My Mom’s Kippilach
BY LYNN KIRSCHE SHAPIRO
Walking the streets of Yerushalayim, I see freshly baked “kippilach” (often referred to as rugalach) in the bakery window. I am drawn in and order a coffee and kippilach.
The aroma transports me back to my childhood and the stories and memories of my mother’s youth in Hungary before the Shoah. Together with her mother, my mom would wake up at 2am on Friday mornings to begin preparations for Shabbat. They made everything from scratch – the challah, fresh homemade noodles for the chicken soup, the cholent, vegetables, and baked goods. Not to mention cleaning the chickens!
The shul, owned by the kehillah, was across the street from their home in Vasarosnameny, Hungary. On Shabbat morning, after davening, they went home for Kiddush. The family enjoyed freshly baked assorted Hungarian pastries for Kiddush – kakaos, cheese deltelach, and of course, kippilach – a delightful horn or crescent-shaped pastry filled with nuts, cinnamon, and sugar.
This world is now a memory, for in 1944, my mother’s family, along with all the Jews of their town, were taken to Auschwitz, where they arrived just before Shavuot. My mother survived, married my father in October 1947, and immigrated to Chicago. Jewish life in Hungary had been destroyed, but my mother survived, passing on her family memories and traditions.
Today, I walk the streets of Yerushalayim with my grandchildren and enjoy a coffee with freshly baked kippilach; our traditions and legacy of the past embracing us as we build the future. “MiDor L’Dor” – From generation to generation!
For the dough:
1 (one-ounce) cake fresh yeast (30 grams) or 2 (¼-ounce) packages of active dry yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
½ cup lukewarm milk
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (unsalted)
1 tablespoon sugar (plus ½-1 teaspoon to add to yeast mixture)
2 egg yolks
For the filling:
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Crumble the yeast and place it in a small bowl. Add milk and a teaspoon of sugar and let soak until mixture foams, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Place melted butter in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
Place flour in a medium bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and add. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter into the flour until the mixture is like a fine meal. Add sugar and mix.
Add yolks and the milk-yeast mixture that had been set aside. Stir with a sturdy spoon until cohesive dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out on a lightly floured board and divide into four balls. Roll out each ball into an eight-inch diameter circle, ⅛-inch thick – one at a time, covering unused dough balls to prevent drying out. Brush the circle lightly with melted butter. Then sprinkle ¼ of the filling on the circle.
Cut each circle into 12 equal wedges (cut in half, then in quarters, then cut each quarter into thirds).
Roll up each wedge, starting with the wide end, then shape into a crescent.
Place crescents one inch apart on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan.
Repeat with remaining dough balls and filling.
Bake until cooked through and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 48.
Substitute margarine and non-dairy milk for pareve version. Spread with raspberry or apricot preserves in place of filling, or drizzle melted preserves over the nut mixture filling before rolling.
Lynn Kirsche Shapiro is the author of the cookbook/memoir Food Family and Tradition: Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances (thecherrypress.com), Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winner for Best Historical Recipes Book in the USA. She has spoken throughout the States and in Israel, sharing the history of Eastern European Jewish life as seen through the lens of food and memories.