Saturday, August 27, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Bubbe Jennie's Taiglach

My husband's 91-year-old grandmother, our Bubbe Jennie, is an extraordinary baker.  On the farm (in a small Jewish farming community of Edenbridge, Saskatchewan) where she raised her two boys, she would bake almost everyday out of necessity.  Once they moved to more urban environs -- first Sasketoon, then Montreal -- she would still bake for her husband, who looked forward to her desserts after every dinner, and her kids and grandkids, who raved about her chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon buns.  Amongst all of her excellent recipes, though, the one that sends the whole family into fits of nostalgia- and hunger-fueled ecstasy is her taiglach.


Taiglach (or teiglach) is a Jewish dessert that consists of small dough balls (mandlen or teigel) held together by a honey syrup.  Rolled with shredded coconut, the mandlen form a gooey, chewy concoction that is something between a candy and a cookie bar.  Taiglach is in some ways similar to the Cantonese dessert sachima, Indian gulab jamun, or American rice krispie treats.  It's a popular dessert for Purim and Rosh Hashanah, but (as we managed to convince Bubbe) it's just as good for a random Thursday when your grandson and granddaughter-in-law come to visit.



Perhaps because it's so time-consuming, taiglach recipes are hard to find these days.  It was thus particularly meaningful and important that Bubbe Jennie taught us her recipe last week.



To make taiglach, you begin by taking your bubbe shopping.  If she's like our bubbe, she already knows the location and price of every item in the store.  If you are making this recipe sans bubbe, then you'll have to procure the following items for yourself:

For the dough balls:


  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons Mazola oil (plus 1/4 cup or so for the baking sheets)
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • enough flour to make a soft dough (about 3 cups)
For the honey syrup:
  • 1 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • a pinch of cinnamon (if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon oil
For the final product:
  • shredded coconut


Begin by making the soft dough.  Beat four eggs.  Mix in four tablespoons oil, 4 teaspoons sugar, and a pinch of salt.


Mix -- either by hand or in a mixer -- the egg mixture with the flour until you get a soft dough.  To ensure that the mixture doesn't get too tough, start first with one and a half cup of flour.  Then add the remaining flour, a half cup at a time, until you achieve the right consistency.


Once the dough is manageable, you can turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it gently, integrating more flour as needed to get the dough into a soft, but not sticky, consistency.


You'll know the dough is ready when it can hold its shape.  To test the dough, you can cut a small strip of it, roll it into a tubular shape, and see if it retains its shape.  If not, add a little bit more flour.


Now you're ready to make the dough into mandlen.  Cut the dough into small strips.  Roll each strip into a small tube, then cut the strip into little pieces, about 1/2 in. by 1/2 in. in size.  Try to make the mandlen regular in size if possible.  (Check out Bubbe Jennie's knife skills, by the way.  She's got the shakiest hands, but she still managed to cut all the mandlen.)


Put about 1/4 cup of oil into a rimmed baking sheet.  The oil should reach about 1/8 in. up the side of the baking sheet.  Put the mandlen on the sheet.


Bake the mandlen for 5-8 mins. in a 350 degree oven.  The oil will get foamy, and the mandlen will brown.  You should check on the mandlen often, making sure to flip (or stir) half-way through baking.  You can remove the mandlen when both sides are lightly browned.


Set the mandlen aside to cool.


Then make the honey syrup.  Put 1 1/3 cups of honey, 2 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon into a large pot and bring to a boil.  The mixture should become syrupy.  You'll know it's ready when a drop of the mixture in cold water forms a soft ball.  At this point, remove the mixture from heat, and add in a teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of oil.


In the meantime, lay a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a flat surface.  Sprinkle a layer of the shredded coconut onto the parchment.  Place the mandlen into the syrup, mixing well until all of the mandlen are coated with the honey mixture.  Next, pour the syrup-covered mandlen onto the coconut, spreading it out to about an inch in thickness.


Sprinkle a bit more shredded coconut onto the emerging taiglach.  Then allow the mixture to cool.Once the taiglach is cooled, slice it into small diamond shapes using a wet knife.  (We ended up having to make two batches because we didn't boil the syrup long enough on the first batch, and the mandlen wouldn't hold together.  I assure you though that if you are more patient than we were, the mandlen will in fact hold together and make very pretty diamonds.)


You can store the taiglach in a sealed container for a few days, though it's doubtful you'll have much left over.  This stuff is like crack, if crack were caramelly and insanely delicious.


Many thanks to Bubbe for sharing with us this recipe.  We kept this 91-year-old woman on her feet for hours in the kitchen while we documented every step of this long process.  Not only did she entertain us the whole time with stories from the farm, she was also good-natured and patient with our fumbles; in fact, when we fudged up the first batch, she just laughed and said, "it wouldn't be as fun if it turned out perfect!"

5 comments:

Geek in Heels August 28, 2011 at 12:45 AM  

Bubbe Jennie sounds like a fantastic woman! Are those her recipe cards? Wow, they look so...antique and historic (and I mean that in the nicest way possible; we don't have any cherished, old items in our family).

Kira August 28, 2011 at 2:47 PM  

This is so cute!! I love reading about your "adventures in Judaism"!

BigAppleNosh August 28, 2011 at 11:33 PM  

Bubbe Jennie is 91?? She looks amazing! Thank you for sharing this with us! :)

melinda August 29, 2011 at 10:49 AM  

One of the best wedding presents I got was a little, old, white haired Jewish grandmother who introduced me to all sorts of tasty treats (Kugel is my current fave!)

Karen August 30, 2011 at 6:58 AM  

So sweet. I lost my Bubbe (at 93!) in February but I've got all her recipe cards & am carrying on the tradition. Cherish yours!

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