Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
Excellent pastry in the style of Budapest
Over the last 10 years or so, these wonderful Walnut Beigli (pronounced “bay-glee”) have become one of our biggest holiday hits. Regular customers ooh and aah when beigli first emerge from the Bakehouse ovens for the season. While the Walnut Beigli is still pretty new to many of us, in Hungary, it’s more like a 150-year-old tradition—beigli’s origins seem to date to the mid-19th century. Today it is, without question, a staple in most every Hungarian home at Christmas. Gabor Banfalvi, who grew up in Hungary and works with managing partner Kristie Brablec to lead the Zingerman’s Food Tour to Budapest, shared,
Walnut Beigli has been a part of my life forever. My mom made it for the Christmas holidays. There was always a massive amount of beigli made and friends also brought over slices of their beiglis to share and we did the same with ours. My mom grew her own walnuts, too, for this and cracked them in the kitchen for entire nights before the actual baking started. I helped her a lot with the walnut collection and cracking.
If you don’t already know it, beigli is a yeasted dough rolled up with a filling of crushed walnuts and sugar, subtly enhanced by a bit of lemon, butter, and cream. The outside has a beautiful sheen to it and a unique, slightly mottled, crackly look to its crust. Inside are swirls of a thick walnut-sugar filling that’s so good, I keep going back for another nibble. There are a few dried currants in the mix to make the texture and flavor a bit more complex, but it’s the walnuts that are the star of the show. The richness of the butter in the dough and the walnuts on the inside are comforting and compelling at the same time. Historically, it’s believed that beigli are a descendant of the poppyseed-filled crescent pastries that are now known in Slovakia and elsewhere in Central Europe as “Bratislava rolls!” Whoever I ask, it seems that beigli in Hungary seems to have the same emotional and culinary significance at Christmas as stollen has in Germany. For most people, it’s inseparably interwoven with the whole idea of the holiday.
Amy Emberling, managing partner at the Bakehouse, shared,
I love making and eating Walnut Beigli but I might actually enjoy the way beigli looks more than anything else (you know that expression of eating with our eyes). It has a rich mahogany exterior with distinctive cracking from the particular egg wash method traditionally used. Each beigli has its own unique and captivating pattern.
Just one word of sweet warning. Once you get to know beigli, you’ll likely be thinking about it more and more. We’ve got at least one customer who comes in weekly during December to fill her freezer with these things and then works down her inventory by eating a small bit of beigli regularly throughout the course of the coming year. I understand her drive to have it on hand. Really, the flavor is so compelling, you may well want another slice after finishing the first!
Beigli makes a great host/ess gift, or just something special to bring home to liven up a dark winter night! Sip some good coffee (like the 2023 Holiday Blend) and nibble slowly on a bit of beigli. Zsofie Towne, who grew up in Budapest and works at the Roadhouse, says beigli goes well with red wine or hot mulled wine! She reminds me as well that in Hungary, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of the month—so if you want to get an early start on the holiday, think Hungary!
Wherever you are, beigli is a wonderfully beautiful way to begin or end your day!