Kiffles are traditional Hungarian cookies made from cream cheese dough and filled with various flavors of pastry filling. They're delicate, rich and a beautiful addition to any holiday cookie platter. Being of Hungarian descent, kiffles (kiflis) have always been on hand at our family gatherings during the holidays. They take a little bit of work to prepare, but one bite will prove they're well worth the effort.
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup additional flour (to prevent sticking during rolling)
- 2 12-ounce cans of pastry filling (see notes)
Prepare the dough:
Whisk the 2-1/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and butter together at medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until very smooth and creamy.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour-salt mixture slowly, mixing just until combined. The dough will be quite moist, but not sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a sheet of lightly floured wax paper and flatten into a square about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 4 equal pieces and wrap each separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, a minimum of 2 hours.
Assemble the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a well floured sheet of wax paper. Dust the top of the dough with flour and top with another sheet of wax paper. Roll the dough out to a 1/8-inch thickness. You should end up with about a 10-11" square.
Remove the top sheet of wax paper and trim dough into a square with a pastry wheel or sharp knife. Cut the square into fourths lengthwise and crosswise to get 16 squares. (Save your scraps for re-rolling.)
Working as quickly as possible, place about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of filling in center of each square. Pinch together two opposite corners in the center and fold that "point" over to one side and smooth down very gently. This helps to prevent the cookie from popping open as it bakes.
Arrange cookies 1-1/2 inches apart on the parchment lined sheet. Bake until lightly golden, about 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minute, then carefully transfer to cooling racks. Repeat the process with the remaining 3 portions of dough, using different filling flavors if desired.
Store between layers of waxed paper in a tightly closed container and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature (30 minutes out of the fridge), arrange on a plate and dust lightly with powdered sugar just before serving. It's not advisable to top them with powdered sugar before storing.
Makes about 5 dozen
About the filling:
It is very important that you use fillings that are made specifically for pastry. Pie filling will be too loose and jams and preserves can produce unpredictable results. We've always used Solo Brand Cake & Pastry Filling and have never been disappointed. Solo makes a variety of flavors in 12-ounce cans. Prune, or "lekvar" in Hungarian, and poppy seed are the most traditional Hungarian choices. Pictured here are poppy seed, raspberry, almond and apricot.
About the dough:
Because of the high fat content, this dough tends to become soft and difficult to work with rather quickly. During the rolling process, you may need to remove the wax paper and sprinkle on a bit more flour once or twice to keep it from sticking. I added about 1/2 cup of flour total throughout the rolling process on this particular batch. If you feel the dough has become too soft after rolling, just put it back in the refrigerator for about 3 or 4 minutes before cutting.
Special Note: Recipes such as this vary from family to family and region to region, and they continue to evolve as they are passed down through the generations, often depending on changes in personal tastes, access to ingredients and sometimes even dietary restrictions. We welcome constructive feedback about recipe variations and family traditions, but insulting, purely contradictory comments will not be published.
Heirloom Kitchen Miniatures: Making Kiffles
The handmade clay miniature scene pictured above was created by my daughter/co-editor Erika Pitera. You can see more of her Heirloom Kitchen Miniatures on Flickr.