Baking maven Paula Shoyer declares war on kichel. This killer recipe proves her wrong.
Know what the most popular post on this site is, right at this very moment? By far?
It’s a post called “Mmm… kichelicious.”
I adore kichel, the dry unsweetened European cookie that has been a staple of Jewish life since… well, probably since someone’s Bubby needed to make cookies and discovered that she was out of sugar. Apparently, thousands of people out there on the Internet love kichel and want to know how to make it well at home.
I enjoyed a baking demo she did yesterday at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. She did a really great job of preparing a couple of basic recipes that I hope to share with you very soon.
But the real reason for her crusade to bring simple, delicious pareve baking recipes to home cooks is because, as she said yesterday, “in the U.S., pareve desserts… are absolutely horrific.”
Foremost among the horrors? The kichels on every table, at every shul kiddush. Paula did not mince words, describing them as a “dog biscuit with sugar on top.”
Them’s fightin’ words, Paula.
Maybe I’m not going to get into a fistfight over kichel. But you can’t argue with Google, and it seems like people love to not just read about it, but actually bake it at home and eat it. Even though your search results are private, if you’re one of the hundreds of people who have found this blog by typing “kichel recipe,” “egg kichel,” “the best kichel,” or something similar, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
As the sweet & charming Paula herself said at the baking demo, “homemade is better.” Maybe she’s just never had the right homemade kichel, like the ones I just made last week to take to an event.
Mine were delicious… and the great thing is that they’re still fresh now, five days later. Normally, I won’t eat anything baked that’s much over a day old, but I make exceptions for mandelbroit… and kichel, both of which are dried out in the oven; the secret to their tasty longevity.
Dog biscuit??? So far from it.
Kichel lovers, we have to prove her wrong.
Let’s win this war for delicious kichel, starting with “my” exclusive recipe for kichel. It’s actually Ben Moskovitz’s, via Joan Nathan, as shared in her Jewish Holiday Cookbook.
But before you begin, beware!
It is super-easy to make, but the real secret to this recipe is a strong mixer that you can leave running for the FULL five minutes. A hand mixer just won’t work (I broke one trying).
I didn’t used to understand this, but came into a free Kenwood Chef here in Israel that has made all the difference. Flour changes when you work it hard like this. It brings out the gluten so you’ve got more of an unyeasted bread dough than a weak, wimpy cookie dough.
You’ll need some free time to make this recipe, but remember – you can always make it on Thursday for Shabbos. It’s kichel; it’ll keep.
Joan Nathan’s “Secret Weapon” Kichel (Jewish Bow Tie Cookies)
(Okay, I admit: in the cookbook, they’re just called Kichel. I added “Secret Weapon” to spice things up a little.)
As Joan Nathan says in the intro to this recipe, “Kichel, coming from the same root as kuchen in Yiddish, means “cookie” and is either sweet or savory. This particular version, rolled in sugar before baking, is very light – it melts in your mouth. ‘On Saturday night in Apsha, before the war, people had tea and kichel,’ said Ben Moskovitz while making this recipe.”
What you’ll need:
5 large eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. sugar plus 1 cup sugar for rolling [or more! lots and lots of sugar!]
2 1/3 cups high-gluten or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
How to make it:
- Place the eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, the flour, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle and blend on low speed until incorporated; then beat on high for 5 minutes.
- Remove the paddle and scrape the batter down the sides of the bowl. Rest the dough in the bowl, covered, until soft and spongy outside, about 1 hour. Then remove it from the bowl—it will be sticky—and make a ball out of it.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 cookie sheets (or line with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle a work surface with the 1 cup sugar, about 1/8 inch deep. Place the dough in the center, flatten it slightly with a rolling pin, and sprinkle liberally with sugar—don’t be bashful with the sugar. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch, a rectangle about 18 x 12 inches. Then, using a pastry cutter or dull knife, cut the dough into strips ¾ inch by 2 inches long. Lift each, twist in the middle to make a bow tie, and place on the cookie sheets, leaving ½ inch between each strip.
- Bake the kichel for 25 – 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven, until the cookies are hard to touch on all corners and golden brown. (If using 1 oven, put the cookie sheets on the top and center racks; then switch them midway) To test for doneness, break a kichel in half. If it is doughy or too soft, it is not done yet. Return to the oven for a few minutes more.
Let cool before eating… and enjoy!
Oh, and if you see Paula Shoyer, let her see how much you’re loving every bite. Maybe even refuse to share it with her until she relents and admits that they are the most fluffy, delicious kichel she’s ever tasted.