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 some work to prepare, but one bite will prove they're well worth the effort.
Hungarian Kiffles / Kiflis
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Yield: 8 to 12 dozen
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 to 2-1/2 cups cake and pastry filling (two 12-ounce cans - see notes below)
Prepare the Dough:
Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing just until combined. The dough will be quite moist, but not sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten into a square approximately 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 4 equal pieces and wrap each separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, a minimum of 2 hours.
Roll and cut the Dough:
Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a liberally floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour and cover with a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Working from the center toward the corners, roll the dough out to an 1/8 inch thick square. It should measure about 9 inches.
See our instructions below for how to roll your dough into a perfect square.
Using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut your dough both lengthwise and crosswise into small squares. Your total yield will depend on how large you make them. We recommend 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches.
The best way to keep the size even is to use a ruler and mark all 4 sides of the dough square at intervals with the tip of a knife. You can use the handle of a spatula to guide you as you cut to keep your lines straight as well (similar to drawing straight lines on a sheet of paper).
Fill and Seal the Kiffles:
Working as quickly as possible, place a small mound of filling (about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) in the center of each square. If the filling flavor you're using is relatively smooth you can spoon it into a small freezer bag, snip off a tiny bottom corner and squeeze the filling onto the squares. This works particularly well with the poppy and almond flavors.
Lift two opposite corners of the dough over the filling and gently pinch them together. Fold that "point" over to one side, moisten the tip of your finger with a bit of water and smooth it down gently on one side of the kiffle. This prevent the kiffles from popping open as they bake.
Note: The various filling flavors spread a bit differently during baking so you may want to fill a few "test" kiffles and bake them to gauge the right amount of filling for each type.
Bake the Kiffles:
Arrange the kiffles 1 inch apart on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake until barely golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then carefully transfer the kiffles to cooling racks.
Repeat the process with the remaining 3 portions of dough, using different filling flavors if desired.
How to Store Kiffles:
Store kiffles between layers of waxed paper in a tightly closed container and refrigerate. Bring them 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 8 to 12 dozen
How To Roll Your Dough Into a Perfect 9-Inch Square:
Cut a sheet of parchment paper 15 inches wide by 18 inches long. Fold 4-1/2 inches of each short side toward the middle. Make sharp creases and unfold.
Fold 3 inches of each long side toward the center. Make sharp creases there as well and you should have a well-defined 9-inch square in the center of your parchment paper.
With the flaps facing up, dust the parchment liberally with flour and place a portion of dough in the center of the square. Dust the top of the dough with flour as well, then fold the parchment along your creases to make an "envelope" around your dough.
Place it on your rolling surface, flap sides down and roll the dough from the center toward the corners as directed above. Remove the dough carefully to avoid tearing.
Note: Because of its high fat content, this dough requires a fair amount of flour on your rolling surface.
Nutrition Information (per cookie):
37mg sodium 10g carbohydrates; 0g dietary fiber; 4g sugar; 1g protein
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 (lekvar in Hungarian) and poppy seed are the most traditional Hungarian choices. Pictured here are poppy seed, cherry, almond and apricot.
Special Note to Commenters: 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.
Just For Fun: Baking Kiffles - In Miniature!
The handcrafted miniature scene (1-inch scale) below was created by my daughter and co-editor Erika Pitera. You can see more of her fabulous miniature food creations on her website, The Petite Provisions Co.
Best tools for making kiffles:
Baking a batch of kiffles can be a bit of a project, but having the right tools for the job can help you pull it off without a hitch. These are a few of our favorites.