Christmas pastries made with love

We are officially in the Christmas season and it’s not because you went shopping on Black Friday. It’s because this is the time you share family traditions. Some of my most memorable times are ones spent baking with my grandmother.


It was an honor to be in her presence when I was a child (you couldn’t drag me away) and later as a grownup I wanted to spend time with her just learning everything I could. On a Saturday before Christmas we’d always gather to bake kiffles. It’s a two-day process. You have to mix the dough, refrigerate, roll into balls and then roll in powdered sugar, fill with nut filling and roll before baking. The nut filling contains whiskey or wine. Most years we used my grandmother’s homemade wine, which was usually pretty sweet and not really drinkable any way.


As the nut mixture thickened, we’d add more wine. We kept the bottle on the table and would continue to add more through the rollout process. “People would think we’re a bunch of drunks,” my grandmother would say with a cackle. She was short but mighty.


In the later years, my sister-in-law and I did the rolling and filling. We stationed Mem at the oven where she would watch over the delicate pastries to make sure they wouldn’t burn. That’s when she would declare that she missed her gas oven and hated electric for baking.


This recipe came to her from Memmy Deutsch, who died before my time. I never knew her (don’t even know her first name) but my Mem was once married to her son Hermann. We were obviously German and the story goes that when she cleaned for “rich” people before she came to America. There she learned to cook “fancy” dishes. This one for Kiffles, a Hungarian pastry, came from her.



Kiffle dough



1 lb. butter

1 lb. flour (4 to 5 cups)

12 egg yolks (save whites for filling)



Warm ¼ cup milk and 1 tsp. sugar and then add 1 pkg. yeast. Let raise. Add yeast mixture to flour, butter and egg yolk mixture.


Add 1 complete orange rind grated and juice.


Refrigerate overnight.


Roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter.


When you are ready to bake.


Make Nut Filling:

2 pounds of nuts

Add 12 egg whites and beat until stiff.


Add 1 pound powdered sugar and wine until the mixture comes to spreadable consistency.



Cover your work area with powdered sugar. Roll one ball out until it’s thin. Spread nut filling to the edges and roll up with a fruit roll. Roll tightly and shape into crescent shape. Pinch the ends shut to keep filling from coming out.


Brush vegetable oil on cookie sheets. Place pastries on cookie sheet and bake at 375 until brown, usually 12-15 minutes. My grandmother would set the timer for 10 and then begin watching them. She didn’t trust the electric oven.


I haven’t made these since my grandmother died five years ago. That last year she was alive she was too sick at Christmas. I have the recipe and the knowledge, but you know the love is the most important ingredient and now that is missing.


We know that people from the Poconos come from a variety of backgrounds and we’d really like to share your recipes and traditions with our readers. Please e-mail me at and send photos, too.

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