Teiglach

Cleveland Jewish Jews, Seattle JT News

Childhood holiday foods often hold the keys to our hearts.  So it was for my elderly   father.  With a gleam in his eye, he suddenly recalled the  candy-like Rosh Hashanah treat of hisLower East Side youth, teiglach.

 

Back when, he allowed, grandmothers used to whip up   traditional honey cakes to welcome the New Year, just as they do today.  But  many  also  painstakingly   rolled,  then boiled  marble-sized bits  of dough in tubs of honey, creating  the sweetest sweet of all,  teiglach. 

 

Teiglach, in Yiddish,  “bits of dough,”   hail from Eastern Europe.  These sticky, honey-smothered balls can be coaxed into   crowns, served in golden slabs, or piled into pyramids. But whichever their shape, teiglach make the perfect fress.  Slicing them is a crusher.   So aficionados pick this confection apart bit by bit,   ushering   each luscious morsel  individually from hand to mouth.  Soon everyone is licking their fingers and asking for more.  “Sweet and crispy,” recalls my father, who has not lost his taste for tradition. 

Judy,  teiglach maven of Manhattan’s Wm. Greenberg Jr. Dessert Company, agrees.  “Teiglachs should be sweet and crispy, not sweet and soggy.  That’s why we’re relieved when Rosh Hashanah comes “late,” as it does this year.  Making teiglach in early September, when the weather may still be hot, is a recipe for culinary disaster.”  Just before Rosh Hashanah, Greenberg Jr., which maintains an Internet site, ships hundreds of festively wrapped teiglachs across the country.  So does Unger’s Kosher Bakery in Cleveland.  That’s probably because today’s cooks hesitate to tackle teiglach’s bubbling honey pots at home.

 Sara Weiss-Slep  recalls that, before the Holocaust,  this gooey goody was a favorite treat in  Dusiat, Lithuania.    Her family  recipe follows.

The syrup

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

½ cup honey

 

The dough

1 whole egg, beaten

3 egg yolks, beaten

2 tablespoons  oil

A bit of  fresh grated ginger

2 tablespoons cognac

½ teaspoon baking powder

Enough sifted flour so the dough is malleable but soft

¼  cup sugar

A bit of powdered ginger

Raisins dipped in rum, optional

 

The decorations

Toasted nuts,  optional

Maraschino  cherries, optional

 

 

Mix  the dough. On a floured surface, roll it out to a  finger’s thickness, then  form into small  balls. Optional: fill each teigel with 1-2  raisins, pushing them  it with finger.

 

For  the syrup, place water, sugar, and honey in a large, heavy pot.  Bring to a boil.

When the sugar has dissolved,  reduce to a simmer.    Drop in each  teigel, but never more than 12 at a time.  Cover  tightly, simmering   until  the teiglach are golden. Carefully  remove from the pot and strain. Roll the teiglach  in a mixture of   sugar and powdered ginger,  then  form into desired shape. Optional:  decorate  with nuts and cherries.  

Weiss-Slep  also adds  a  bit of orange or lemon peel to the honey pot, to temper the teiglach’s excessive sweetness.  She  occasionally checks if the  syrup has  become  too thick, adding  more water if needed. But when re-covering the pot, she warns,  the inside of its cover must be completely dry.  

In the end,  everything boils down to taste—and memory. Weiss-Slep tried    time and again to reproduce the teiglach of her youth, golden, glistening with honey, redolent  with ginger and  orange.  But each time, her Dusiat  teiglach maven pronounced them failures.  Only  when she accidently burned a batch did he rejoice,  “That’s it! Now your teiglach taste exactly like my mother’s!”