark brown but not burnt. The loaves should rise more while baking, to the point where they're almost round. To serve, I recommend toasting individual slices in a toaster oven. The loaves freeze very well.

Here is a picture that shows finished kolach (each pan with 2 loaves is one recipe). The white stuff on top is excess flour/sugar.


The Horvath Kifli Recipe:

This is another Christmas recipe from my grandmother, annotated by my mom and myself. It makes about 70 kiflis. Warning: this recipe takes a lot of time; read all the way through before starting.

Ingredients for dough:

  • 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 egg yolks (5 if really big eggs)
  • 4 oz sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1.6 cups of unshelled walnuts (about 6.4 oz)
  • 4 double graham crackers (a box of crackers usually contains 3 individually wrapped packets of 9-10). Use ordinary honey grahams, not cinnamon or chocolate. One double graham looks like the picture linked above, even though it will probably have lines to split it into 4 parts.
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites (left over from dough, above)

Other ingredients:

  • about 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup for rolling and 1 cup for topping
  • about 1 cup extra flour, for rolling

Mix dough like pie crust, and roll into balls about 2 cm in diameter. Makes 60 to 70 balls. See this picture for details; each pie pan in the picture contains 30-35 balls. Chill for several hours (or overnight).

When you're ready to bake the kiflis, prepare a surface to roll out the dough. Temperature isn't important as in the kolach recipe, since kiflis don't have to rise. Use an equal mixture of flour and powdered sugar (you will need about 1 cup of each, total) to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or surface.

Next, make the filling. The filling should be used quickly after it's made, so the egg whites fall as little as possible. Grind up the walnuts and crackers in a blender (this is the same ratio of nuts and graham crackers as in kolach, but you only need a little more than 2 cups of the mixture). Add the vanilla and sugar, and mix well. Whip up the egg whites in another bowl. The whipped egg whites should be solid enough that you can turn over the bowl without them falling out; an electric mixer is very useful here. Gently fold together all the filling ingredients WITHOUT using a mixer, so the egg whites don't fall. This picture shows the bowl of filling and the dough balls. If you take too long to fill the kiflis, the egg whites will fall and the mixture will become runny; it will still work, but will result in slightly denser filling after you bake them.

Take about 5 balls out of the refrigerator at a time - leave rest in fridge til you're ready to roll them out, as the dough gets too soft and sticky to roll out if it gets too warm. For each ball:

  1. Roll it out into an approximately square shape about 4 inches per side (less than 1 mm thick, about as thin as you can make it without tearing it). Use the flour/sugar mixture above to keep it from sticking to the surface or rolling pin.
  2. Fill it with a spoonful of filling, as shown in this picture or this picture. The amount in the first picture is a little too conservative; the amount in the second picture is better. The filling should be in a line parallel to the edge of the dough square (the longer edge if asymmetric), and not go all the way across.
  3. Fold one end of the dough loosely over the filling, as shown in this picture. If you fold it too tight, the kifli will burst open when baking. If there is extra dough that goes past the filling, press down with your finger to join the dough together and seal the pocket of filling.
  4. Fold the other edge of the dough loosely down over the top, as shown in this picture. Press down on each end with your finger to seal the filling pocket.
  5. Cut the ends of the dough off, as shown in this picture, without breaking open the filling pocket. Recycle the extra bits of dough to make more balls (when there is enough extra for 1 ball, roll it up and put it in the fridge).
  6. Put on a cookie sheet, flap side down (there is no need to grease the sheet, since the dough has a lot of butter). If there is extra dough sticking out from underneath (from the 2nd fold), you can trim this off also, and recycle as above. If you don't trim off the edges, they will burn when you cook the kiflis.

Bake each sheet of kiflis 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. They will puff up, as in this picture.

Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar. The finished kiflis look like this. If you want to store some, freeze them without the sugar on top, then reheat in a toaster oven or microwave and add powdered sugar before serving.


Lake fish:

Bluegill/perch filet: Coat in egg+water wash, then bread with ground-up saltines, salt, and pepper. Fry (olive oil is healthy). Good with lemon wedges. Serve with fried potatoes and cole slaw.

Walleye skinned filets: in aluminum foil, layer some cut-up pieces of fennel bulb, then filets. Coat everything lightly in olive oil, and salt and pepper. Top with a cut-up garlic clove, some fresh tarragon leaves, and lemon slices. Seal up foil packet, and grill a few minutes on each side, until fish is white and comes apart in flakes. Serve with the rest of the fennel bulb, grilled directly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.