Sharing Food and Memories with Friends and Family

March 4, 2012
Irene Saiger


Poppy Seed Crisps

When this Judy Zeidler recipe appeared in this week’s Jewish Journal, the photo of one of the cookies featured reminded me of something my mother used to make.  Pletzlach were large, flat, sugar-topped crackers that we ate right out of the oven, when she let me. These turned out to be more of the traditional poppy-seed cookie, thin, light and not too sweet, really good, they just are not my mother’s pletzlach.

Earlier this week Norm sent me an article about forgotten foods, and the very next day my sister called and, out of the blue, suggested that I make Helzel, a chicken neck stuffed with flour, fat and spices, (similar to kishke) that my mother often made. I still remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table and patiently sewing up the neck with a needle and thread.

Now there are two recipes of my mother’s that are missing, but not forgotten. Just like my mother.

Judy Zeidler’s Poppy Seed Crisps

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 ounces poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the milk alternately with the sifted dry ingredients to the oil mixture, beating after each addition. Blend in the poppy seeds. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and stored in the freezer for 3 weeks.)

Remove the dough a heaping teaspoon at a time on to a generously floured board or a sheet of wax paper. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, about 8 by 11 inches. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamond shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.



18 thoughts on “Poppy Seed Crisps

  1. My grandfather used to make Helzel — it was my favorite dish! I still love it very much…he staffed it with farina. Purim Sameach Irene!

    • Hi Anya,

      I have never tried it with farina???? Do you have a recipe for that?
      Chap Purim sameach!

      • Irene, I was a kid watching my grandpa cooking it (sadly, he passed away); but I asked my grandmother (though she doesn’t remember it with farina, but I do remember watching grandpa adding farina). The recipe was the 1 cup of farina with chicken shmaltz and salt stuffed into the 3/4 of the chicken neck. He used to cook it in the chicken stock.

        p.s. A little history about farina: in Tzar’s Russia, farina was very expensive type of flour. Only the wealthy ones could afford baking from it. Even now, reading Russian cooking books, it could say “dust the pan with flour or farina.”

        • Hi Anya,

          My mother made farina all the time. She would allow it to harden in a wide soup bowl, then run a knife along it both horizontally and vertically and so you then had squares in the bowl. She would then pour steaming hot “yoich” on it. It would congeal and that’s how she ate it. I thought it was just awful. In Israel on the kibbutz where I lived, they would serve it plain for breakfast and then put a bowl of halvah out to mix into it. That was delicious!!

          Thanks Anya!!


  2. Your mom and my grandma must have gone to the same cooking class! She too would sit patiently sewing up the chicken neck as though she was darning a sock. I don’t think I knew what it was at the time, but then again, we ate lots of things without really knowing where they came from. They were simply delicious! Purim Sameach!

  3. Hi Irene, As you know poppy seeds are not my favorite and i don’t think i could do chicken necks, but i LOVE reading your blog and through all the stories, i feel like i knew your mother. the wonderful woman and cook that she was lives on in you! xo, barbie

  4. Oh my goodness, they sound delicious and as much as I’d love to try making them, I think it’s not happening this year. Hopefully by next year I’ll be in a new kitchen and give it try!
    Chag Sameach to the Saiger family!

    • Thanks for commenting Carol!! Lots of work and you have to have a very “Zen” approach. Remember the poppy seed cookies in the bakeries, with a serrated edge? Sort of like that.

      Chag Sameach to you as well!!


  5. What is there to say? Mommy is kvelling!! As am I.

    Lots of love,
    Your shvester

  6. looks and sound amazing, any chance u can include some in your misholoch manot?

  7. as you know your recipes are great…. any chance you might give a beginner the amount of how many this recipe might make???????Odd request I know but then hey odd is good

  8. My mother used to make “moon” cookies – your recipe is very similar only she used orange juice instead of milk. She cut then into different shapes – hearts clubs and diamonds. So delicious with a cup of tea.

    • Hi Mollie,

      So nice to hear from you. Moon must have meant “mohn” which is poppy in Yiddish and German. Did you know that? I just read that may be one reason why poppy dishes are so popular for Purim as MOHN and HAMAN sound somewhat similar.

      I have this clear memory of tasting these before but I just can’t put my finger on it. They are perfect for tea, you’re right and after about 9 hours in the kitchen I am ready for just that!!


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