Of Kiffles Past, Present and Future

I don’t remember my great grandmother. I know some things about her, and I own the rolling pin that used to be hers. There’s even a picture of me sitting on her lap when I was very small. But I don’t even have a ghost of a memory of her. And I don’t remember ever crying over her until Christmastime this year.

The most vivid and tangible association with my great grandmother is kiffles. Kiffles are a Hungarian cookie made of plain dough with a raisin and nut filling, and we have a family recipe passed down from my great grandmother that we use to make them every Christmas. You know it’s a bona fide full blown traditional family recipe, because it even comes with disagreement between my grandmother and my great aunt about the proper way to make them.

Based on my father’s childhood memories of kiffles, our branch of the family has gone with my grandmother’s version, cooking the filling before rolling it into the dough, as that seems to produce the most authentic results. I’ve honed my kiffle making abilities pretty well over the years, and I have it on good authority that the taste is wonderful.

But like any good family recipe, the directions are a bit sketchy. With some general baking experience I can intuit what the dough is supposed to feel like, and which of the various amounts of flour lead to that feel. I can experiment to get the filling to stay in the cookie instead of running all over the cookie sheet (mostly). But I have no idea what size squares and then triangles the dough is supposed to be cut into for each cookie.

And for some reason, this Christmas as I was rolling out kiffle dough it really hit me for the first time that I can’t ask my great grandmother what size the kiffles are supposed to be. I can’t watch her make them and take notes for my children. The sum total of her kiffle knowledge that has been passed on is written on the front of a 3×5 card in my grandmother’s handwriting, with a short list of filling ingredients on the back in my handwriting.

I can’t find any evidence on the internet of the quote that’s hovering the back of my head, but someone, perhaps Martin Luther, was musing on how wonderful the beer will be in heaven, where beermakers have thousands of years to perfect their recipes.

I would have to imagine that in a place where no knowledge is lost before in can be passed on, the kiffles are truly amazing.

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One thought on “Of Kiffles Past, Present and Future

  1. Craig Mutton says:

    Sorry I just got around to reading this. Your great-grandma Weber baked kiffles (KEE flees) every year right before Christmas. My brother, my 2 cousins & I would always spend a few days there during Christmas vacation. After dinner, we’d go to the attic stairway, where the chill winter air kept the kiffles fresh. Then we’d lift the lid on the big enamel pot filled with Grandma’s Hungarian cookies and fill our pockets with them before heading down the stairway to the basement with its own attractions to young boys. For my cousin Larry, it was the electric train set. For my brother, it was a tricycle he’d ride in circles around the big, old furnace. For me, it was the shelves in corner that held old Popular
    Science and Popular Mechanics magazines dating back to the 1930’s and 1940’s alongside some old dime novels that included Doc Savage stories. We’d all settle into our favorite activities, accompanied by the flavor of the sublimest confection ever to grace a holiday celebration.

    Thanks for carrying on the tradition. BTW, you and your sisters do a great job with the kiffles. Yours were a little small, this year, but very tasty. Keep practicing and sending me samples, Year by year,. I’ll keep you posted on your progress toward achieving Grandma Weber status.

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