When I was around 10 years old, I remember tagging along with my mother to the local Jewish bakery...where, in addition to challah and bagels, she bought “kichels.”
As a kid, I never liked kichels. My mom would buy them as a perfect-with-coffee dessert. I preferred “twinkie-like” treats and had no interest in such adult fare.
Kichel is Yiddish for cookie...and I was curious...would my adult self enjoy a kichel with a cup of coffee? I didn’t think much of coffee as a 10 year old either, and now I consider it a life-necessity.
I googled a few recipes and came up with some options. The Spruce Eats photo looked exactly like what I remembered: puffy, dry, and sugared. After separating 9 (!!!) eggs, I got started. I followed the recipe but traded out the rum for some raspberry liqueur, then dipped the finished edges into melted chocolate. The result was a denser cookie than pictured, but surprisingly more delicious than expected; an ideal pairing with black coffee.
Now on a roll (baking humor), I did some further research. It seems that kichel refers to a sweet cookie with the common bow-tie shape, and also to a biscuit, made of similar ingredients, but with considerably less sugar.
Intrigued by the more savory idea, I tried the New York Times recipe, “Sister Sadie’s Kichel,” an adaptation of a recipe from Gottleib’s Bakery of Savannah, GA. Black pepper and much less sugar made this kichel more cracker-like. I rolled out the dough, cut it into diamonds, and then watched the oven carefully as they turned a golden brown. Two of my kids inquired what was cooking? A good sign. I used vanilla to substitute my lack of bourbon and olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Still a bit on the sweet side, albeit much less of a cookie, the Sister Sadie kichel was also a success. One of these diamonds with a schmear of honeyed goat cheese is the perfect compliment to an afternoon iced coffee habit.
So, it turns out that I like kichels. I love coffee. And I have proven the old adage that a Jewish mother is always right. I am going to explain this to my own children, as they devour my experiment.
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