Zita Nagy shares the recipe for Kalács, a classic sweet Hungarian holiday bread.
By Zita Nagy
I’m sharing a traditional sweet braided bread family recipe with you. Mothers passed the recipe to their daughters. I don’t remember when I ate it for the first time but I remember where… at my grandmother’s place (my mom’s mother). That time I didn’t know that she owns a special recipe. Special because she baked her heart and soul in it, that is why this sweet braided bread is so tender. Whenever I eat kalács (pronounced [ko-laach]) I always look for this texture but I never find it.
Kalács can be made for any holiday, but it has the most symbolism on Easter.Print
Kalács, the Hungarian Sweet Braided Braid
- Author: Zita Nagy
- Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
- Yield: 6-8 1x
Traditionally kalács is made with milk and butter to create its brioche-like texture and is braided with three or four strands. The kalács dough needs special care. Prewarm the oven, shut it off, and use it as the place to let the dough rise. Use the stovetop as a warm spot to let the yeast proof. Also depending on the weather, the dough may require more or less flour. This recipe can make one medium-size loaf and eight pieces of brioches.
- 400 ml (1 and 3/4 cups) lukewarm milk
- 4,2 g (1/2 teaspoon) granulated sugar (to rise the yeast)
- 25 g (1/3 cup) fresh yeast
- 60 g (1/2 cup) butter, melted
- 650 g (22,93 ounce) all-purpose wheat flour, sifted
- 1 organic egg +1 for the egg wash
- 46,2 g (11 teaspoon) granulated sugar
- 1,05 g (1/4 teaspoon) salt
- One hour before starting, place everything on the table and keep them on room temperature.
- In a small bowl crumble the yeast with 100 ml lukewarm milk and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Allow yeast to proof.
- In another bowl whisk the egg with the remaining sugar (11 teaspoon) and salt. Add the proofed yeast mixture, the reamining milk (300 ml) and about 430 g flour. Mix everything with a wooden spoon until just combined. Start adding the melted butter step by step and work it in the dough with the wooden spoon until the dough comes off (pull away) the bowl and gets very shiny (about 10 minutes). It is not easy to work with your hands instead of a standing mixer but you will appreciate the end result. :)
- Now change the wooden spoon into your hands. Start adding the remaining flour (220 g) step by step while kneading the dough until it gets moist, shiny but not sticky (about 10-15 minutes). Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let it rise for 30-40 minutes or until it has doubled in bulk.
- Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for 5 minutes, then divide one half into thirds and roll into long snake (set the other half aside). Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and start breading with the pinched end across from you, work from left to righ, moving the left outermost strand over the second strand, under the third strand. Then start from the left again (the second strand in the previous braid is now the first strand). Repeat until the braided bread is complete. Press braided ends tightly and tuck them under the dough.
- Grease a baking tray with butter and carefully place finished braid on it. Set aside.
- Divide the other half dough into 8 equal pieces. Divide each piece into thirds and roll into snakes again. Form braid into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving braid into a circle, pinch ends together. Repeat with the 7 remaining pieces then place them onto the baking tray next to the kalács. Cover with the cloth and let rise about 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180-190C (360-375F).
- Beat the egg and brush a generous amount over the kalács and brioches.
- Bake at 180-190C (360-375F) for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before slicing.
- Prep Time: 90 mins
- Cook Time: 40 mins
Zita's love for cookbooks and delicious food started at the age of 9. Whenever she went home from school her little brother and she would wait for mom to make dinner for them. Until the dinner was ready, she was turning the pages back and forth and was staring at photographs of amazingly looking dishes in mom's cookbooks to kill her appetite somehow. She couldn't have known then, that she would be collecting cookbooks after reaching adulthood and would still be, just like in her childhood, staring at awesome photos of delicious dishes. The only difference is that she does the cooking now. She loves traveling, going to the organic market and browsing foodblogs. Her vegetarian food and travelblog is Zizi's Adventures.
I tried this once in Szeged and it was wonderful. My husband went to university there, and I’ll be looking forward to your posts so I can make him some of the Hungarian dishes he misses!
I’m glad you like the recipe! :) Believe it or not Szeged is my hometown but I live in Budapest now! Did your husband go to medical university there? When did you live in Szeged?
I’m vegetarian and the Hungarian cuisine is very meat friendly but I’ll try to post as many Hungarian recipes as I can!
Zita, yes he did. I never lived there, only visited. I enjoyed Szeged and Budapest and can’t wait to go back again. :-)
let me know if you come to visit and I’ll guide you around! A professional foodie tour is guaranteed! :)
Hi there. Congrats on your great blog.
My mother and I co-authored a Hungarian recipe collection called “Helen’s Hungarian Heritage Recipes”. I not only collected recipes, I got it from my mother – the master. She was able to quote from memory over 400 recipes. She’s 86. We were just in time as now she refers to her own book for guidance.
CHEF’S SECRETS: The added glossy and silky softness comes from adding sour cream (1 cup in our case) The ratio of egg yolks to the flour is 1 to 1 (1 yolk per cup of flour). That adds another dimension of rich, fatty consistency.
Also – my mother states in our book -if you want the bread to pull away in feathery tears, you need to add a couple of extra twists before braiding.
I will happily share the recipe.
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Clara & Helen Czegeny
The Hot Hungarians.
My folks are 1956 refugees in the USA from Hungary. I of course grew up with Hungarian cooking of all sorts. My mother is from Kocs and I don’t know if it’s a regional thing or a family thing but what makes her Kalacs stand out for me is the inclusion of a bit of lemon zest, or in my case when making it, lemon extract, added in with the flour and egg yolks before wetting with the sweetened milk/proofed yeast slurry. The aroma and flavor it adds to the finished breads is delicious, yet subtle and distinctive,, more deliciously floral or perfumey than anything. I’ve seen her use vanilla instead, as well. Not too much of either, ever, but just enough to add a subtle hint of something different and surprisingly pleasing.
Hello, I’m American but 50% Hungarian (both parents were each 50%). In the early 2000’s I spent a couple months in Hungary, mainly Budapest. I’m a vegetarian and remember a little buffet style vegetarian restaurant except it wasn’t all you can eat. I can’t remember the name for the life of me but I am curious if you know if it’s still there? There were steps down to get into it if that helps. It was my favorite place to eat (even though I remember it as not being Hungarian food)! It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to return but that trip was the highlight of my entire life! My famiy joined me for the week of Christmas and we toured around to Szeged, Eger, Gyor, Debrecen, etc. I’ll never forget it. Regarding your recipe though, do you think it would be worth trying using bread flour instead of all purpose flour?