It’s a little weird, but I’m jealous of all the people who actually love their traditional Yom Tov meals—the foods and recipes they must have or risk Yom Tov feeling incomplete. Especially when they post beautiful pictures and rave reviews. They obviously relish the special tastes and aromas and look forward to having that food at the right time of year.
It’s not that I didn’t grow up with traditional foods—taiglach and tzimmes on Rosh Hashanah, kreplach on Erev Yom Kippur, stuffed cabbage and fricassee on Sukkot, cheese dumplings on Shavuot etc. You see, pretty standard, ordinary, traditional fare. These are the foods that are expected. But I started to notice something interesting as my kids got older. No one was eating any of these traditional, standard foods. The tzimmes languished in the bowl, the fricassee came in and out of the refrigerator, the stuffed cabbages became unstuffed. Yet still, I continued to make all these things. You know, tradition!
So, when my mother reminded me to make tzimmes this year, I asked “Why?” Because no one was going to eat it, right? And her answer was “Because it’s Rosh Hashanah.” Well, I decided (gasp) not to make it. (Needless to say, my mother was not happy.)
Another thing I make all the time is my Bubby’s kumetz brodt. She always had a pan around in the freezer and it was one of her signature baked goods—a vanilla loaf shot through with a ribbon of cinnamon and chocolate, lightly glazed. I had gotten the recipe from her years ago and started making it around the holidays. The taste always reminded me of her. So, unlike the tzimmes, I decided to make kumetz brodt this week.
When the loaves were cool, glazed and sliced, my son took a bite and asked if these were my Bubby’s cookies. I was so happy he remembered. But, then he followed up with “I don’t really like these. Why do you make them?” I paused for a second, and said, “Because it reminds me of her.” I then smiled and said quietly, “I never really loved them either. But it’s for nostalgia.” He smiled and nodded knowingly. “Yeah, it makes me feel nostalgic too.” I laughed, thinking how this cookie is now part of my kids’ childhoods, and reminds them of the holidays too; something that was around when they were younger. I continued: “When I was a kid I didn’t like the bitter cocoa inside at all, and just broke off the top with the glaze, and left the bottom.” He laughed and agreed that the top was the best part.
Now that I’ve made this recipe sound so appealing, you should know I’ve adjusted it slightly and sweetened the filling. Not surprisingly, this year’s batch has all but disappeared, tops and bottoms. So go figure. I guess they are pretty good and addictive after all. Thank goodness for traditions. Go ahead and try them for yourselves!
Bubby Rivka’s Kumetz Brodt
(makes 3 loaves)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup margarine
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 6 large eggs
- 6 cups flour, plus additional
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 cup cocoa
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- Juice of 2 lemons
Beat sugar and margarine until creamy. Add lemon zest and combine. Add eggs one at a time. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, and add to bowl alternately with orange juice. Dough will be very soft. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in thirds. Working with one third at a time, flour surface of counter, sprinkling enough so the dough won’t stick. Roll dough gently into a large rectangle. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar, then 1/3 cup cocoa, then cinnamon down the center third of the dough, and fold each side over the center, like a letter. Continue with remaining dough to make 2 more loaves. Carefully transfer loaves to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Score loaves when hot, or the slices will crack later. Prepare glaze by dripping lemon juice, a little at a time, into the confectioner’s sugar until a thin glaze is formed. Pour glaze over warm loaves while on a rack above a baking sheet to catch the drips. When glaze is almost dry, slice carefully along scored lines with a sharp knife. Enjoy!
By Rachel Berger