Welcome to The Storied Recipe!
My podcast guest, Hungarian Dora Hurley shared this easy Mákos Guba recipe with us. While many Hungarians eat this dessert on Christmas, Dora's grandmother made it weekly as part of a simple Friday meal. I'd invite you to listen to Dora's episode, "A Hungarian Friday Meal" while you try her Hungarian Bread Pudding recipe.
This recipe for Mákos Guba, Hungarian Bread pudding comes to us from my podcast guest Dora Hurley and her grandmother.
While many articles refer to this poppy seed bread pudding as a Hungarian Christmas treat, Dora had it almost weekly as a child. Her grandmother's simple version had both a practical and religious component. It was a simple and quick dessert that used up stale bread and complied with the practice of avoiding meat on Friday.
While I'm sharing Dora's very easy version with just 5 ingredients, I've also included directions for fancier, richer versions that could grace any Christmas feast.
Table of Contents (Jump To Section)
What to Expect: Flavor & Texture
- Makos Guba is a hearty dessert, but not overly rich
- Likewise, it is a dessert, but not overly sweet in this recipe. Dora and her grandmother treated it more like a side dish than dessert.
- The texture will depend on whether you choose to grind the poppy seeds or not. Ground seeds will create more creamy layers; unground seeds will give a little more texture
- In its simplest version, the flavor will depend almost on the bread you choose.
- I'm providing variations to include vanilla, nuts, or dried fruit as well.
- Dora's version is made by tossing everything together. Some versions are made by layering bread with a creamy layer of ground poppy seeds and sweetened milk.
What Type of Bread
Don't worry too much about this decision. Dora and other resources confirm that any stale bread will work well. Just use what you have on hand and what fits your preferences.
- A brioche (or Challah) is a great option as it is rich, tasty and will stand up well to the milk mixture
- Baguettes are also good choices. This is what Dora recommended and I used. Especially if left out overnight before using, they will stay firm despite the milk and flavoring.
- Soft, fluffy white bread - like sandwich bread - will create a softer bread pudding, even if the bread is stale.
- One reader suggested Hawaiian rolls, which will make a sweeter and softer pudding
- Some recipes state that Mákos Guba is made from Kifli, a crescent-shaped bread roll when they are a day old or stale. You can learn more about Kifli here.
- Another reader uses croissants, which is somewhat similar to Kifli.
How to Grind Poppy Seeds
First, you don't have to grind the poppy seeds. Dora and her grandmother did not grind theirs and the recipe does not call for it.
However, grinding the poppy seeds makes for a softer, creamier bread pudding. There are two methods for grinding the poppy seeds
- You can use a spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind the poppy seeds dry.
- If you want to use a food processor, it's a good idea to soak or boil the poppy seeds in water or milk first.
- Marlitt, who shared this recipe for the very similar Polish dessert Makowki, suggests putting the poppy seeds in a coffee filter, then pouring boiling water over them twice.
- If you buy or make poppy seed filling, keep in mind that poppy seed filling is NOT the same as ground poppy seeds. If you choose to use poppy seed filling to speed up the process, omit the sugar from the recipe and possibly the milk as well, depending on the ingredients in the poppy seed filling.
Layer instead of mixing
- Some recipes for Makos Guba call for layering bread soaked in milk with the poppy seeds. This is particularly common when the poppy seeds are soaked or boiled in milk, then ground. This is the most common method in the Silesian version of this dish, Makówki. (Silesians are mainly Polish and some Germans.)
Use vanilla sugar instead of white sugar
- Make vanilla sugar by placing 2 cups of sugar and the seeds of a vanilla pod in a blender. Get more details in this recipe for Homemade Vanilla Sugar from Sally's Baking Addiction.
Add a Creme Anglaise/Custard/Vanilla Pudding
- Use this recipe from Caroline's Cooking to make a custard with egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Alternatively, simply mix up a quick Vanilla Pudding from a box to stir into the bread pudding.
- Obviously, you'll want to skip the baking in this case - or add after baking.
- For a very fancy version of Makos Guba, some Hungarians use the egg whites leftover from their Creme Anglaise to make a meringue topping. This is far outside the spirit of Dora and her grandmother's recipe, but it's been done and certainly enjoyed!!
Add-Ins (or Layers)
- It's common to mix in
- nuts (particularly walnuts)
- Lemon zest or lemon
- Dry fruit (especially raisins or raisins soaked in rum)
- Layer sliced apples into the dish
What to Serve On Top
- Ice cream
- Confectioner's sugar
- Vanilla sauce
Why is Mákos Guba a Christmas Classic in Hungary?
- Poppy seed is a common ingredient in the Central European region, especially Hungary and Poland, and holidays are always a cultural celebration.
- In this region, the poppy seed is a symbol of wealth and fertility - which is why Makos Guba is enjoyed at the holidays, including the New Year.
- From a practical standpoint, the popular dessert is easy to make ahead - see the next section for more details.
How to Make In Advance & Store
- Rather than baking this dessert and storing for the next day, I'd suggest doing all the prep and assembly in advance, then baking at the last moment.
- You can even start two days in advance.
- On the first day, cut and dry the bread. Also, grind the poppy seeds, if you so choose.
- On the second, mix everything together and leave to soak overnight.
Dora's Memories of this Recipe
Poppy Seed Bread Pudding was a weekly dish my Nana made mostly on Friday, to keep it meat free and also because it was cheap and by Friday no one had much money left from the weekly budget.
I spent a lot of time with my nana growing up. She was a kitchen wizard but kept everything super simple and all food was made with good honest market bought and seasonal, local ingredients. I remember she never had less than 10kg flour, 10kg sugar and 10 litre sunflower oil and always told me to make sure I have the same at home.
She ran a farmhouse kitchen in her small inner city apartment. Chorizo and pepper hung on the windows, kilos of fruit waiting to be canned in the tiny kitchen.
And when I say tiny I mean it. The kitchen was too small for 2 person to stand in it and had no window. None of this bothered her ever. She grew up on a farm but married and moved to the city but her way cooking was never city like.
Her bedroom was often occupied by several jars of canned fruit and marmalade 'tucked into" bed as part of the canning process so she slept in the sitting room instead.