celebrate the holidays with this ::::
When Eat and I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, we often went out to a Jewish Deli for lunch, me for the homemade matzo ball soup and he for the lox and bagels. Newly engaged and settling back in Illinois for just over a year before my wedding, I found a Jewish dessert, ceciarchiata taiglach (or “chickpeas” or “little bits” and “fried dough dredged in honey”) on a website when looking for celebratory desserts, printed it out and tucked it away for a celebration. Over the years, we have been hard pressed to find any Jewish deli to the caliber we frequented in Atlanta; no matzo ball soup I tried in Chicago even came close to Atlanta’s. I haven’t even tried to scope out a deli in California; it seems a loss. I mean, any pizza place out here claiming to make “New York Style” pizza is is joke, so what of a deli? I’m going through a deli deficiency and in need of a sugar rush so what better than to pull out my neatly tucked away, never forgotten ceciachiata taiglach recipe for Rosh Hashanah.
I am not Jewish, neither is my husband. But we do love good Jewish food. And Peach and I love a good dessert. In celebration of Rosh Hashanah (or not), a good dessert (yes!), and lesser-known Italian Jewish cuisine, ceciarchiata taiglach finally made its way to my kitchen. What I loved most about this recipe is the ease of it but the impressive display it makes on many table. This recipe was first featured in the book The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews by Edda Servi Machlin, also published in the book The Jewish Holiday Baker by Joan Nathan. Nathan explains that this taiglach is much like the French croquembouche in mountain form rather than the majestic crown. It also looks much like a nutty caramel corn mounded carefully on a plate, all stuck together, fingers ready to steal a few nibbles as soon as it’s cool enough to touch.
The original recipe called for a 550 degree F oven to quickly roast the nuts. On a warm, un-air-conditioned day, I decided against this use of extreme heat for fear I’d sweat into the dessert whilst making it. First, I tried a new technique to skin the hazelnuts. Normally, I throw a handful of hazelnuts onto a baking sheet, turn the oven to 400 degrees F, roast until fragrant, then rub off the skins with a tea towel. The removal of skins is not an absolute in this recipe; however, some people find the skin imparts a stronger flavor, almost fishy, to the nut. I elected to remove the skins by the boiling and baking soda trick (see recipe below for the details). It worked wonderfully, and roasting them was a cinch.
Not only was the hazelnut preparation easy, so was making and frying the little pieces of dough. How beautifully they puffed in the hot olive oil, looking just like chickpeas. I imagine making extra, dredging them in cinnamon sugar, and serving with strong coffee would make a unique coffee break treat.
Not that the ceciarchiata taiglach isn’t enough. It satisfies any sweet craving you have with a soft, caramelly chew of the honey and dough, a crunch and meatiness of the nuts, and the golden glow of it all. Make this for any celebration with family: it’s a fun dessert to share around a table, each family member picking little, sweet bites.
- 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup olive or vegetable oil
- 1 cup honey
- ½ cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts (keep separate from the almonds)
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped almonds (keep separate from the hazelnuts)
- Put the eggs, flour, and salt in a bowl and stir to make a soft dough. Turn out on a floured working surface and knead the dough 1-2 minutes. Shape it into a ball, flatten it, and sprinkle it lightly with flour.
- Roll the dough out to a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. With a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut into ¼-inch-wide strips and dredge these long strips in flour. Then cut them into chickpea-size bits, and again dredge with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other. Scoop up the bits in a large sifter to remove the excess flour.
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan (mine was a 2-quart pan) and fry a handful of the bits at a time until lightly golden, stirring so they are an even color. Drain on paper towels and cool. (You can also bake them, one third at a time, on an ungreased cookie sheet on the middle rack of a preheated 400 degrees F oven for 7 minutes, per the original recipe notes.)
- Bring the honey to a boil in a heavy casserole (I used a 5-quart casserole to accommodate hot honey and the dough balls) and simmer over moderately high heat for 3 minutes. Add all the dough balls, the toasted and chopped hazelnuts, and the lemon peel and juice; cook over lower heat 7 minutes.
- Spread the toasted almonds over an oiled serving platter and pour the hot mixture on top. Let it settle for a few minutes. When the mixture is cool enough to be handled, shape it into a circle with the help of a spoon and your moistened hands. Let it cool thoroughly at room temperature. It will harden a little. Either break off pieces with your fingers or cut into 2-inch segments.
- Keeps at room temperature for a day.