Craggy Bow-Tie Kichlach, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Kichlach are puffy little baked cookies coated in sugar.  That craggy-cracked outside makes them look like a kitchen disaster.  But you’ll forgive their rather inelegant appearance once you taste one.  Or two.

Kichlach is the Yiddish word for cookies. Kichel is the Yiddish singular version of kichlach.  Flummoxed yet?

Think of  Yiddish as a sort of hybrid Hebrew smattered with a little medieval German and part Romance language (really).  Beginning sometime in the 10th century Yiddish was spoken by mostly Ashkenazic Jews in Eastern and Central  Europe in the aftermath of the crusades. Fast forward from the wee beginning of the second millennium to the relative present and Yiddish  was something our parents and grandparents spoke rather fluently. And it is often referred to as speaking Jewish.

In our house, my parents often spoke Jewish when they didn’t want us to understand their conversation.  Or so they thought.  Yiddish is something everyone has heard whether they know it or not. Think words that actually mean phrases  like klutz, kvetch, oy, and yenta.  Meshugge?  You get the idea.

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook this Ben Moskovitz (Bow Tie) Kichel recipe is a classic. It is a dough that requires a bit of care, but once you have the routine down they are easy to prepare.

Gluten-free kichel are a little tricky since we are not using any gums – they tend to want to break apart as you form them into bow-ties.  Adding more flour and starch along with an extra egg seemed to keep them cohesive. The easiest way to get them to cooperate is to not roll the dough and to form them into small, miniature bow-ties.

After several batches using a variety of  recipes that resulted in a series of very unfortunate wrecks we finally came across a winner.  We made several batches to make sure it wasn’t a fluke – it isn’t.  I stumbled on this great video that showed me exactly how to get the kichel dough formed into bow-ties.  That was the turning point.

Take a few minutes to watch the video here from Fine’s Bakery – it will not only show you exactly how the sticky kichel dough is formed into bow-ties (though they use AP flour) but it should provide a little entertainment. Notice the size of that mixing bowl and the big Cambro in the background (Hi, friends at Cambro).

The only difference is that our smaller (and sticky) batch of dough gets plotzed (dropped) onto a heavy layer of sugar with an additional layer of sugar dropped on top and we use a hand to pat the dough into a rectangle rather than rolling it out. No rolling-pin necessary.

Using a knife dipped in sugar or starch, make even slices and then cut those into no more than 2 to 3 inch pieces. Quickly pick up a piece and give it a flip-twist to form the bow-tie as you place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. By the time you are finished the first cookies will start looking slightly wet from the sugar which will be melting into the dough.  Sprinkle additional sugar on the dough (which is why it looks gnarly with sugar craters – perfectly correct).  No big tsimes.

It was nice to kibitz, and I don’t mean to be a noodge, but hurry and make some craggy kichel so you can nosh along with me.  I’m totally verklempt by how well these gluten-free, dairy-free kichel turned out.  And how bad my Yiddish is.

And as always, l’shana tova.

Craggy Bow-Tie Kichel, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
Recipe type: Jewish Cookie
Kichlach are a great treat to help break your fast after Yom Kippur and certainly something you can serve over the Rosh Hashanah holiday - or any time. Once you get to working the dough after its rest - work quickly - believe me - it all goes much better that way. No interruptions or you'll end up with soggy dough once the sugar hits it. I learned that the hard way once - the dough dissolved. One of those unfortunate wrecks. The initial dough rest period is critical. Don't mess with it and extra time is to your advantage so if you let it rest longer, great. Don't roll it out, just pat that very sticky dough into a nice rectangle (using sugar under and on top of the dough) and cut as quickly as you can. Speed matters and the more you do it, the faster you get.
  • 14 oz. Gluten Free Flours (5 oz. superfine white rice flour, 4 oz. GF oat flour, 3 oz. tapioca flour, 2 oz. superfine brown rice flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large whole eggs
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil (I use peanut)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1-2 cups sugar (for rolling - don't add to the dough!)
  1. In a stand mixer bowl, weigh flours and mix together. Add in remaining ingredients - except the 1-2 cups of sugar) and using the paddle attachment, mix on low until fully incorporated. Turn mixer on high and mix for 5 minutes (time it). Scrape down sides and mix on high for another minute. Scrape down sides again and cover the bowl and let it sit for 2-3 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  3. Spread half the sugar on a surface in preparation for patting the dough. Gather the dough - it is mighty sticky - and plop onto the sugar. Dump more sugar on top of the dough and gently pat it flat. Add more sugar (think of the sugar as flour in rolling out a crust) and cover with plastic wrap. Pat gently into a rectangle until about ⅛ of an inch thick. Make sure the sugar on the bottom is keeping the dough from sticking to the surface. Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle more sugar on top.
  4. Cut into ½ inch strips and then cut those into 2-3 inch pieces. Place each piece on a parchment lined baking sheet. Twist the piece so it looks like a bow tie, one twist turn will do it. Place bow ties about an inch apart. A lot will fit on one sheet pan. Bake for about 15 minutes and rotate pans. Bake about 15-20 minutes more or until they are lightly golden and dry. Some of the sugar may start to get dark but it is important for the kichel to bake thoroughly. You want them to have a snap. Cool just until you can handle them and remove to a rack to cool completely. Store in a tin. They will last for days.
Don't be dismayed by how sticky the dough is - just slap it onto the sugar and cover it with more sugar. You'll be able to pat it into shape then. When cutting the dough, be sure to dip that knife in sugar or starch or it will stick and tear the dough. Smaller pieces lift and twist much easier than bigger ones. Rest assured - once you've done this one time - it will feel familiar and you'll know how to manage the process to keep the dough from dissolving. We made what seems like 4000 batches so you don't have to! Happy baking.


  1. Hi,
    I used to buy these in Pennsylvania at a bakery called The Comunity Bake Shop. They were so good. But sadly the bakery burnt down. I want to make them. They basically tasted like sugared cardboard LOL. but they were delicious. I am looking for a recipe. Do these resemble what I am talking about?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      I’m afraid the only way to know if they are similar is to give them a try. They are crispy, but they don’t taste like cardboard.