Beigli is often referred to in English as “walnut roll” or “poppy seed roll” and it is considered to be a typical Hungarian pastry at Christmas. Its traces can be found in folk traditions as well, where both fillings had their different symbolic meaning: walnut provided protection against hexes, while poppy seeds — which were imported from Eurasia through the Ottomans — meant prosperity. The most popular theory is that beigli is based on a type of a cake from Silesia, while other sources claim that it originates from Armenia. It reached Hungary in the second half of the 19th century. It was first made only by families for celebrations. (Read more at Daily News Hungary)
The recipe I used is one included in the King Arthur Baking Company Extraordinary Breads collection (see recipe here). This is basically a roll of enriched bread dough filled with a lot of walnuts.
The dough is then rolled tight and the edges sealed. The dough is brushed with beaten egg yolk prior to allowing to rest for 40 minutes. This allows the egg glaze to adsorb slightly. After the rest, the surface is brushed with beaten egg whites and chilled for 30 minutes prior to baking. The two egg glazes help to create the beigli’s final crackled appearance.
When preparing the filling, I left out the raisins (due to my allergies). I did a taste test and found the filling tastes very much like Baklava. This should not be too surprising since the recipes originate from the same geographical region of the world.
While I did like this bread, I would have preferred less nuts in each slice or a creamier nut mixture.
Perhaps the next time I will combine a couple recipes. I thought the dough from the lemon braid was amazing. For the filling, honey mixed with the cheese filling and then topped with a walnut paste instead of the fruit filling. This might give an even better Baklava flavored bread. Something to try when I am finished making each of the Extraordinary Breads.