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Kifli | A Half-Moon Shaped Traditional Hungarian Pastry

Kifli [kih-fli] is a Hungarian pastry, probably one of the most popular. It is half-moon shaped, can be savory or slightly sweet, with no limitation on toppings—salt, cheese, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, olive, dried onion, you name it. I prefer the classic, plain butter kifli, which is slightly on the sweet side, light yet buttery.

Growing up, I remember having a cup of hot cocoa with a butter kifli for breakfast. It happened mostly on Saturday mornings when Mom, or one of us – four sisters – would make a run to the grocery store. The timing was essential; we had to go early; otherwise, all the kiflis were gone. It was the early 80ies, in a small village in Hungary.

If you like fresh pastry with your morning coffee, you are in for a treat.

Hungarian pastry is hard to find. I can buy plenty of foreign pastries in my neighborhood, but kifli is not one of them, no matter how early I go grocery shopping. Although I’ve been craving for butter kifli for years, I never thought that I could make them. Baking is not my strongest point, and there were always other options to get my mind off of them.

Lately, I was staying home a lot, and I found a popular recipe on a Hungarian cooking website. It seemed like a perfect time to give it a try. Since then, I made them a few times. The kiflis turned out great; light, fluffy, and delicious! As it also turns out, you don’t need to be an expert to make them. 🙂


1 ½ cups milk
1.1 oz fresh yeast (you can buy at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soft butter

Cook’s notes

I always start with proofing the yeast before mixing up ingredients. If the yeast fails, at least I didn’t waste the rest of the materials.

The dough should be firm, but not stiff. The consistency and thickness will influence the kiflis’ texture.

Warm them up on the second day! They will taste like they are freshly baked and just came out of the oven.


  1. 1. Stir sugar into lukewarm milk, sprinkle yeast on top. After 10-15 minutes, the mixture should be bubbly and foamy.
hungarian pastry
  • It is crucial to get the temperature of milk right. If the milk is too cold, it won’t get the yeast going; if it is too warm, it will kill it. Not sure if your milk is the right temperature? Do the wrist test: drizzle a few drops of the milk onto the inside of your wrist. If it is warm enough but still comfy for you, it will no doubt be warm and comfy for your yeast as well.
  • 2. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add proofed yeast and soft butter.
  • 3. Knead the mixture for about 10-12 minutes. At first, dough will be quite sticky, but in the end, it should be smooth and elastic. How do you know when to stop? Do the poke and pull test! If dough springs back immediately when lightly pushed in, and doesn’t tear when you pull it, you can stop. Your dough is ready to rise. If not…you guessed it, keep kneading!
  • 4. Shape dough into a ball, cover and let it rise for about 40 minutes. 
  • 5. When dough is ready (should be about double in size), knead it for another minute and divide it into eight equal parts. Form them into a ball shape and let them sit for 10 minutes, covered.
  • 6. Lightly oil your work surface. Stretch a ball into a 1/16″ (1.5mm) thin, rounded triangle. Starting from the widest side, roll it up and form it into a crescent moon shape. Repeat. 
  • 7. Grease and flour a baking tray. Place the 8 half-moons in the tray, allowing plenty of space between, as they will double in size. Let them prove for about 30 more minutes, while the oven heats up to 450°F.
  • 8. Brush the top of the kiflis with milk or water, and bake for 13-14 minutes.

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