Saint Elizabeth was born a princess of Hungary. She had a storybook life with all she could have ever wanted. At the age of 14 she was married off to a duke, whom she loved with her whole heart. She became inspired by the stories of St. Francis and devoted her life to serving the poor. She gave away many of her possessions but her husband Louis didn’t seem to mind. She was known for backing bread and secretly taking it to the poor wrapped up in her cloak. One day she was caught and accused of stealing from the royal treasury. Her husband, knowing it was bread, asked her to reveal her secret. As she unbundled her cloak miraculously the bread was transformed to red and white roses.
At the age of 20, her beloved husband died on the way to a crusade and left her heartbroken. She said, “He is dead. He is dead. It is to me as if the whole world died today.” After this she devoted her life to God and took on holy vows to not remarry. She used her returned dowry to start a hospital where she attended to the needs of the poor and the sick. Today St. Elizabeth is cherished by the Hungarians, the Germans, and the many noble families of Europe who are descended from her daughter Sophia. She is the patron saint of bakers, nurses, and hospitals.
For the Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary we are making an Hungarian sweet roll called a beigli. Beigli is a walnut roll that is a beloved treat in Hungary. It can be found in bakeries all year round, but especially during the winter season. It’s a yeasted roll, long and narrow, with a sweet filling and a crackly crust.
- For the Dough
6 tablespoons water, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon cake flour
2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
- For the Filling
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons walnuts
4 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup lemon zest
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup water
- For the Egg Wash
1 large egg, white and yolk separated
- Make the Dough
- In a bowl, combine the water, yeast, and cake flour. Add the all-purpose flour, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Stir briefly, then knead together using your hands until it forms a smooth dough ball, about 5 minutes.
- Divide the dough in half, flatten each piece into a 6″ square, and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for an hour. Prepare the filling while the dough refrigerates.
- Make the Filling
- Using a food processor, finely chop 2 cups of the walnuts. Roughly chop the remaining walnuts using a knife.
- In a separate bowl, mix the ground and chopped walnuts with the breadcrumbs, cinnamon, and lemon zest.
- In a saucepan, combine the honey, granulated sugar, vegetable oil, water, and raisins then bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add to the nut mixture, stirring to combine. Spread the filling out on a baking sheet to cool.
- Once the dough has chilled for one hour, remove it from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll each piece of dough into a 10” x 12” rectangle. Brush the edges with water and fold over 1/2” of dough on each long side and on the bottom short side, creating a small lip.
- Place half the filling on each piece of dough and spread evenly, leaving about 1” without filling on the top.
- Starting from the short side closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down.
- Using a fork or whisk, gently beat the egg white and the egg yolk separately. Brush the outside with the beaten egg yolk.
- Loosely cover with greased plastic wrap and let them rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
- To create the crackled appearance, brush the beigli with the egg white then chill, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- While the beigli are chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- After the beigli have chilled, use a fork to make evenly spaced holes along the body and sides to allow steam to escape while baking.
- Bake the beigli for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, or until the beigli are a deep, rich brown on the exterior.
- Remove the beigli from the oven and let them cool completely before serving.