Here at ARCANISA, kipfel is synonymous with nostalgia. One of our team members is a proud Hungarian who grew up in Pennsylvania, surrounded by equally proud Eastern Europeans. Due to the large presence of this community, the holidays were an expression of beautiful Eastern European traditions that became as much a part of Pennsylvanian history as of that of their homeland. We learned of the celebration of Santa Lucia in which young girls adorned with crowns of candles deliver cookies, the elaborate Putz installations (dioramas displaying the nativity scene, much like nativity creches), and sugar cakes (the recipe for which involves poking foccacia-like holes in dough that are then filled with cubes of butter and coated in cinnamon sugar before being baked!). But the tradition that we all have adopted is that of Hungarian kipfels, small filled crescent shaped cookies that are to-die-for.
Here we share two kipfel recipes: one traditional—straight from an elegant and gorgeous 92 year old woman we met in Pennsylvania— and one a more complex and modern interpretation by Smitten Kitchen (although the recipe itself originated in 1973). We've also included a nut-filling recipe from a woman who worked at our favorite Pennsylvania diner and who generously gifted us seasonal tins of kipfels that were so delicious we begged for the recipe!
We have to say, we tend to prefer the rustic traditionalism of the first. A simple recipe combines flour, cream cheese, and butter to form a dough that is rolled out and folded around dollops of assorted fruit and nut fillings. The high fat content of the dough results in a tender flaky cookie with the most fantastic mouth feel. In addition, the dough is rolled out on a mixture of flour and granulated sugar which produces ribbons of sweetness within the dough, often along the surface. Plus many people coat their finished kipfels in powdered sugar—because can one ever have enough sweetness over the holidays? Frankly, any recipe given to us as a hand-written note on a spare piece of stationery by a lovely 92 year old Hungarian woman at a senior center is in itself so full of good holiday energy we can't bear to pass it up!
1 lb. cream cheese (soft)
1 lb. salted butter (soft)
6 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting the surface
filling of your choice (we love an apricot or lingonberry jam or a cooked nut filling)
granulated sugar (for dusting the surface)
powdered sugar (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the ingredients listed above. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or over night.
In a bowl, combine some granulated sugar and flour in a 2:1 ratio. On a smooth surface, sprinkle the mixture to prevent the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to the surface and divide into four pieces. One section at a time (to make the process more manageable), roll the dough out into thin sheets.
Cut into small squares—as large or small as you want your cookies to be—and spoon your desired filling into the center, being careful not to overfill.
Fold each square over the filling and pinch or press the edges to seal them. Bend the cookie, (which should now be in a tube-like shape) into a crescent shape.
Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until slightly browned.
By Smitten Kitchen (Adapted from The Gourmet Cookie Book)
We are so infatuated with these cookies that I’m breaking my Never Post About Cookies Right After Christmas, When The World Is Cookie-d Out, Rule to tell you about them today. We want to fill them with Nutella, with chocolate chips. We want to try out different jams and maybe even some of that exalted chestnut paste. Plus, having no sugar in them, they seem destined for savory applications to, be it herbed goat cheese or a slip of caramelized onions.
Makes about 30 cookies
2 sticks (1 cup, 8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened 7.5 ounces farmer cheese (a low-fat cottage/ricotta-style cheese) 2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) sour cream 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling cookies out 1/4 teaspoon salt Jam or preserves (I used raspberry) Milk, for brushing cookies Powdered sugar, for dusting
Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Force cheese through a sieve right onto creamed butter and stir it in. Add the sour cream and vanilla and combine the mixture well. Whisk or sift together flour and salt in a separate bowl and gradually blend it into the cheese mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for at least 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Roll one-fourth of the dough out very thinly on a lightly floured surface and chill the remaining dough until it is to be used. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares** and put about 1/2 teaspoon jam or preserves in the center of each. Fold the dough in half on the diagonal, pressing firmly down to seal the two sides around the jam. Roll the triangle into crescents, starting at the wide end.
Arrange crescents on a baking sheet (they won’t expand terribly much, so just an inch or so between them is fine), brush them lightly with milk and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are golden.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and dust them with powdered sugar. Continue making cookies in the same manner until all the dough is used.
* Or enough pot cheese to fill a 1 cup measure once forced through a sieve. (Pot cheese is the primary recommendation of the recipe, but I didn’t test it with this so cannot provide a definite weight.) ** For the first batch, I used a ruler and a knife and honestly, it is always a pain to try to cut dough into a perfect grid. The second batch, I remembered I’d just bought some square cookie cutters and hoo boy, it sure sped things up!
COOKED NUT FILLING
1 lb of walnuts
1 cup of milk
1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
1 stick of butter
Mix all the ingredients together and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Allow to cool but stir regularly to prevent it from the filling from solidifying and become untenably sticky.