What are Kichel?
One of my absolute favorite things from a Jewish bakery! Kichel are delish, for starters! Kichel (also called Jewish Bow Tie Cookies) is actually the Yiddish word for cookie, but for those of us regulars at Jewish bakeries, we know that it means a specific type of cookie – a light, airy, crunchy, kind of part cookie/part cracker, usually coated in sugar, yet eaten both as a sweet and with savory. How’s that for an overbroad definition?
Why are Kichel also Called Jewish Bow Tie Cookies?
If you have not had kichel, just try one. The dough is very simple, made mostly from eggs, a bit of oil, and flour. The sweetness comes from the sugar coating.
Growing up, our local Jewish bakery made kichel that were square shaped. It was not until I was older and venturing out to other bakeries (sounds like I was cheating on my local bakery!) that I discovered that most kichel are shaped into bow ties. How fun!
Developing this Kichel Recipe
With so many traditional Jewish bakeries closing over the past 15 years or so, I fear that kichel in America could die with them. Not on my watch!
Last year, I decided to do some kichel recipe research. While I have a bunch of Jewish cookbooks, I do not believe any of them have a kichel recipe. (I say “do not believe” because they are in a box in storage for the time being, and I have not had the desire to hunt for them.) So, I got onto the Google machine to see what I could find.
I was surprised to find only a couple different recipes for kichel. Most bloggers republished the outstanding recipe from the 2011 cookbook by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg, “Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking”. The other recipe I found out there is from Joan Nathan, published in Tablet Magazine, which is actually a recipe from a Jewish bakery in Michigan.
I will tell you that both those recipes deliver outstanding kichel. That said, I wanted a recipe that is more accessible – both recipes produced a LOT of kichel, more than I should be eating. (No self-control here.) In addition, the recipe from Ginsberg and Berg uses 4 eggs plus 9 egg yolks. That’s a heck of a lot of eggs, and a lot of work to separate that many eggs, especially for a multi-tasking home baker.
So, I embarked on developing a more approachable recipe. This recipe renders delish kichel, uses just 4 eggs (only one of which needs to be separated), and results in a sensible 36 cookies.
Kichel Making Tips
Here are some tips for making kichel:
- Use the mixer. You must knead the dough to develop the gluten in the flour. Especially because this is such a sticky dough, it is much easier to use the mixer, stopping every few minutes to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Don’t skimp on the sugar. Use the sugar to roll out the dough, both on the bottom and top of the dough. If the dough absorbs some of the sugar, add more sugar. The sugar will prevent the dough from sticking as you roll it out and shape the kichel. When you cut the rectangles and shape into bow ties, cover any exposed pieces of dough in more sugar.
- Bake them thoroughly. Do not underbake kichel. You want them to dry out and harden. Underbaking could result in them collapsing. Err on the side of overbaking without letting them burn. If you are baking two trays at the same time on different oven racks, be sure to switch and rotate them half way through the baking process.
Looking for other traditional Jewish treats? Try my Jewish Sponge Cake, Mandel Bread, Upside Down Apple Honey Cake, or Apple Bundt Cake.
Frequently Asked Questions about Making Kichel
Should kichel dough be sticky?
Yes. The dough will be very sticky. Once you cover it in sugar, it should roll out easily and be easy to handle. Do not skimp on the sugar!
Can I freeze kichel?
Yes. Once baked, store the kichel in an airtight container or plastic bag in the freezer. They should stay fresh for up to 3 months. Allow them to come to room temperature before eating.
Kichel (Jewish Bow Tie Cookies)
- 190 grams all purpose flour (1½ cups plus 1 Tablespoon)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 76 grams vegetable oil (⅓ cup plus 1 Tablespoon)
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla
- 150 grams sugar, divided (¾ cup)
- In a small bowl, mix flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In mixer with paddle attachment, combine eggs, egg yolk, oil and vanilla. Mix on low speed until fully combined, 30-60 seconds. With mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients in three stages until fully combined. You may have to stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Continue beating for 15-20 minutes to develop the gluten, stopping every 5 minutes or so to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very sticky.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Liberally spread approximately ¼ cup sugar on parchment paper set on countertop. (You can do this directly on the countertop, but it makes for a much easier cleanup to do it on parchment paper.) Use a rubber spatula or bowl scraper to scoop the sticky dough onto the top of the sugar. Liberally spread an additional ¼ cup of sugar on top of the mound of dough. Roll dough to approximately ¼ inch thick, using a bench scraper to guide the dough to create and maintain a rectangle, approximately 7 inches by 12 inches. Continue to coat the dough using as much of the remaining sugar as necessary (top and bottom) while rolling out the dough.
- With a pizza cutter or a knife, cut rectangles, 1 inch by 2 inches. (Make 1 inch cuts along the side of the dough that is 7 inches, and make 2 inch cuts along the side of the dough that is 12 inches.) Twist each rectangle in the middle. Place on prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart from each other. Bake 25-30 minutes until the edges and bottoms are deep golden brown. Allow to cool completely, leaving them out at room temperature for several hours.
- For puffier Kichel, bake on the bottom third of the oven.
- Kichel will stay fresh for at least several days stored in an airtight container. They also freeze very well.
I absolutely adore sweet kichel, and these look perfect. Can’t wait to try your recipe, thanks for publishing.
I hope you like them! Keep me posted!
Thanks Rob. excellent! By chance do you know of the jewish bakery danish dough ( the non folding type) ?
Unfortunately, I do not. If I come across it, I will certainly let you know!
I tried your recipe today. They came out perfectly! I’d been craving kichel, and I do not live near any Jewish bakeries. When I looked up other recipes, they were intimidating – too many eggs! For too many people! Like Goldilocks said – this recipe was just right.
Of course I had to make a hack. I don’t have a standing mixer. So I mixed everything with a hand mixer, and transferred the dough to my cheap little bread maker, which kneaded the dough for 15-18 minutes. Otherwise I did everything as you wrote. They came out perfectly! Thank you!
I am so thrilled you enjoyed your kichel! And thank you for telling me about the bread machine hack. I will be sure to share that with people.
The directions for the egg kichel calls for eggs and egg yolk but the ingredients only mention eggs… please advise
Not sure what you are talking about. The ingredients call for 3 eggs and right under that in the ingredients list is 1 egg yolk. Am I not understanding your question?
These were amazing, tasted just like the kichel I had growing up from our local jewish bakery.
I’m so glad you enjoyed them!
These Kichel are amazing! I’ve followed this recipe a few times now and they’ve become a staple in my kitchen. Have started making them with cinnamon sugar as well : )
I have these in the oven now. The dough was very sticky and I couldn’t roll it out. Did my best with my fingers. They will be more like blobs than bow ties. Were too sticky, with that said, I have a feeling these will taste wonderful. Follows directions to a tee and watched video a coupled times. Any suggestions for next time?
The dough should be very sticky. It sounds like you may not have used enough sugar under and on top of the dough. The sugar will stick to the dough and allow you to run a rolling pin over it. Regardless of shape, they should still taste delish!
Just made the Kichel and they came out great. Wonderful recipe. Thank you!
I am so happy you enjoyed them!
I also have been looking for my Bubbie’s recipe for egg kichel and made a couple of recipes which was not it! I came across your recipe and tried it last night. I will admit while mixing and mixing and mixing I was skeptical. While the mixer was running it’s 5 minutes I watched the video again and mine looked like yours. When I rolled it out I was amazed. I used a parchment paper folded so the 7″x12″ was in the middle, sprinkled sugar, sugar on top and patted with my spatula, more sugar, used a roller and patted the corners to square off. It rolled beautifully. Thank you for your research and coming up with the BEST authentic kichel recipe!
This makes me so happy, Joan! I’m so thrilled you enjoyed your kichel!
This recipe is fantastic and so much fun to make. I was introduced to kichel by my college roommate and fell in love. I recently bought some at a Jewish bakery in Chicago but the flavor wasn’t how I remembered it. These kichel are perfect and have become a staple in our kitchen. Thank you!
I do not own a mixer.
What else can I use ?
I have a danish dough whisk hook. Would that work? Oy
Oy is right. The problem is that this is a very, very sticky dough, and it requires tremendous kneading. I cannot imagine doing it by hand. A Danish dough whisk (which is one of my favorite kitchen tools ever!) would probably work, but you will need to mix/knead it with that whisk for a good half hour, at least, and it is nearly impossible to handle this dough with your bare hands while it is kneading. I do not recommend making this recipe without a mixer. My best advice is (other than, buy a mixer) to con a neighbor or family member into letting you use their mixer.
Unbelievably delicious! Greatest recipe!
Many thanks for posting this recipe and for the video.
Thank you, Sheryl! I’m so thrilled you enjoyed your kichel!
These were so simple to make and tasted AMAZING! My grandparents would bring these to my house often when I was growing up and I loved them! I was so excited to make them when I came across your recipe!
I was wondering if I can substitute fine almond flour how it would come out. What is your thought? Thank you . Irma
I do not think it will work. The texture of kichel is derived from working the gluten in wheat flour. There is no gluten in almond flour. I have never tried to make a gluten free version.
Should I use regular sugar, my memory puts ‘bigger’ sugar crystals on kichel- what do you think?
I have always just used regular sugar. Because the dough is so sticky, the sugar will clump together and appear to be bigger crystals once baked.
this is similar to what I used to have when I was a kid, I cant wait to try making this kichel
Love these cookies! So pleased with the result and now I’m hooked
Just one question: The ingredients call for 150 grams of sugar “divided” and then the first instruction calls for adding the sugar without specifying an amount. Does the full 150 grams get added here? Thanks!
No. The 150 grams of sugar is for coating the dough prior to shaping. The 2 teaspoons of sugar listed under the flour goes into the dough.
What about a recipe for kichel for Passover?
Rob – Your Kichel recipe is OUTSTANDING. Out of nowhere I had a craving for Kichels. Went to the Jewish bakery my family would get them from when I was growing up. They were awful and hard like hockey pucks! I need to bake a batch and bring them to the deli/bakery and remind them what a Kichel should taste like. Your recipe is perfect and took me right back to when I was kid. Thank you!!
Thank you so much! I am thrilled you enjoyed my kichel recipe!
I live in the Detroit area and my mom always bought these. They had square and bow tie shape. We called them air cookies. Will definitely be trying this recipe.
Yes, air cookies, kichel, bow tie cookies…they go by many names! Regardless of what anyone calls them, they are all delicious!
Are these only for feasts and holidays? They look delicious!
They have traditionally been found in Jewish bakeries all year around.
My boys and I tried making it, but the more sugar we added the stickier it got. We couldn’t work through it. We just added more flour and made it a cookie and sprinkled more sugar on top. Thanks
Did you add the sugar to the dough or use it to roll out the dough? The recipe is to use the sugar to roll our the dough which prevents it from sticking (much like using flour to roll out a dough), so I’m not sure how your dough would have gotten stickier. Was it really humid where you are?