Hungarian Poppy Seed Cake

This is another delicious holiday recipe which came to me from my cousin Connie. It is called a cake, but it really is a sweet bread. The recipe makes 6 loaves that freeze beautifully, wrapped in plastic wrap then foil. The loaves make a nice neighbor or hostess gift. We will be having them for Christmas breakfast.

My mom has an old community cookbook from Kendall Park, New Jersey. When I was growing up quite a few Hungarian immigrants were living there and I found almost an identical recipe to this one in that book, but it was called a strudel. The dough is soft and easy to work with. In addition to poppy seed filling, it can be made with a walnut or almond filling or a thick canned fruit spread or homemade filling, my favorite being sour cherry (in which case add a touch of vanilla and drain a good portion of the liquid). This cake is eaten all over Eastern Europe in various forms at Christmas and Easter. It takes time to make so break it down into steps. I would make the filling one day (don’t add the beaten egg whites until ready to spread on the bread dough) and prepare the dough the next day.

I live at high altitude where it is drier. If you live in humidity at sea level you may need more flour for the dough. You want a soft consistency, but just slightly sticky.

The poppy seed filling requires very fresh poppy seeds to be ground into granules. This is done with a poppy seed grinder. My husband brought one back for me from Austria earlier this year and it works well, but you need a strong arm to grind them completely. Well worth the effort, however.

Hungarian Poppy Seed Cake
Poppy Seed Filling
1 lb. fresh poppy seeds, ground in a grinder
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup white raisins
3 heaping tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated

In a 4-quart pot combine ground poppy seeds, milk, sugar, applesauce, raisins, honey, and butter. Stir to mix well. Turn heat to medium low and, stirring often, cook for 15 minutes until thickened. At this point refrigerate until ready to use. Then beat egg whites until stiff and fold into filling just before spreading on dough to bake. Set aside the egg yolks mixed with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt for an egg wash to brush on the bread just before baking.

Bread Dough
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
5-1/4 to 5-1/2 cups flour

In a mixing bowl combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and warm water. Let sit 5 minutes to foam. While the yeast is proofing combine butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted, but do not boil the mixture. It should be warm but not hot or it will kill the yeast. Add melted butter and milk mixture to the yeast, along with 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well. Add eggs, sour cream, and salt. Mix well. Add flour 1 cup at a time, scraping down the bowl with each addition. You should have a soft, smooth dough. Place in a large buttered bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise 1-1/2 hours until doubled. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a circle on a lightly floured surface. Spread 2/3 to 3/4 cup poppy seed filling on the circle. Roll up like a jelly roll cake. Gently pinch the ends and tuck up onto the seam. Place the roll seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Place three loaves per sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover each sheet with a tea towel and let rise 30 minutes. Brush each loaf with egg yolk wash. Bake at 360 degrees for 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. The loaves should be golden and puffed. Remove from oven and let loaves rest on the baking sheet on a rack for two minutes, then remove loaves from baking sheet to cool directly on the rack. Makes 6 loaves.

This entry was posted in Breads, Breakfast, Christmas, Desserts, Easter, Thanksgiving. Bookmark the permalink.

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