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‎18 Tishri 5782 | ‎24/09/2021

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Shanah Tovah! A Rosh Hashonah recipe for a sweet New Year

Shanah Tovah!  A Rosh Hashonah recipe for a sweet New Year

ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What does the word “teiglach” mean? 

This week we’re celebrating Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, so we’re offering you a special holiday program.  As you know, most Jewish holidays are associated with some special food, or type of food.  On Rosh Hashonah it’s customary to eat sweets, in the hopes that the New Year will bring sweet things.  We traditionally dip apples in honey, and in every country where there are Jews, you’ll find a different typical sweet.   In our family for the holiday dinner we always ate tsimmes, which is basically carrots and prunes cooked with honey or sugar, and the traditional dessert was teiglach.  Or at least that’s what I always thought.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this typical Rosh Hashonah sweet, which I had been eating as long as I can remember, is completely unknown here in Spain! 

I figured it must be something Ashkenazi, since there are a lot of differences in food customs between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.  So I was REALLY surprised that my Argentinian friends didn’t know it either.  Actually, it is typically Ashkenazi, although according to Gil Marks, author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, its origins date back to the times of the Romans. They made strips of fried, dough in honey called vermiculos. Italian Jews adopted the custom of making vermiculos but this dish disappeared from their repertoire in the middle ages. It was in the twelfth century that Franco-German Rabbis mentioned eating a dish of fried or baked strips of dough covered in honey called vermesel or verimlish, at the beginning of the Sabbath meal. Despite the fact that its name went through changes, being called gremsel and then chremsel in Eastern Europe, it is to this dish that teiglach owes its beginnings.

The word “teiglach” itself  means “little pieces of dough” in Yiddish, and this is what it basically is: bits of dough cooked in honey.  It has also been suggested that it is a play on words–the word “teg” in Yiddish means “days”, so maybe teiglach is supposed to evoke the idea of “many sweet days” in the New Year.   It can be shaped into a mound, and the bits pulled off and eaten, or made flat and cut into squares, like fudge or brownies.  The recipe is really not as complicated as it sounds, and we hope you try it and enjoy it.

TEIGLACH RECIPE

Yield: 15 to 20 small balls, or 3 large mounds.

INGREDIENTS:

For the dough:

6 eggs

4 ½ cups of flour, about half a kilo, or a little more than a pound

For the honey mixture:

1 kilo or about 3 ½ cups of honey

1 cup, or 225 gr. of sugar

1 1/8 cup–about 1/4 liter–of water

3/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger

the juice of 1 ½ lemons (about 4 1/2 tablespoons)

a pinch of white pepper

½ to 1 cup of chopped nuts–you can use walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts or a combination

3 tablespoons–about 50 cm3–of sweet wine

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix the eggs with the flour, and enough water to make a soft dough that can be handled.  Knead it until it is smooth.  Take a piece and roll it out by hand on a lightly-floured board, into a rope that is about 1/3 of an inch, or 1 centimeter, thick.  Cut it into 1/3 of an inch, or 1 centimeter, pieces. 

Bake the pieces of dough in a lightly-oiled, shallow pan, at 375º F (190º C), for about 10 minutes, until they are a light golden color.  Make sure they don’t get too brown.  Shake the pan from time to time to make sure they brown evenly and stay separated.  (Some people deep-fry the dough, but I prefer to bake it–it’s healthier, and much less messy.)

In the meantime, bring all the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts and the wine, to a rolling boil in a large pot.  Let it simmer for five minutes.  Add the pieces of dough and the nuts.  Stir it gently over low heat, with a wooden spoon, until the pieces of dough are a golden brown and the honey mixture is sticky and reduced.

Put sweet wine on a pastry board.  Pour the mixture onto it. Wet your hands with cold water, so that you don’t burn yourself, and shape it into mounds, or 3-inch (7 cm) balls, or flatten it into a 2″ (5 cm) cake and cut it into 2″ (5 cm.) squares.

When it is cool enough to handle, you can wrap it in plastic wrap and it will keep a long time.  Don’t use aluminum foil, though, or the foil will stick to it and it will be impossible to unwrap.