Makes at least 80 cookies
For alternative fillings, see variations below.
Make ahead: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least one hour and up to a day. The cookies can be stored between layers of wax paper in an airtight container for up to one week or frozen for up to three months.
For the filling:
2 cups ground walnuts
½ cup sugar
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons regular or low-fat milk
½ cup golden raisins
For the pastry:
6 cups flour, sifted three times, plus more for the work surface
6 tablespoons sugar, plus more for decorating
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large egg yolks
1 cup regular or low-fat sour cream
Finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1. For the filling: Combine the walnuts, sugar, egg whites, milk and raisins in a large saucepan. Place over medium-low heat; cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture is well incorporated and heated through. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
2. For the pastry: Combine the flour, the 6 tablespoons of sugar, the baking powder and butter in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to create a crumbly mixture. Make a well in the center; add the egg yolks, sour cream and lemon zest. Knead together to form a soft dough. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
(Alternatively, the dough can be made in a food processor; divide ingredients in half and work in two batches. Do not over-process.)
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
4. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Cut the chilled dough into four equal sections; it’s OK to leave the other sections on the counter as you work.
5. Working with one section at a time, roll out to a thickness of 1/16 inch; it’s a very stretchable dough. Cut into 20 squares; place 1 to 2 teaspoons of the filling at the center of each one. Arrange so there’s a point at the top (like a diamond), then roll to form a small, tapered cigar or crescent shape. You might have scraps of dough left over; they can be rerolled. Use all of the filling.
6. Dip the top side (opposite the seam side) of each cookie into the egg whites, then into the sugar. Arrange them sugared side up on the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for 15 minutes or until just browned on the top and ends. Transfer the kifli to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.
7. Repeat to use all of the dough and filling.
For apricot filling: Place 1 pound of dried apricots in a large saucepan; barely cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook just until thoroughly softened, then remove from the heat. Add sugar (to taste, in tablespoon increments), stirring and mashing to form a pastelike mixture. Cool completely before using.
For poppy seed filling: Combine 3 cups of ground poppy seeds, 1¼ cups sugar, ¾ cup regular or low-fat milk, 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about five minutes to form a thickened mixture, which will thicken further as it cools. If it seems too thick, add a little milk.
Nutritional information per cookie (using low-fat sour cream): 110 calories, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar
Adapted by The Washington Post from a family recipe by Erzsebet Preisz, shared by Washington resident Susan K. Coti.