While cooking, listen to this: Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
Going to Jewish day school for most of our lives means Rina and I spent a fair share of our preteen years attending bar mitzvah synagogue services. If there was one thing I looked forward to on these Saturday mornings, it was the post-service Kiddush, or Jewish mini-brunch. They served an array of fishes of both the pickled and canned varieties, greasy potato chips and an assortment of dry, brittle, depressing cookies.
One such cookie, the abhorrent kichel, was truly a hot mess. This is the cookie that couldn't even pull itself together to look nice, let alone taste good. It tasted like sandpaper and looked like a wonton. It was all kinds of confused.
If there's one thing I value here, it's nostalgia. Even though those cookies were frightful in every way possible (as a part of my own bat mitzvah video skit, my dad actually drilled into some kichel with a hand drill), I still love the memories they evoke - the good, the bad, and the braces-filled.
This cookie recipe is part of a three-fold Shabbat cookie series. In order to expunge the atrociousness that was pareve (read: non-dairy/non-meat) desserts, Rina and I have decided to take matters into our own hands, recreating these recipes to be the perfect compliment to a healthy dose of nostalgia.
Now. These cookies. Forget everything I told you above because we've found a solution to the kichel problem. These flakey, sugary, delectable desserts eat like a biscotti and taste like a dream. Their bow-tie captures the perfect amount of flavor, and their dairy-free substance means they're light and easily binge-able.
When I brought them to my office a couple of weeks ago, I spent a lot of time trying to explain what kichel was to those who've never encountered them before. Rina and I went back and forth trying to think of another name for these bad boys. I wanted to call them "treats from the Old Country." Rina nixed that and subbed "Jewish" for "Old Country." I knew the word "Bubbe" had to be in there. It was the only way to truly articulate the nostalgia I felt when looking at this classic, Jewish dessert.
I'm sure all of you have a dessert that causes you to reminisce. Something a family member or friend made for you that stuck with you. It isn't hard for me to find nostalgia in most desserts, seeing as my sweet tooth occasionally shows no bounds, but when you have a cookie that you and your community detest so much, a cookie that has been declared "a dog biscuit with sugar on top," you can't help but to want to give it a makeover. I now know what Glinda the Good Witch feels like in Wicked.
So, whether you make this for your own community or for yourself, I promise you, you won't be sorry. Because even though this crumbly little nothing dessert is the first to get the boot at your typical synagogue, it's so much more than just a compliment to your slab of tuna fish salad, it's the dessert in disguise that you never saw coming.
KICHEL (AKA BUBBE BOW TIE COOKIES)
Yield: 40 kichel (seriously)
Cook Time: 1h 30m
Category: Sweet, Holiday
Source: adapted from The Spruce
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large beaten eggs
9 large beaten egg yolks
¾ cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 ½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup sugar
Preheat the oven: 375 F, and line some cookie sheets with parchment paper. Make sure there isn't too much extra parchment paper hanging off of the trays, as it has the tendency to burn.
Prepare the dough: combine the sugar, salt, beaten eggs, egg yolks, coconut oil, vanilla and flour in a large bowl.
Mix the dough: there are two ways to do this: if you have a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment on low speed until gluten is well developed (meaning you can stretch a piece of dough out and it starts to shrink back, like bread dough) and the dough is smooth; this should take about 20 minutes. The other way to do this is the way we did it, which was with our hands - this was before we ordered our beautiful mixer. This obviously takes a lot longer, but is a great arm workout.
Transfer the dough: lightly flour your work surface and transfer the dough onto it. Knead for a couple of minutes until the dough is no longer sticky. Either wipe out your mixing bowl or grab a new one, spray it with some cooking spray and put the dough in. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it hang out for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten rest.
Roll the dough: spread half of the sugar onto your work surface (we're using this instead of flour), and sprinkle a little onto the rolling pin as well. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that's about a ¼ inch, or 6 mm, thick. Sprinkle the remaining sugar onto the dough.
Prepare the kichel: Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1 x 2 inch, or 2.5 x 5 cm, rectangles. Take each strip and twist in half, so that they resemble bow ties. Look to the pictures for extra visual help. Transfer kichel to parchment-lined baking sheets. These don't really spread out, so you can place them closer to each other than you would with other cookies.
Bake the kichel: place the cookies on a middle rack and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they're lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely (3-4 hours or so), so that they can dry out.
To serve: once they're cool, dig in. They go nicely with coffee! Usually I would advocate eating cookies straight out of the oven, but these guys really need to be cool and dried out to taste their best.
To keep: kichel are in it for the long haul. Store them in a plastic container and they'll stick around for a while.