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One Badass Cookie — Taiglach for the Jewish High Holidays


Now there’s a sight for sore eyes. Isn’t it gorgeous? This is my Great-Grandma Esther Hanna’s taiglach — kind of like caramel ginger walnut bar cookies — that I made for Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year. I live for this stuff and so does most of my family. Just the smell of it cooking brings back . . . okay, I’m getting sentimental here but bear with me . . . my mother’s kitchen in all its glory. Pot lids rattlin’, my Mom in her flowered apron walking on a bag of walnuts instead of chopping them with a knife, as readers of my book will know “so the pieces are small, but not too small . . .”, the dramatic moment when she dipped her hands in ice water to handle the piping hot caramel, all of it. If you don’t know taiglach, I truly believe you are missing out on one of the most Badass of the Badass cookies. I will warn you that it is only for experienced bakers. Lots of directions that say “to taste” or “by feel” and so on, but it’s worth the effort. Once you do it, however the reward is huge. You’ll have entered the collective memory of generations of bakers, and you’ll carry them with you each time you go to bake. That’s a powerful lot of bakin’ hoodoo. So if you’re game, and want to serve something really wonderful after the fast on Yom Kippur next week, read on for the recipe, a link to a cool variation with hazelnuts and almonds, the Badass Cookie tip of the week, and a chance to win Nancy’s book . . . “Shana Tovah!” (Happy New Year.)


Great Grandma Esther Hanna’s Taiglach
from Walking On Walnuts by Nancy Ring, Bantam 1996.
Makes approximately 2 dozen 2-inch square bars.

4 extra large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 level teaspoon ground ginger (for dough)
approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups all purpose flour
12 ounces honey (need not be expensive grade)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (for syrup) plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup sugar
6 ounce bag of shelled walnuts
6 or 7 vanilla wafer cookies

Prepare the dough balls:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Beat together yolks, oil and 1 teaspoon of the ginger.
3. Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
4. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture.
5. Add flour to egg mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, folding until a sticky dough forms that can be handled with floured hands.
6. Flour a board, and sprinkle the dough with extra flour. Pull off medium size pieces of dough one at a time, and elongate each piece by rolling with palms and fingers to the size of a thick jumbo pencil, at least 5/8 inch wide. Flour a knife and cut dough logs into marble size pieces about 3/4 inches long. Gently place each piece of dough on the baking sheet. Space the dough 1/2 inch apart.
7. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is golden, puffed up, and dry inside. Cool.
Prepare the syrup:
1. After dough cools, pour honey, remaining teaspoon of ginger, and sugar into a medium-size soup pot, stir, and bring to a boil.
Cook the taiglach:
1. Wrap walnut bag in a towel and walk on it briefly to get small pieces. Add baked dough and walnuts to hot honey syrup and stir to coat. Cook walnut/taiglach mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally from the bottom of the mixture up, 15 minutes or more. Mixture will bubble. Taiglach is done when it is dark golden brown.
Form the taiglach:
1. Have a clean, unpolished natural wood board ready, and the extra ginger. Put ice water in a bowl and set nearby. Rub cold water on wooden board in a light film.
2. When taiglach is ready, scrape taiglach from pot onto wet surface. Taiglach is extremely hot and must be handled quickly before it sets. Put hands into ice water until they are wet and cold. Push taiglach down while returning hands to ice as necessary, until a rectangle is formed, approximately 1 inch thick. Any size rectangle is fine. Square off the corners. Sprinkle with more ground ginger while hot, to taste. 3. Cover with wax paper lightly and let cool until solid, in a cool, shady place, no sun.
Finish the taiglach:
1. Crush vanilla wafers between sheets of wax paper with a rolling pin.
2. Cut cooled taiglach into bars. Dip bottoms of bars into cookie crumbs and store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. Do not refrigerate. Yields approximately two dozen two-inch squares.

Badass Cookie Tip of the Week: When working with caramel, use your nose as much as your eyes to determine when it is done. If it smells like sweet caramel, it is caramel. If it starts to smell burnt, it’s getting too dark.

Like the idea of taiglach but not so crazy about walnuts. Epicurious has a great variation with hazelnuts and almonds.

Do you have a Badass Cookie recipe for Laura and Nancy? If so, send it to us. If it’s Badass enough we’ll post it as a reader’s recipe and you’ll win a copy of Nancy’s Book, Walking On Walnuts.

see also: One Badass Cookie - Ginger Molasses Cookie

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Oh how I remember Mom being awake late at night making this recipe every year for the New Year. I remember how she taught me to dip my fingers into ice water so as not to get burned when patting down the taiglach on the board. Thanks for posting this to your blog. Love you.

    –  (September 21 2009 at 2:33)

I want some! I remember our mother staying up all night to make this incredible stuff. Apparently it is a bit of an acquired taste, as when my wife Charlotte made it for me one time she could not understand why I liked it so much.

Thanks for bringing back the wonderful memories of our youth Nan!


    – Bruce Ring (September 25 2009 at 1:05)

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