Baking with Dead Nana

from generation to generation: Passover bagels

from generation to generation: Passover bagels

    Passover bagels?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Nope.  And believe me, they are so unlike real bagels, they will not induce any guilt or doubt about the Spirit of the Law in those who may be prone to such feelings about fluffy kosher for Passover baked goods.  These bagels are heavy, sweet lumps devoid of all fluffiness, and are in every respect, kosher.

     When Dead Nana was very much alive, she contributed Pesach bagels to every seder.  They take the place of yeast rolls on the table, and are lovely at soaking up the juice from Aunt Bobbie’s brisket.  At dairy breakfasts, straight from the oven, crispy from the granulated sugar coating, teeny centers filled with whipped butter, they are too good to describe.

     Teenager was too little to remember Nana, her greatgrandmother, but she did grant the woman her blunt, posthumous nickname.  Ever the organized thinker, my kid added “Dead” to avoid confusion with Nanas still upright.  And every year, in Dead Nana’s honor, my daughter is chief bagel maker.  We usually wait for the dairy breakfasts, since seders are so crazy we would be be nuts to try and time fresh-from-the-oven table breads.

     Also every year, I display the collage: photos of Dead Nana shaping Pesach bagels, my then-four-year-old shaping Pesach bagels, and the original handwritten index card from Nana’s red recipe box.  A moth larvae has, in the intervening years, burrowed under the frame, hatched, and died on the card, creating a brown blot I regard as a memento mori appropriate to the cyclical theme of the collage and the holiday.  My favorite bit is the old orange and green Manischewitz box of Matzo Meal in each kitchen.  Nana’s photo was taken in Pittsburgh, my daughter’s in Nashville, but luckily the Manishewitz people had not yet “updated” packaging design, and the boxes are identical: a powerful visual link.    (Anybody else out there miss the old, heimische, iconic orange and green Manishewitz packaging?)

     In case you need a tad more starch, oil and sugar at one of your Eight Days of Passover meals, here’s Nana’s version:

     Pesach Bagels:

    1 1/2 cup water

    1/2 cup oil

    1 tsp. salt

    2 TBS sugar

            Put above ingredients in a saucepan to boil.  Pour this mixture on top of:

    2 1/2 cups Matzah Meal

            Stir.

            Add:

    4 eggs, one at a time

            Mix.

            Form into small balls, poke a hole in center with thumb.

            Roll in sugar (demerera is extra good).

            Bake 350 degrees for a whopping 60 minutes on greased cookie pan.

Serve hot or warm.  They do not keep well.  Eat entire batch at one go, preferably with whipped butter.

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