Baking beigli for Christmas and Easter is a traditional Hungarian custom. Beigli is a slang for these sweet rolls made with rich walnut and poppy seed fillings. It takes a bit of a practice to make them to come out nice, as the rolls have a tendency to split open during the baking. The dough has to be firm in texture, and the fillings should not be over-sweetened or juicy. The best-looking and tasting beigli came from my dear Mother's kitchen, she knew all the tricks and had the talent to utilize them.
Poppy seed filling
In a deep bowl work the butter into 7 cups of flour with your fingers. Make a well and add the rest of the ingredients. Kneed with hand until the dough sticks together, and smooth in texture. The dough should be firm, otherwise work in more flour. Cover the bowl with wax paper and put it into the refrigerator for an hour.
While the dough is resting, prepare the fillings.
Heat the water and sugar until boiling; turn the heat down and simmer with constant stirring until a medium-thick syrup forms. Add in the walnuts and mix it well. Take the pot off the stove and stir in the jam and breadcrumbs.
Heat up the milk to boiling point. Reduce the heat and add in the poppy seed mixed with the breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and lemon peel, and simmer for few more minutes while stirring constantly.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Take out the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured board. Cut it up into four equal pieces and work them into balls. Roll the balls out (one at a time) to ¼ thick rectangles, and spread each with the cold filling; leave ¼ inch space around the edges. Each of the fillings should cover two of the rectangles. Starting at the long side, roll the rectangles up to tight loaves and tuck the ends under. Slightly flatten the rolls with your palm.
Place the loaves on two baking sheets, leave some space between them to grow. Slightly beat the saved-up egg white and paint the top of the rolls with it. Make a few small and shallow cuts on the tops, or gently pierce with fork on the sides.
Reduce the oven heat to 350 F; bake each sheet separately on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.
Cool thoroughly before slicing and serving.
The loaves can also be kept in the freezer tightly wrapped up in aluminum foil for several weeks. Defrost in room temperature, then slice.
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