The Jewish Mother’s Christmas Cookie

24 12 2009

I have a thing for baked goods. I think it has to do with the way I was raised. My mother ran her own catering company and bakery while I was in middle and high school. My grandmother is also a baking fool. Growing up there was never a shortage of cakes, cookies, lemon bars, and muffins being consumed in my household. The Holy Grail of all of those baked wonders of deliciousness that passed through my mother’s kitchen is a small cookie known as rugulach. Those of you who have had the pleasure of spending any time in mother’s kitchen or who have been blessed to spend time with my mother in my kitchen know the sheer joy and amazingness that is rugulach. Rugulach is a traditional Jewish cookie. You can find them at any (real) deli in the US and they are sold at the shuk(market) in Jerusalem in bulk, especially on Shabbos, since that is what is typically consumed for breakfast and nosh time (snack time) on Saturdays (the Sabbath). It’s a simple dough and chocolate concoction rolled into little bite size pieces (some contain raisins, jam, and other dried fruits, but the chocolate ones are the only ones really worth talking about). My mothers version is a little different and consists of a cream cheese and butter dough with a cinnamin sugar and chocolate chip filling (c’mon, really how can you go wrong with any of those ingredients together?) Many hours of counseling, homework help, laugh sessions, and mother/daughter spats were spent in the kitchen while rugulach was being made. I could probably make it in my sleep and the smell of it immediately reminds me of home and my mother covered in flour  solving the world’s problems. In college my roommates eagerly awaited packages that contained rugulach, no matter how stale they were they didn’t last more than 5 minutes upon opening. Anytime she would grace the west coast with her presence there were immediate requests for her speciality and she would indulge us. Just a few weeks ago my best bud, Mary, requested the recipe via email, apparently the versions you find on the interweb just don’t hold a candle to my mother’s recipe.

I felt inspired by Mary’s request and attempted to make a Guyanese version of rugulach, which is no easy feat, since it’s nearly impossible to find butter and chocolate chips in this country. I didn’t let the ingredient challenge stop me, and was determined to create a piece of home to be shared with my new Guyanese family. Last night I made a batch of rugulach using margarine instead of butter and crushed Cadbury Dairy Milk bars instead of chocolate chips. As they were baking the smell teleported me away from my sweltering hot Guyanese kitchen with the bugs and the dust, to my mother’s kitchen and all the fond and happy memories I have of her there.

In true rugulach consumption tradition, I served them up to my neighbors and I am happy to report that they didn’t last more than 5 mintues. The holidays are all about traditions and since I am so far away from home and learning all about Guyanese traditions (pepperpot, black cake, and ginger beer….YUM!) I thought it was only appropriate that I share some of my own traditions as well.

Here is wishing all of you a happy, safe, and delicious Holiday filled with love, joy, and family wherever you may be.




One response

6 01 2010
John Levin

How about a good recipe for ginger beer? I know your great aunt, Peggy Crane. My father was her husband’s college roommate. I only got as far as Popayan overland from the States 35 years ago, though I certainly met Guyanese in Brooklyn, NY when I lived there.
John (Levin)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: