This sweet story is a simple one.
Somewhere in the realms of a scone and shortbread biscuit live kiflice; a plum jam-filled crescent that looks like a mini croissant but is far from it in taste and texture. It holds its own space and rightly so. While the dough itself isn't sweet, the jam filling and icing sugar finish give its sweetness.
Horse-shoe shaped vanilla biscuits known as kipferl in Austria, or yeasted 'twisted' or 'croissant shaped bread known as kifli in Hungary and kifla in the Balkans come in various sizes and flavours. Popular in many eastern and central European countries, including Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic, kiflice make great edible gifts, are often synonymous with festive baking and are also excellent tea, coffee or warm brandy sidekicks. In my Bosnian household, we often enjoy both kifla (bread rolls) and kiflice (jam-filled biscuits) for breakfast and don't mind that they often get muddled up by our guests.
Like most recipes, every family has their own twist. While many feature vanilla extract, nut meals and eggs, this one only calls upon thickened cream, butter, flour and jam - typical pantry staples.
The minute my brother and I saw chopped butter and thickened cream being brought to room temp by the window, we, knew kiflice weren't too far away.
This was one of my first baking successes and it wasn't only a childhood favourite, it was the stuff of many primary school fetes and bring-a-plate birthday parties. I have fond memories of helping my mother to dot the jam in the dough and also when it came to rolling them all in icing sugar. The rolling was my favourite part because it was the perfect time to cram one (or three) of them in when she wasn't looking.
Once you get the right dough consistency, not too firm and not too sticky, then you can experiment with jam flavours, fruit pastes, chopped or ground nuts or in my case the evolution of choc-hazelnut and pistachio spreads, and Biscoff, which have all been known to make it into the fold.
Now, I pay this recipe forward and can confirm two sets of hands are always better than one here.
How to bake your own
Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced) and line a large baking tray with paper.
In a large bowl, mix 125 g softened butter and 200 ml of thickened cream, brought to room temperature, until combined. Sift in 1½ -2 cups of self-raising flour, ⅓ cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. (You can use plain flour, 1 cup of plain flour: 2 tsp of baking powder). Use your hands to mix the final ⅓ cup, this is where the dough comes together and you get a good sense of how sticky it is. You can add (optional) vanilla extract or almond essence if you like at this step. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured bench, and use your hands to knead for 3-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and not too sticky. Add more flour if you need it.
Cut into 4 even portions, and working with one dough at a time, knead with your palm for a minute and then shape into a smooth ball. Using a lightly floured rolling pin roll out the dough, turning it every roll to create a round shape about 18 cm in diameter and 2 mm thick. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 8 even wedges, starting with a vertical and horizontal cross and then diagonal from there.
Place 2 tsp of plum or rosehip jam at the thicker end of each wedge. The jam may spill out during the baking process - do not be alarmed, this can be the case depending on the jam you choose and its consistency and doesn't mean it's a baking fail by any stretch. Try to use a 100 per cent fruit or high-pectin jam to reduce leakage during baking. Also, date, quince or fig fruit pastes work well here and you can also include groud almond or walnut in the filling as well for texture. If you only have regular jam on hand and are a jam fiend, then keep a little extra jam on the side to add to each mouthful. It's been done before and it'll be done again, so don't sweat it.
Fold the edges of the wider end inwards, tucking the corners first and pressing to seal the jam and continuing to form a croissant shape. Place on the lined tray about 2 cm apart. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, placing about 32 pieces in total if you're using 4 sections or 24 pieces if you've decided to go with 3. I've used one large baking tray but you can also do this across two if you need.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden and then remove to cool on the tray for 15-20 minutes. Roll each piece into icing sugar coating all the sides well. Devour immediately. Or place the uniced kiflice into an airtight container for up to a week and roll them in icing sugar as you need to.
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Originating in Vienna, Austria, these vanilla sugar-coated biscuits are always made in a ‘kipferl’ or horse-shoe shape. Traditionally made at Christmas, they're also popular in many other eastern European countries, including Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic. These buttery almond biscuits make a wonderful gift.