Kifli are some of my favorite cookies. I have tried a number of recipes over the years, but I keep coming back to one from my mother’s Hungarian friend in New Jersey. I halved the original recipe because it makes a lot of cookies. The kifli are flaky like pie dough or puff pastry and so tender you can’t eat just one. In the photo below you can see the flaky layers. The secret is to keep your ingredients cold. Some recipes suggest using soft butter and cream cheese and mixing in a mixer, but I prefer using the food processor until the ingredients just come together. For the flakiest dough you want to see streaks of fat. Also, a neighbor mentioned that she mixed equal amounts of sugar and flour together and rolled the cookies out on the sugar-flour mixture, sprinkling some on top of the dough as well. That helps keep the cookies flaky. Do not re-roll the dough because handling the dough too much makes it tough. Finally, after the kifli are shaped and filled, I put them back in the refrigerator for five minutes to stay cold before baking (a good tip from one of Dorie Greenspan’s books). I find Solo brand fillings the perfect consistency for kifli. I have not had much success with homemade jams or jellies, because they tend to ooze unless they are very thick. Lemon curd runs a bit, but is also a delicious filling option. These cookies freeze well. Another bit of advice from a Hungarian friend: these do not keep for an extended length of time, but will store best at room temperature in a wax paper-lined gift box.
2 c. flour
1 c. cold salted butter, diced
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cold full-fat cream cheese, diced
1 (12 oz.) can Solo brand apricot filling (or poppyseed, nut, cherry or raspberry filling)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 egg white
powdered sugar for garnish
Place 2 c. flour in a food processor bowl. Distribute diced butter and cream cheese around flour. Pulse until you get coarse crumb mixture. (Do not pulse until you get a ball of dough; you just want a crumb consistency.) Turn out onto the counter and bring dough together to form two disks. It is okay if they are still a little crumbly; you do not want to handle it much. Wrap disks in plastic wrap, flatten slightly, and chill 4-5 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Take one dough disk out of the refrigerator. In a small bowl mix together 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. flour. Then lightly sprinkle your work surface with the sugar-flour mixture. Place dough on surface. Sprinkle top of dough with 1 Tbsp. of the sugar-flour mixture. Roll dough in a rectangle about 1/8 inch thickness and cut into squares between 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Fill each square with 1/2 tsp. filling. Fold one corner of dough over to the center of the filling. Dab a finger into an egg white and moisten the folded corner. Fold the opposite corner over to form a diamond or bow shape. Pinch together, then dab with a bit more egg white on the folded corners. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Once the cookie sheet is filled with roughly 25 cookies, place in the refrigerator for five minutes to keep cold. Bake for 14-15 minutes until light golden. Remove from oven and, while they are still hot, close any cookies that have opened. Let cookies rest for a minute on the baking sheet, then remove to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Garnish with powdered sugar to serve. Makes 90 cookies.
Note: A nice alternative dough made with sour cream instead of cream cheese gives very good results too. Here is the sour cream version: 4-1/2 cups flour, 1 lb. unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, 1 lb. sour cream, 2 large egg yolks. In a bowl combine flour and salt. Cut in butter to form crumbly mixture like pie dough. Combine sour cream and yolks. Mix well then add into the flour/butter mixture. Mix until you get a smooth dough. Divide dough into three portions. Wrap each in plastic and chill overnight. Follow the above instructions to assemble then bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until light golden.