Egg Kichel is very niche. If you aren’t Jewish you probably never heard of them. For that matter, one Jewish friend I asked about them responded with a vague “I think they had them at synagogue sometimes?” For some reason, a memory of them was triggered recently, and it led to a craving. There was just one problem, I have literally no idea where you’d get them anymore. They were the sort of thing you’d get at the neighborhood Jewish bakery when you went there for something else. Maybe you needed a challah for the holidays or wanted a nice rye to bring to someone’s house.. whatever it may be. They would be sitting there on the counter, in big plastic bags, and you’d grab one. The problem is those sorts of little Jewish bakeries largely no longer exist. Maybe if I ventured to a very Jewish neighborhood I could find them, but I decided to take matters into my own hands.
So how do you make them?
Well, the search for a recipe was interesting. There weren’t many, and of the ones I found the pictures with a few of them really didn’t look like the version I remember. Lots of people referenced a recipe from the book “Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking”, which a) I don’t have, and b) that recipe uses about a hundred eggs which seemed excessive (ok, it actually uses only 13).
I ended up settling on this recipe from Cinnamon Shtick. He adapted the recipe to use a much more reasonable 4 eggs. So I gave it a try, and it was a complete disaster. It’s the worst baking fail I’d had in a very long time.. like, nothing edible came of it. I chalk it up to two things. First, I didn’t have enough vegetable oil on hand so I used basically 50/50 vegetable and olive oils. Second, although I used lots of sugar, when he says “Don’t skimp on the sugar” in big bold letters, he’s not kidding.
Armed with enough vegetable oil I made a second batch of dough a few days later. When it came time to roll it out and form the cookies, I definitely didn’t skimp on the sugar. In fact, I built myself a sugar containment chamber out of a cutting board and some tinfoil. so that I could really work the dough in a full bath of sugar.
I filled the moat with sugar and rolled out the dough in it. Then I smothered the dough in more sugar, and cut the cookies out. They are basically rectangles, which you then twist to make bowtie shapes. I cut them to about 3×1 inches with a pizza cutter.
From there, I baked them. It’s hard to explain what you are going for if you’ve never had them. They are almost like all crust and no inside. All the sugar turns into a nice crispy crackly crust. Apparently, in some places, they are called “nothings” which gives you an idea of how light and airy they are intended to turn out.
The Final Product
I think I ended up with a pretty close approximation to what I remember as a kid. The bottoms got a little too browned and the sugar caramelized to the point of slightly burnt, giving a bitter flavor. Next time I make this I’ll need to figure out a way to fix that. Possibly baking on racks to allow the sugar that caramelizes to drip off. All in all, I’m glad I made them, and they definitely provided a dose of nostalgia.