Thursday, October 27, 2011


I still haven't decided whether teiglach ("ei" is pronounced as a long "a") are a treat or an act of aggression.  Perhaps a bit of both.  I love the stuff and we served different versions both nights of Rosh HaShanah. But I think you have to grow up on it.  Everyone over 50 at our table devoured it, but with the exception of my 11-year old niece, Jamie, everyone under 50 politely ignored it.  Our fault for not making sure our kids were exposed to the finest parts of their heritage at a younger age.

Just after the dough hits the syrup
The name means little pieces of dough (teig is Yiddish and German for dough), which instead of being baked, are boiled in a ginger-spiced honey and sugar syrup. Although the cooking method may seem odd, it is actually very logical where reliable home ovens are scarce, as they certainly were in Eastern Europe before the great Jewish migration.  

After cooking, the teiglach are left to thicken or harden with nuts and dried or candied fruit.  There are lots of variations, but the most popular seems to be a hardened pyramid of dough balls in candied syrup that you can chip away at while you sip tea.  It may also be made in individual pieces, sometimes stuffed with nuts and rolled in coconut or other nuts, or in a thick but still liquid syrup and served in a bowl.  The fruits and nuts are up to you. I think that the texture of chopped walnuts is the best.  Some dried cranberries or cherries mixed in are nice too.  Apricots, so so.  Raisins, traditional but probably no, no.  Best of all in my opinion are the carcinogenic glazed cherries that occasionally top butter cookies and seem to have entered kosher bakeries through the very fruitful Italian-Jewish symbiosis in New York City.  (At least it was very fruitful for the Jews .  We got those cherries and rainbow cookies -- what would a shiva be without them?  I can't quite figure out what the Italians got out of the deal.)

Below is how I made them, based on a recipe from The Complete American Jewish Cookbook,
about 5 minutes from being done
published in 1952, as adapted by Frances Horowitz, who has been making teiglach during Elul for decades and shipping them as far as New Zealand!  I thank Frances for her sharing her long experience in teiglach-making during this process.

Because the dough is boiled rather than baked the preparation is out-of-the-ordinary and lots of fun since you get to see what is going on.  The dough puffs up as it boils and gets crisp, contrary to what you might expect when you boil it in syrup.  You can involve other people in rolling and dropping the dough nuggets in.    Whether you make this alone or in a group, it is not the time for multitasking.  Give it your full attention. 

My recipe has two variations:  one where the syrup hardens and the teiglach stick together in a mound, the other where they are served in a thick syrup.  Most people in my family (except my father) prefer the first.  The Horowitz clan go with the second.
the finished product



  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ginger (see note below on spicing)

  • 2 cups flour, sifted with 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Optional but highly desirable mix-ins  (see below)
  • Chopped nuts -- walnuts, pecans, pistachios or blanched slivered almonds
  • Fruit -- raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, candied cherries, chopped apricots
  • Our favorite combinations were pistachios with dried cherries and chopped walnuts with dried cranberries, both with some candied cherries mixed and and on top for garnish.

  • Consider making this on a dry day.  I have found that if it is very humid, the teiglach won't solidify as well.  
  • Wear shoes (or sneakers) with socks.  This is not a time for cooking barefoot or in sandals.  The syrup gets very hot and you don't want to dribble any on your feet.  
  • Combine honey, sugar and ginger in a large pot and bring slowly to the boil.  The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will become a syrup.
  • Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients with the eggs and oil to make a very soft dough.  
  • Turn up the heat under the syrup to a full boil.
  • You can either roll and pinch the dough roll it out and cut it.  To pinch, pinch the dough and roll into 1/4 to 1/2 inch balls and set aside on a lightly floured surface.  When you accumulate 5-10 balls, drop them gently into the boiling syrup.  Be careful not to splash the syrup which is extremely hot.  Continue until you use up all the dough.  To roll, roll out a portion of the dough about 14-1/2 inch thick.  Cut it into strips 1/2 in ch wide, and then into 1/2 inch diamonds.  Scoop up a bunch and drop into the pot.  I used to prefer pinching, and now I prefer rolling, which I think is easier and produces better results.
  • Cook the teiglach in the syrup , uncovered, on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Every few minutes stir them so that the ones on the top are rotated to the bottom and submerged in the hot syrup.  The syrup will darken but regulate the heat so that it does not burn.
  • To test for doneness, remove one ball from the syrup to a cutting board.  Be careful because it will be very hot, especially the syrup.  Cut into it with a knife.  It should be crisp and dry.  
  • When the teiglach are done, proceed as follows, depending on whether you want them in a candied mound or in a thick syrup:
  • For the mound:  Pour 2 tablespoons of boiling water into the pot and stir.  Immediately add whatever nuts and fruits you are using. Scoop it out of the pot onto a lightly oiled, heatproof plate and shape into a mound.  Pour the remaining syrup over the mound, covering all parts.  Garnish with some of the candied cherries if you are using them (and you should). The syrup will stiffen and harden as it cools. When cool, stick with toothpicks and cover with foil or plastic wrap.
  • To serve in syrup:  Add 1/2 cup boiling water to the pot, and pour it into a bowl.  Add the fruits and nuts to the bowl as desired.  This is particularly nice served in crystal.
  • In either case, if your family likes this sort of thing, be prepared to fight them off.
  • This recipe serves between one and an infinite number of people.

Spicing:  Frances uses less ginger, but I found the 2 teaspoons in the syrup just about right.  Adjust to your own taste.  It would be fun to try some different spice combinations, and I may do so next year in addition to the traditional ginger.  I think that ground cardamom (about 1 teaspoon) and black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon) would be a hit with fans of those spices.

Fruits and nuts:  The consensus at our table was that chopped walnuts were the best complement to the flavor and texture of the teiglach.  It went very nicely with dried cranberries, and raisins would go well also, though we are not such big raisin fans.  Pistachios and dried cherries were a very close runner up, and are far less traditional.  A few of the candied cherries are an essential addition.  Another good combination would be slivered almonds and chopped dried apricots.  Feel free to experiment here.

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