Easter without kalács (this is the Hungarian name of sweet bread) is like Christmas without Christmas tree. Hungarian kalács is similar to the Jewish challah eaten on Sabbath and holidays; it’s traditionally baked for Easter. It’s made with egg, milk and butter to create a brioche-like texture and is braided with three, four or six strands.
Many are afraid to set about making kalács because they find it too complicated. Although it seems more than it really is. It’s really true that there are some factors, which affect the final outcome. The dough of kalács is softer than bread dough, but not sticky by any means. If it’s too soft, the bread spreads out. Don’t add too much yeast, otherwise the dough can overrise easily, the braid loses its shape during baking and its taste will be yeasty. Adding butter is an important step, you should pour in gradually when the dough starts to form a ball, and butter must be completely incorporated.
You don’t have to insist on the six-strand braid – it almost got me, I had to watch the video a few times in order to learn it properly. It completely depends on you which braid to choose. I recommend trying to make kalács, as it doesn’t require pre-training and special kitchen tools, you only need to have patience and pay attention to the instructions, and success is guaranteed.
- 500 g (~4 cups) flour
- 25 g fresh yeast (2 1/2 tsp dry yeast)
- 250 ml (~1 cup) lukewarm milk
- 60 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
- 10 g (~2 tsp) salt
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 50 g (~3 1/2 tbsp) melted butter
- 1 egg for egg wash
Place yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and dissolve in 100 ml of lukewarm milk.
Sift flour in a separate bowl, make a hollow in it and add the ingredients: milk, sugar, salt, egg, egg yolk and the activated yeast. Using your hand or a hand mixer start to knead. When ingredients are well combined and the dough starts to form a ball, add melted butter to the dough in small amounts and continue to knead until all the butter is incorporated and the dough is smooth, pliant and not sticky. Cover and leave to rise until it doubles in size (it takes about 40-50 minutes).
Turn out the dough on a floured surface, divide it into 6 (or less) equal pieces and form balls. Cover them and let them rise for 10 minutes, so the gluten threads can stretch out and dough can be rolled out easier. Roll them into 40 cm long ropes. Pinch the tops of the 6 ropes together and braid them into a bread shape. I googled the braiding technic and I found the video below that shows how to braide a 6-strand sweet bread.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and lift the sweet bread on it. Brush it with beaten egg and let it rise for 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F. Brush the bread with egg again, and slide it on its baking sheet into the oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack until just barely warm.