Bring Old World flavors to your dining table this Christmas with the Hungarian Poppy Seed Beigli.
Move aside, sugar cookies and fruitcake: we’re taking the dessert table this Christmas to the Eastern Bloc! The Hungarian beigli, or poppy seed roll, is a traditional baked good that families commonly eat at Christmas and Easter.
You can find many variations of the beigli across Central and Eastern Europe—the Polish makowiec, Slovak makovník, Belarusian makavy rulet, Romanian coarda cu mac, and more—the list goes on. (And don’t worry, they’re a lot easier to make than they are to pronounce!)
What all these pastries have in common is their poppy seed filling and the sweet, yeasty dough that makes up the bread roll.
The origins of beigli are disputed, naturally—everyone wants to take credit for the conception of this delightful rolled dessert. Some say it comes from Silesian cuisine as early as the 14th century, whereas others argue that it originated in Armenia. One origin story describes a baker in Bratislava who made mini beigli at the beginning of Advent for children to eat on St. Nicholas Day. The name “beigli” comes from the Yiddish “Beigl” (as in “bagel”) and the German “beugen” (“to bend”), as beigli were originally bent into a horseshoe shape. The German origin of the name is likely due to German influence during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Poppy seed beiglis have a distinctive, golden brown outer shell, achieved with an egg wash before baking. When sliced, the beautiful swirl of the dough and the poppy seed filling is revealed. Poppy seeds are traditionally used because they represent wealth, prosperity, and abundance—anyone else manifesting this for 2022?
Beiglis have mostly stayed the same since their inception a few centuries ago, which testifies to their deliciousness, and to the integrity of the Hungarian traditions associated with them. From Old World empires to the Soviet era, beiglis were, and still are, a time-tested Christmas delicacy. So this holiday season, let’s roll up our sleeves and roll up our beiglis!
- Hungarian Poppy Seed Beigli