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Just Desserts

Knowing your kichel from your babka

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Blackberry rugelach. Mmmmm.(Wikipedia)

Today is National Dessert Day, which, unlike Valentine’s Day, is not a sham of a Hallmark holiday. It’s the real deal, at least for me. (I bake cookies when I’m stressed.) In honor of this hallowed occasion, I’ve compiled a by no means exhaustive list of classic Jewish desserts. Leave your favorites in the comments!

Kichel: This dessert biscuit is made from egg and sugar often shaped into circles or bowties. It was served after services nearly every Shabbos in the basement of my shul, the Young Israel of Redwood. However if I wanted to get my hands on one I had to get past the old men who crowded around the table of food, mostly to spear pickled herring with toothpicks. (The kichel often proved too hard for their dentures.) These were the kind of men who yelled, “Kiddush! Kiddush!” every time a wedding, birth, bar mitzvah, graduation, or even a bat mitzvah was announced.

Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge Cookies: This cookie is a staple in any Orthodox household, in part because it is pareve (neither meat nor dairy). My family waited six hours between eating meat and dairy, so my mother often offered these cookies to me as a late afternoon snack, just as I was beginning to grow restless and demand ice cream. I ate them very artfully—carefully nibbling around the edges until all that remained was the fudgy center. I would put this aside and do this to at least two more cookies and then finally eat all the chocolate parts at once.

Rugelach: I probably should’ve also mentioned this in regards to kichel, but: Any dessert that forces you to clear your throat with a hard “ch” is obviously a Jewish dessert. Also, I think one of the defining characteristics of Jewish desserts is that it’s not pretty. Tasty—yes. Aesthetically pleasing—probably not. You’re not going to serve a rugelach alone on a plate with chocolate sauce artistically drizzled, you know? Jewish desserts are made for grabbing. The best rugelach are found in the Machene Yehuda market in Jerusalem at the Marzipan bakery. (Well, if not the best, at least the oiliest.)

Babka: Chocolate vs. Cinnamon?

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vicki karno says:

While visiting relatives in South Africa, we were surprised to be offered kichel with herring on three occasions. The kichel is almost potato chip thin and broken into large shards. It is baked with sprinkling of white sugar. It is truly addictive without the herring.
I’ve never found this version in the US. My grandmother’s hazenblozen is the closest I’ve come to replicating it.

Are black and white cookies Jewish?

Melanie says:

I agree with your choices but the Seinfeld clip reminded me of black and white cookies, quite a Jewish and “peaceful” dessert. (Although I totally prefer the vanilla, shhh.) Don’t forget tofutti cuties, and those little cakes with the icing names on them that they often served after bar/bat mitzvahs or confirmations. And cheesecake!!!! Also Hydrox cookies before Oreos became kosher. And those chocolate lollipops for Passover. And rainbow sprinkle cookies, we would order those at the bakery before Shabbat. God I love dessert.

Ask Marc about his mother’s mandel bread.

My father passed down an “old” Jewish recipe to me that is quite lovely: Take a bowl of chocolate pudding. Eat it. Then take a piece of good Jewish rye bread and eat it.

Rye bread after pudding is wonderful. Try it!

yum…good memories of these sweets. chocolate rugelach is what I imagine heroin to be like. what about those chocolate-covered jelly twists that lived in the refrigerator on long cardboard trays?

Mandelbrot! But chocolate chip rugelach really is one of my favorite foods on earth. And chocolate babka that my mom makes and learned from her mother. Wow. I am salivating.

one of my favorites- halvah. not a baked good but a delish (and pareve) sweet often found at our shabbat table.

i remember when we were encouraged by our rabbi to start a letter writing campaign to duncan hines encouraging them to keep the pareve hechsher on their cake mixes when they were phasing them out. luckily they must have gotten the memo……

Chana Batya says:

Cheesecake, the Jewish way, made with Philadelphia cream cheese and topped with sour cream lightly sweetened and with a touch of vanilla. My mom makes it better than anyone, but it’s always delicious and perfect. Shavuot is not complete without it. Neither is a break fast…I can rhapsodize for hours on cheesecake.

Or poppy seed hamantashen. Or poppy seed filling out of the can…is there anything more Jewish than poppy seeds? And they’re pareve, unlike my beloved cheesecase.

Hamitash. With any fruit filling.

FreeAtLast says:

My mother made a yeast based turnover filled with blueberries which she called yagde-kichelech. I’d never seen it anywhere else until I visited her hometown in Poland. There was nothhing left of the house she grew up in, but all the local bakeries had trays of yagde-kichelech in their windows.

I remember eating my Mom’s kishels,all the family gathered ,happy and united after our son had his bar-mitzvah .He still had his kippaand tallit on, happy and proud. The good old days…good memories .It makes me happy but sad too.

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Just Desserts

Knowing your kichel from your babka

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