An old world treat of fried dough
(The Nosher via JTA) — My mother was a first-class baker, and there were always homemade goodies for dessert at our house. So when I went away to college and needed a nosh to remind me of home, I went to a nearby bakery for a little something.
It was mostly good: Chinese cookies, hamantaschen, babka. But the kichels? Not so much. Not only were my mother’s kichels world class and nearly impossible to top, but what the bakery called kichel wasn’t at all what I was used to.
Bakery kichels, as I learned, are thick, bow tie-shaped pastries that are sometimes sprinkled with sugar. They can be crumbly and dry, or hard and dry, depending on the bakery. They are the kind of cookie a kid, especially one who’s homesick, would never choose. Especially a kid whose mother made world-class kichels.
Here’s why my mom’s kichels were so amazing: They were soft and crispy at the same time, and they would melt in your mouth before you even had a chance to chew or even realize they were on your tongue. They were paper thin but developed air bubbles that were fun to pop with my front teeth, especially because a feathery dusting of confectioners’ sugar would fall from the top of the bubble into the crevice and give a faint but definite sweet to all parts.
We didn’t need milk to dunk and soften these kichels. They were as light as a helium balloon; fried (it is Hanukkah, after all) but never greasy, sugar sprinkled but never cloying.
The big trick for fabulous kichels is rolling the dough as thin as possible. It takes some time and patience, but the result — crispy, puffy, delightfully light cookies with just a sprinkle of sifted confectioners’ sugar — is so worth it.
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