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Paul’s Kifle

September 19, 2010

Kifle in Vojvodina

Kifle are soft, fluffy crescent shaped rolls. They originated in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 1700’s, and are the precursor to croissants.  The main difference between the two is the type of fat and how it is incorporated into the dough. While croissants are made with butter, this kifle recipe calls for healthier sunflower oil. In croissant dough, a slab of cold butter is laid on top of the dough and the dough is folded around it, over and over, like a letter. This results in the flaky dough, as long as the baker works quickly and doesn’t allow the butter to become worked into the dough (the butter must remain in layers).  A kifle, on the other hand, has the fat mixed right into the dough, and the dough is handled very gently, resulting in an incredibly light, airy and soft roll that melts in your mouth.

My great grandfather Paul Milec, a baker, made thousands of Slovak kifle in his lifetime, and they became part of his DNA.  His grandson, David Milec would one day work in a bakery and make croissants, and his great grandchildren,  Tyler and myself, would grow up and go off to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn how to make croissants as well. Until recently, none of us knew the history of over 120 years of kifle-making in our family.

Mixing the dough gently; rolling it out into a circle; cut into triangles; rolled into crescents

I have travelled back to Vojvodina to learn how to make authentic Slovak kifle, and after sifting through many recipes and trying kifle from several bakeries, I have learned that kifle can be made well, and it can be made badly.  Bad kifle can be dry, crunchy, tough, salty or just plain tasteless. My cousin Daniela in Vojvodina taught me this recipe, and the secret ingredient to the tangy taste and soft texture: vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • ½ l milk (2 cups)
  • 2 cubes yeast (2 packets)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 k flour (4 1/2 – 5 cups)
  • 2-3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
  • Some pig fat
  • Sesame seeds or caraway seeds for sprinkling on tops
  • ½ cup soft, creamy white cheese similar to goat cheese, but creamier and tangier, made from cow’s milk  – called “tvaroha”, optional

Egg wash using bird feathers; egg washed kifle ready for the oven; goat cheese

Steps:

  1. Mix together warm milk, sugar and yeast, and proof for 10 minutes
  2. Add other ingredients to milk and mix together
  3. Knead for 35-40 minutes, softly with one hand in the bowl, adding a little flour (spoonful) at a time.  Dough will be sticky.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit
  5. Cut into 6 pieces, roll each in a bit of flour and incorporate into the dough to make it smooth, and then roll each piece into a circle about ½ inch thick
  6. Slice each circle into 8 pie shaped pieces
  7. Smear a spoon of fat onto each triangle piece with your finger, or place a teaspoon of soft white goat cheese in the middle (optional)
  8. Starting at the large end of each pie piece, roll the kifle, tucking the small end under the roll, curve the ends in towards the center
  9. Place on baking pan greased with generous amount of fat
  10. Brush tops with beaten egg
  11. Sprinkle with kosher salt, sesame or caraway seeds
  12. Bake for 10 minutes

Freshly baked kifle

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 6:26 am

    you are right! I am soo happy you shared this recipe . KNEADING BY HAND FOR 40 MINS! ..YIKES! .. I think i will have to be lazy and use my dough hook, . They look amazing.. and despite the 40 mins..easier than croissants . 🙂

    • September 20, 2010 8:17 am

      I know, it felt like forever. But use the dough hook on the slowest speed – you don’t want to make the dough tough.

  2. September 20, 2010 9:10 pm

    Great recipe, Tonya! You know, I just recently started reading “On Food and Cooking”. It’s a great book, if you don’t know about it. It’s basically 800 (or so) pages of the science behind cooking. No recipes, just the reason things happen the way the do. Such as adding oils to dough. The fats, or “shortenings”, shorten the gluten chains in flour, resulting in lighter, more cake-like dough. Bread, on the other hand, should be really elastic and springy, which results from long gluten chains.

    • September 21, 2010 1:21 pm

      No, I haven’t read that book (yet), but have read “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman that teaches you the basics of several types of recipes, such as bread, cakes, etc. Once you understand the key ingredients and how they react to each other, you can make up your own recipes, following the ratios as a guide.

  3. Mary Milec permalink
    October 27, 2010 2:26 pm

    Just wondered what you used for ‘pig fat.”
    I have a recipe I use for kifle from a slovak friend. Only have to knead 10 minutes.

    • October 27, 2010 3:01 pm

      In Serbia, I used a big ol’ bucket of fat that my cousins rendered from a pig. Here, I would use lard, I guess. I am looking for suet, as I have a really interesting Pivnica recipe for something called “drunken pieces” that calls for sadle, which I understand translates to suet. I think the best fat for you to get would be from Bradt’s the butcher in Leamington.

      • September 29, 2014 2:36 am

        Lard? as in the one you can purchase in a regular grocery store?

      • September 29, 2014 8:24 am

        Yes. You can get it fresh at a butcher too.

  4. Anita Mertens permalink
    November 21, 2010 12:59 pm

    Thank you so much for this nice website which I found during searching for “Pivnice” in google! My grandmother “Mamka” is also from pivnice and my mother of course, too. I live in Germany with my husband + son (5) but I spent my whole childhood-holidays in Pivnice with my Grandmother, her name was Juliana Badura (Smitova) she died 2004 her husband was Ondro Badura and my mother´s name is also Juliana maybe you heard of them 🙂 I have to try ALL your nice original recipes which all reminds me on my beloved Mamka… Thank you SO MUCH!!!!

    • November 21, 2010 1:04 pm

      Hi there! I would love to hear more about your holidays in Pivnice. Your family names sound very familiar and I will look them up in my family tree and ask my family if they know of them. Their first names are definitely the same as in my family – Juliana and Ondrej. Were they Lutheran by chance?

      I am so glad you found this site and enjoyed it, and I hope you will subscribe so that you can get my weekly postings.

  5. Anita Mertens permalink
    November 22, 2010 10:39 am

    They were Lutheran – I am baptized in the evangelic-lutheran church there… very nice, I also spent every christmas in this church where the children got sweets (sabicki), nuts and one orange when they left church after a looong christmas-mass. My uncle + aunt are Jano aj Ana Cincurak, one cousin is married with Pavel Simek, just in case you heard of them. My father is from Novi Sad, he is Hungarian (name Makra) – so no pivnicari from his side…
    I am still so excited about siski and kifle 🙂 but it is really necessary kneading 35 minutes???

    • November 22, 2010 11:52 am

      The Cincuraks are in my family going back over 200 years. Maybe we are long lost cousins :). As for kneading, this is what Daniela instructed me to do, and very gently. But I think you can try to use the dough hook on a mixer, set on low.

  6. Sandra permalink
    August 31, 2011 11:46 am

    thanks for the recipie. I have made these kifle quite a few times and I only kneeded the dough for only about 10 minutes by hand and they have always turned out! thanks again:)

    • August 31, 2011 2:00 pm

      Hi Sandra, Well, that;s good to know! It will certainly make it less painful to knead it for 10 minutes. Thanks for letting me know! Tonya

  7. fina permalink
    March 21, 2012 2:41 pm

    How mutch yeast do I need in weight?

    • March 21, 2012 2:49 pm

      I think each packet is about 7 grams, so I would guess approximately 15 grams of yeast should do it.

  8. fina permalink
    March 22, 2012 2:10 am

    Is it fresh yeast? Then I wonder, the dough must not ferment?

  9. mark permalink
    January 23, 2013 6:20 am

    An Albanian friend of mine has his wife make these for us on days we work together . He has a tomato based dip for them too , they are absolutely amazing . I’m going to make these today & will let you know how I got on . Fingers crossed as I’m not a good cook !!

  10. Susan permalink
    October 29, 2014 8:13 pm

    I have been searching for a recipe to replicate the “kiffles” I ate every Sunday morning as a child. My favorite kiffles had poppy seeds. We got our kiffles a local bakery in the heart of a community populated by Croatians, Serbians, Ukrainians, and Polish folks. The bakery owners were Ukrainian/Slovak husband and wife. People would stand in line after church to buy kiffles by the dozens. Usually, the bakery sold out by 10:00 am. Unfortunately the bakery is long out of business. I have been searching for about 20 years for a recipe to replicate the ones I remember from my childhood. The recipe sounds very much like just what I have been looking for! I do have 2 questions. 1) Do you let the formed kiffle rise before baking, and, 2) at what temperature do you bake the kiffles.? Thank you ever so much!

    • October 29, 2014 8:15 pm

      Thank you for writing! Yes, they rise before baking and bake them at 350 degrees. Where was this bakery?

      • Susan permalink
        October 29, 2014 8:31 pm

        Thanks for your fast reply! The bakery was in Lyndora, Pennsylvania. They also made the best rye bread in the entire world! After the original owners died, I understand somebody else took over. But, alas, it just wasn’t the same.

      • October 29, 2014 9:00 pm

        Do you remember the name of the bakery? And when the original owners sold it? Just curious. Would have loved to have had the rye bread too.

  11. Susan permalink
    October 29, 2014 9:45 pm

    I’m sorry, I don’t know that it had another name, but it probably did. We called it the Lyndora bakery to differentiate it from the several other ethnic bakeries in the area. The bakery was operating when my mom was a child (she turns 87 this year and grew up in the area). I remember the bakery was destroyed by a fire and being closed for quite a while, but that was probably 30 35 years ago. I believe this is when the original shop closed. I remember my mom telling me the bakery had reopened under new management quite a while later. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, but I have been away from the area for 45 years. I did go back this past summer when my 105 year old aunt died. The funeral dinner was in the same neighborhood as the bakery. So I went in hoping the new owners may still make kiffle…they said they did …”but we’re sold out.” Just my luck!

    • October 29, 2014 9:52 pm

      Too funny :). Thank you for the memories. One woman who is now nearly 100 remembers my great grandfather’s kifle from when she was a child in the 1930’s in Pivnica, Yugoslavia. She said she’s been searching for some like it ever since.

  12. Kim Hansele permalink
    April 3, 2015 11:20 pm

    These are just like the ones Oma made. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Jessi permalink
    April 29, 2015 3:52 pm

    I am really confused because we have an old family recipe brought over from Ukraine called kifle cake (spelling of kifle may be different, I just have the recipe I’ve written down from family members but it is pronounced keefleh) but it is an actual cake made from creamed butter and sugar, then 6 beaten egg white folded into creamed mixture, bit of vanilla, baking powder, then topped with a sugar and nut crumble and baked in a pan just like a cake..It is SO amazingly good. My mother would always cut it with a circle cookie cutter but cut it so it is in crescent moon shapes.

    Do you know of this cake and can you tell me why the names are the same or any information? I have tried looking up kifle cake (and spelling variations) but I cannot find anything related to Ukraine! It was the same when I was looking up versions of vyrynyky (pierogies).My family’s recipe from Ukraine calls them Petihaya in Ukrainian..but they are mainly known as vyrynyky in Ukrainian.. I wonder if this is because of the different regions? Part of my family is from Kyev, part from Odessa, and part from a small village.

    Just curious if you know anything about anything of this :p

    • September 30, 2015 12:10 pm

      Hi Jessi, I’m sorry I don’t know anything about the Ukrainian cakes. I wish I did – they sound delicious! Tonya

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