It is certainly not the traditional muffin you would find in any bakery – neither am I the traditional baker. This tender basic Hungarian sweet dough recipe is known as “kalács” in my native language. The expression comes from the Slavic heritage word koláč or kola, originally interpreting as circle or wheel, alluding to the round shape this dough often takes. There is a kalács for every occasion, but my mother and many mothers before her used to make it mainly for Easter due to its symbolism on Easter particularly, as the dough is formed into a wreath mimicking Jesus’ crown of thorns. Traditionally kalács is made with milk and butter to create its brioche-like texture, perfectly complementing tea or coffee – and best with warm chocolate milk. Originally kalacs is made in a size of a bread loaf, however, this miniature, “muffinised” version adds unexpected charm to the nut and cinnamon filled heavyweight flavour. It is based on a special recipe. Special because it used to be baked with a touch of heart and soul in it, resulting in real tenderness of love.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, orange zest
400 ml (1 and 3/4 cups) lukewarm milk
4,2 g (1/2 teaspoon) granulated sugar (to rise the yeast)
25 g (1/3 cup) fresh yeast
60 g (1/2 cup) butter, melted
650 g (22,93 ounce) all-purpose wheat flour, sifted
1,05 g (1/4 teaspoon) salt
1 egg 46,2 g (11 teaspoon) granulated sugar
1 teaspoonground cinnamon
25 g (1/3 cup) brown sugar
melted butter for brushing +1 for the egg wash
Place flour, white sugar, and yeast into the bowl. Whisk together egg, melted butter, warm milk, and vanilla extract; pour into the flour mixture. Knead it until the flour is moistened and a dough forms, and continue kneading until smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes. Place dough into a greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough, turn out onto a floured work surface, and divide into small pieces, 2/3 of a size of a muffin. Roll each piece into a circle. Brush each square with melted butter. Mix together cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over them. Roll each circle firmly into a log, pinch the ends closed, and tuck them underneath by coiling the logs up. Place each into a greased muffin pan. Cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter or egg wash, then bake in preheated oven until loaves are golden brown, and sound hollow when tapped, about 20-30 minutes.