Sunday, December 6, 2009

Möhn Kichel

Möhn Kichel

Möhn or "Moon" are poppy seeds, and kichel are little cakes, crackers or cookies.  My Grandma Rae made these.  Often.  Grandma's cooking was, well, very basic.  She wasn't an adventurous or even fabulous cook, but she knew how to make a few things extraordinarily well.  These cookies were one of those things.  Grandma Rae was simple, loving, and if you didn't eat enough, she was simultaneously insulted and forlorn.  Kind of a cliché, but she was my cliché. Her fingers, gnarled by arthritis, were forever shoveling homemade (greasy) noodles, latkes and applesauce, chicken fricasee, the best matzo brei, Passover nutcake, sponge cake and other Eastern European Jewish delicacies into my little mouth. If it wasn't open, she'd pry it open. All the while, my Grandpa Julie would be sitting in 'his' armchair smoking his cigar (he called them "Smell-o-mile-o's"), oblivious to everything except whatever ball was being played with on the television set.  I grew up loving the Bronx, the smell of incinerators and the Jewish cooking smells of tenement buildings. My Grandma Rae died over 14 years ago, and I miss her all the time.  I can still hear her voice.  And now, for my confession:

I had dinner with a friend the other night, and I think I freaked him out.  I told him that I had, in my freezer, cookies, möhn kichel, that my Grandma Rae had baked, probably more than 25 years ago.  I've simply kept them.  And I take them with me wherever I move (and I move often).  I whisper, "Come on Grandma, we're moving to ______".  And I stick those cookies in my pocket book, and off we go!  

Now, you may think this is sick stuff.  And it may well be.  But, it's no different than keeping other stuff from dead people.  Kind of like her ashes. They just happen to be perishable and rather then being stored in say, a Folger's can, they need to be kept in the freezer. I'll write about my cinnamon sugar and my other Grandma - Bessie - another time. Maybe.

Here is her recipe for möhn kichel.  I use corn oil, because she did.  It says on the label that there's zero trans fat.  I believe them. Corn oil is so lovely and sweet. Her recipe calls for "a box" of poppy seeds, so I looked in the market at what McCormick considers a small container (no more boxes - now they have round plastic containers) of poppy seeds, and it's 1.25 oz.  You can buy one of those.

I buy my poppy seeds from Penzey's.  You can buy all kinds of great stuff from them, mail order(they have the absolute best storage jars at the absolute best price). They have stores too - one is in the Grand Central Terminal Market.  There's another on Rte. 110 in Huntington, LI. FREEZE those seeds after you've opened them.  Poppy seeds turn rancid very quickly.

These are very simple cookies.  Don't expect the moon.  They're peasant cookies ... and they are addictive.  I just had about 3 dozen for my dinner.

Happy Chanukah, y'all!

peace and love,

Möhn Kichel

Blue Heron Kitchen

3 eggs, size large, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup corn oil

¼ cup tepid water

1 Tbsp. baking powder

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1.25 oz poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350º F., line 4 cookie sheets with parchment or Silpat

In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, oil and sugar until thick.  Add the water, mix, and then, the poppy seeds. Mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder and flour. 

Add dry to wet ingredients. Mix until incorporated.

On a flour coated surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll dough out between 1/8”-1/4” thick and cut, with a pizza cutter into squares or rectangles. (In the true Grandma Rae tradition, no two should be alike.)

Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and as Grandma Rae wrote: “bake until brown”, about 10-15 minutes.

Yield: abut 10-12 dozen 1”-2” squarish/rectanglish cookies

Store in tins. 

These will keep for weeks, or in my twisted case, for decades, in the freezer ;-)

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