South African Kichel

Kichel is one of those iconic Shabbat foods. A thin biscuit that is usually served Shabbat morning as part of a Kiddush along with herring and gefilta fish. In America kichel are often large sugar coated bow ties that are dried in the oven and cooked until very brown. In Europe kichel is savoury and thin, with almost no sugar added to the dough and with no sugar topping. The South African kichel is a cross between the two, thin and tender like the European one, but coated in Sugar like the American one.

On a recent trip to Poland, I got speaking to a group of Jewish South African ladies in Auschwitz of all places, and the roll of food in this most horrible of locations. But as we talked one of the ladies asked me if I knew the recipe for South African Kichel, luckily while living in Israel one of our neighbours was Zelda Sulsky who grew up on a farm mile away from Johannesburg and very little access to kosher food made everything from scratch including these wonderful sweet kichels. As a gift for my sons bar mitzvah’s she prepared hundreds of kichels for the Shabbat morning celebrations. When I told my new friend that I was happy to teach them how to make kichel, she couldn’t wait to continue finding out more about her unique Jewish culinary heritage one kichel at a time!

  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 120 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 500 g (4 cups) self-rising flour (or 500 g plain flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder)

In a large bowl beat together the eggs, oil and salt. Add the flour to the egg mixture a little at a time, until all the flour is well incorporated.

Pre heat oven to 200 C

Divide the dough into six equal portions. On a clean surface sprinkle a generous amount of sugar, and roll out the dough until very thin ensuring that it isn’t sticking either to the rolling pin or the surface. Using a cookie cutter or a sharp knife cut into small biscuit shapes.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the kichel with about a centimetre between each one.

Bake for about 6-8 minutes until cooked through and just starting to turn golden, they will crisp up out of the oven.

Store in an air tight container for up to a week.

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