Food, glorious food: My family’s Rosh Hashanah tradition

Food, glorious food! My family’s Rosh Hashanah tradition


We crowd the kitchen. My mother, my grandmother and me, having already prepared most of the Rosh Hashanah feast, stand around the countertop, ready for the day’s goliath: teiglach.

Since her days in the Soviet Union, my babushka has made teiglach countless times. She knows the recipe intimately, the coated dough balls, the thick honey. But today is different. Today is about teaching me about our Ashkenazic heritage and cuisine.

Every culture is different. Nowhere is this better shown than in our cuisine. Whether it is latkes and lox or kasha and shells, Jewish food is rooted in tradition, passed down by generations past right to our dinner tables. My parents have spent countless hours teaching me to appreciate how our food represents where we come from.

After we combine the ingredients (see full recipe below) until they become sticky and, we scoop out the dough with our hands to make small, individual balls that we plop onto a baking sheet. 

While my mom kneads the dough, flour on her hands to keep it from sticking, she and my grandma tell me about the merits of our teiglach. Family and friends from all over the world come to St. Louis to try it. And every time my brother goes back to college, my mom always sends a box back with him.

After we throw the dough balls into the oven, my mom mixes the honey and sugar on the stove, watching it become bubbly. The room smells floral, even sweet. After taking the dough balls out of the oven, we coat them with sticky, honey liquid, before letting them cool. 

At every party, the teiglach is the first dessert to go. We never get to keep any of it.

These interactions, two masters, one apprentice, are the livelihood, the great exchange of Jewish culture. By way of the dinner table, we teach children our values, history and,  best of all, our foods. It’s how we learn to appreciate our past.

Auntie Fanny’s teiglach recipe: 

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 cup of honey
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • Sprinkle of nuts
  • Sprinkle of poppy seeds

Step 1: Combine sugar, oil and eggs into bowl. Mix in flour until mixture is pliable, not dense.

Step 2: Take approximately a 5-by-2-by2-inch piece of dough. Make sure it’s small enough to roll out cords with about a half-inch diameter. Once rolling out the cords on a rough surface, cut cords into 1-inch pieces. Continue for all of dough, working with the small chunks.

Step 3: Bake dough pieces at 375 degrees until golden brown. They’ll each grow in surface area. Do this with each batch of the small chunks of dough.

Step 4: Heat one cup of honey and ¼ cup of sugar on stove. Add crushed nuts if desired.

Step 5: Immediately after boil, when the honey is dissolved, add the golden brown balls. Stir constantly with wooden spoon for 10 minutes to prevent burning or sticking.

Step 6: After 10 minutes, spoon out sticky mixture onto wooden cutting board previously washed in cold water. Sometimes, a flexible silicon board makes cutting and removing the teiglach easier once it dries. The mixture must be just one layer of balls and smushed together from all sides. Use silicon gloves to avoid heat. Sprinkle nuts or poppy seeds on top if desired.

Step 7: Let sit for 10-12 hours. Teiglach should be an amber color. Cut out and remove the hardened pieces of teiglach in rows once it dries. This will be a long, arduous process. Use patience.