Vízen kullogó can be called the Hungarian brioche, which is, however, undoubtedly much better than the French version. It’s an old-time folk pastry made of a soft yeast dough and rolled into sugar, which caramelizes on the top during the baking process. Vízen kullogó was generally baked for weddings and christening feasts. Its name clearly reflects the versatility of our language: the expression of vízen kullogó could be described in English as the dough that plods in the water, which refers to the extraordinary rising technique the pastry’s speciality lies in.
After kneading the dough is wrapped in a kitchen towel, which is greased with melted lard, and it’s put into a big pot of room temperature water. The dough sinks to the bottom and during the proofing it slowly comes to the surface. The whole process lasts a relatively long time, it takes about 2-3 hours. When the dough is well poofed, it’s rolled into ropes, which are then twisted and rolled up into spiral forms.
- 500 g (~4 cups) flour
- 3 eggs
- 30 g fresh yeast (3 tsp dry yeast)
- 200 ml (~1 cup) sour cream
- 100 ml (~1/3 cup) melted lard + 3-4 tbsp melted lard to grease the kitchen towel
- zest of a lemon
- juice of a half lemon
- 1 tsp salt
- approx. 200-300 g (~1 – 1 1/2 cups) sugar
To activate the yeast, warm the sour cream a bit, mix in yeast and a teaspoon of sugar, and set aside for a couple of minutes. Sift the flour in a big bowl. Add eggs, activated yeast, salt, lemon zest and juice, and start to knead. When the dough starts to hold together, add melted lard and knead until smooth.
Spread the whole surface of a big kitchen towel with melted lard; that will prevent the dough from getting drenched in the water. Place the dough in the middle and pull together the four corners of the cloth (don’t pack up the dough too tightly, leave space for the rising). Secure with knots or you can use a piece of twine to bind the “bundle”. Carefully slide the dough into a large pot of room temperature water; the bag will sink to the bottom. Put a wooden spoon across the pot and tie the cloth to it (it keeps the dough from turning over completely). As the dough rises, it slowly trudges to the surface. Proofing can last from 1,5 up to 2,5-3 hours. The dough is ready when it floats on the surface and fills the pot.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly. Roll out into a half inch thick rectangle, then cut into one inch wide strips. Sprinkle sugar over the work surface and in the sugar roll the strips with your hands into 35-40 cm/13-15 inch long ropes. Fold the rope in half and twist it 4-5 times. Then, roll up the entire piece in spiral shape to form snail.
Place the “snails” on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. While the buns rest, preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake them for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.