As you wouldn't have Christmas without szaloncukor it's also traditional to have these sweet yeasty bread rolls filled with sweet creamy poppy seed or walnut paste. They are very popular around Christmas (Karácsony) and Easter (Húsvét) and generally any celebration times in the whole of Eastern Europe and also in Jewish cuisine. Having spent the past week at home with a sick toddler while desperately hoping to get fit for our fast approaching Christmas trip to Australia - to lift the Christmas spirits I had to make this Mákos Beigli and it turned out lovely. There is much anxiety around beigli making, I didn't find it difficult or time consuming and this was the first time I made it - my Mum has always done it for the whole family, including vast quantities of frozen supplies for us in the UK if we happened to spend the holidays here :-) I have based it on the tried and tested Horváth Ilona recipe, only changed a couple of things to make it quicker and easier for the dough to rise. This quantity makes 2 large or 4 medium size rolls.
For the dough:
500g plain flour
50g caster sugar
20g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast, can add straight to dry ingredients)
pinch of salt
For the filling:
300g black poppy seed
vanilla pod (seeds scraped out) or few drops of vanilla extract
grated zest of a lemon
handful of sultanas soaked in a splash of dark rum
To make the dough sift the flour into a bowl with the salt, add the sugar and mix well. Warm up the milk a little until lukewarm. Mix 50ml milk with a teaspoon of the sugar and crumble the yeast into it, mix until creamy then add to the flour. Melt the butter into the rest of the warm milk and add this to the flour too. Knead it until well mixed and the dough comes away from the side of the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place for an hour to rise and double in size while you make the filling.
Grind the poppy seeds together with the sugar using a coffee or spice grinder. Warm up the milk with the vanilla until boiling, take it off the heat and add the ground poppy seed-sugar mix, lemon zest, semolina, rum soaked sultanas with their liquid. Mix well and let it cool.
Take the dough and divide into 2 or 4 pieces depending on the size of the beigli you want to make. Roll each one out to a rectangle shape to about 5mm thickness, spread the filling evenly on top, leaving the edges clear. Fold the short sides in slightly to keep the filling in, then roll it up starting from one of the long sides. Place on a baking sheet, fold side down, leaving a generous gap between the rolls. Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 6. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg and leave it to rest until the oven is ready. Pierce the sides in several places with a sharp fork, this will prevent the rolls from splitting. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden colour and cooked through. Cool and dust with icing sugar.