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.
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.
- 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
- Mix together warm milk, sugar and yeast, and proof for 10 minutes
- Add other ingredients to milk and mix together
- Knead for 35-40 minutes, softly with one hand in the bowl, adding a little flour (spoonful) at a time. Dough will be sticky.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit
- 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
- Slice each circle into 8 pie shaped pieces
- 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)
- 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
- Place on baking pan greased with generous amount of fat
- Brush tops with beaten egg
- Sprinkle with kosher salt, sesame or caraway seeds
- Bake for 10 minutes