Ari’s Pick: Hungarian Walnut Beigli from the Bakehouse

Excellent pastry in the style of Budapest

Over the last 10 years or so, these wonderful Hungarian Walnut Beigli (pronounced “bay-glee”) have become one of our biggest holiday hits. Regular customers ooh and aah when beigli first emerge from the Bakehouse ovens for the season. While the Walnut Beigli is still pretty new to many of us, in Hungary, it’s more like a 150-year-old tradition—beigli’s origins seem to date to the mid-19th century. Today it is, without question, a staple in most every Hungarian home at Christmas. Gabor Banfalvi, who grew up in Hungary and works with managing partner Kristie Brablec to lead the Zingerman’s Food Tour to Budapest, shared, 

Walnut Beigli has been a part of my life forever. My mom made it for the Christmas holidays. There was always a massive amount of beigli made and friends also brought over slices of their beiglis to share and we did the same with ours. My mom grew her own walnuts, too, for this and cracked them in the kitchen for entire nights before the actual baking started. I helped her a lot with the walnut collection and cracking.

what does walnut beigli taste like?

If you don’t already know it, beigli is a yeasted dough rolled up with a filling of crushed walnuts and sugar, subtly enhanced by a bit of lemon, butter, and cream. The outside has a beautiful sheen to it and a unique, slightly mottled, crackly look to its crust. Inside are swirls of a thick walnut-sugar filling that’s so good, I keep going back for another nibble. There are a few dried currants in the mix to make the texture and flavor a bit more complex, but it’s the walnuts that are the star of the show. The richness of the butter in the dough and the walnuts on the inside are comforting and compelling at the same time.

Historically, it’s believed that beigli are a descendant of the poppyseed-filled crescent pastries that are now known in Slovakia and elsewhere in Central Europe as “Bratislava rolls!” Whoever I ask, it seems that beigli in Hungary seems to have the same emotional and culinary significance at Christmas as stollen has in Germany. For most people, it’s inseparably interwoven with the whole idea of the holiday. 

Amy Emberling, managing partner at the Bakehouse, shared, 

I love making and eating Hungarian Walnut Beigli but I might actually enjoy the way beigli looks more than anything else (you know that expression of eating with our eyes). It has a rich mahogany exterior with distinctive cracking from the particular egg wash method traditionally used. Each beigli has its own unique and captivating pattern.

Just one word of sweet warning. Once you get to know beigli, you’ll likely be thinking about it more and more. We’ve got at least one customer who comes in weekly during December to fill her freezer with these things and then works down her inventory by eating a small bit of beigli regularly throughout the course of the coming year. I understand her drive to have it on hand. Really, the flavor is so compelling, you may well want another slice after finishing the first! 

a great gift for the holidays

Beigli makes a great host/ess gift, or just something special to bring home to liven up a dark winter night! Sip some good coffee (like the 2023 Holiday Blend) and nibble slowly on a bit of beigli. Zsofie Towne, who grew up in Budapest and works at the Roadhouse, says beigli goes well with red wine or hot mulled wine! She reminds me as well that in Hungary, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of the month—so if you want to get an early start on the holiday, think Hungary! 

Wherever you are, beigli is a wonderfully beautiful way to begin or end your day! 

Hungry for more?

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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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