Renée’s Sour Cream Twists

 

When I first started blogging last year, I came across a blog called IEatDC on Blogspot. The blog’s author, Andrea, writes about food—the restaurants she visits and the meals she cooks. Andrea and I began communicating via blog comments not long after I launched my website, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Andrea’s background is Jewish, and she’s very familiar with traditional kosher cuisine, so we’ve had fun talking about the different ways that our families approach traditional dishes like challah and kugel. Now, over a year since we “met,” Andrea’s blog is still going strong. She renamed it Capitol to Capital – DC2ALB – after moving from Washington DC to upstate New York, and she continues to blog about one of her favorite subjects… food.  :)

Andrea’s grandmother Renée was born to a Syrian Jewish father and a French Jewish mother. Renée’s mother was unable to care for her (the reason is unclear), and her father could not raise her alone. That is how Renée ended up in a Jewish orphanage connected to a Sephardic synagogue in London. She often told her family the memory she had of leaving for the orphanage—as she boarded the train, her father tied a string from her suitcase to her wrist so she wouldn’t lose it.

A picture of Renée

At the orphanage, Renée was raised with culturally Jewish values—she learned to keep kosher and Shabbat while living there. I researched the orphanage a bit, and found out that it was called the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Orphanage in Lauderdale Road, Maida Vale. Believe it or not, famed hair stylist Vidal Sassoon was living in the London orphanage at the same time as Renée!

Lauderdale Road Synagogue, site of the Spanish and Portuguese Orphanage at Maida Vale where Renee spent her childhood (photo: http://www.sandp.org/lauderdale.html).

Renée later came to the US as a war bride with Andrea’s grandfather. She was a talented knitter (like my grandma!); according to Andrea, Renée could make you a sweater if you pointed it out in a clothing catalogue. She was also a wonderful baker. A few weeks ago, Andrea shared with me her favorite recipe passed down from Renée —Sour Cream Twists.

“My grandmother’s sour cream twists were my favorite of her cookies,” Andrea wrote.  “She also made a cake-like mandelbrot and delicious pies with lattice tops. I’m not sure of the origin of the cookies (I’m sure you’ll dig around), but I know that I was thrilled when I’d open a package at camp and see a tin of them.”

I did, in fact, do some “digging around” on these delicious cookies. While Renée was raised in a Sephardic Jewish orphanage, these twists are most likely Ashkenazi in origin. I found a couple of similar recipes that suggest a German connection. Sour cream was an important part of nineteenth-century Eastern European Jewish cuisine, and was particularly prevalent in German Jewish cooking and baking. It was used to enhance a generally bland diet heavy in starches, particularly potatoes. In Ashkenazi baking, sour cream was used to add moisture and richness to cake and pastry dough.

Here is Andrea’s family recipe, exactly as Renée wrote it down:


Sour Cream Twists

 

Oven 375 degrees

 

½ cup sour cream
3 ½ cups of flour
2 stks. margarine, cut in then add two beaten eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water 1/2 tsp sugar

 

Add each ingredient then wait till yeast rises before being mixed into flour mixture.

 

Pack into large bowl greased with oil.  Then turn dough over and cover with damp cloth. Refrigerate for 2 hours before rolling in vanilla sugar.

 

Vanilla sugar mixture 1 ½ cups sugar with 2 tsp. of vanilla

 

After cutting process BAKE for 25 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet immediately.

 

In her written recipe, Renée doesn’t explain about how to cut or twist the cookies, so I used Andrea’s method (which is explained below). The first time I tried these I found the dough a bit sticky and tough to roll out. Flouring the rolling surface made the dough too smooth, which meant the sugar didn’t stick to the cookie like it should. After researching the twists, I found out that they are traditionally rolled out on a surface that has been sprinkled with sugar, so I made them a second time that way and they turned out just dandy. Just be aware that sugaring the rolling surface and the rolling pin will be a bit of a sticky mess (butter + sugar = messy), so if you have a large silpat or some other easily cleanable rolling surface, it will make cleanup easier.

Best to use full-fat sour cream in these cookies. They’ll taste okay with lowfat sour cream, but they won’t be as rich, and the dough’s texture won’t be quite the same. Oh, also– I used real butter instead of margarine. I figured that since the cookies contain sour cream, it’s already a dairy recipe– so why not? :)

These cookies are delicious, with a very unique texture—tender on the inside, a tiny bit crisp on the outside, with a touch of crunch where the sugar caramelizes. They’re totally addicting. I had three last night, and had to stop myself from eating more. They’re perfect for dunking in tea or coffee, and would make a great addition to a dairy Shavuot or Hanukkah menu. Many thanks to Andrea and her grandma Renée for this unique and wonderful recipe!

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Renée's Sour Cream Twists

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tsp vanilla, divided (use a liquid vanilla extract, not a thick syrup)
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Canola or nonstick spray oil to grease bowl
Prep Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 - 30 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours
Servings: About 35-40 cookies
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Pour flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives until the flour resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Alternatively, you can pulse the flour and butter in a food processor until a crumbly texture forms. Do not over-process.
  • Pour packet of yeast into a small bowl and cover with 1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 110 degrees). Stir in 1/2 tsp of sugar till yeast and sugar are dissolved. Set aside for 10 minutes to activate.
  • While yeast is activating, stir vanilla into the 2 beaten eggs till combined. Add the eggs, vanilla, and sour cream to the crumbly flour mixture.
  • Right about now the yeast should be activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. If it doesn’t, your yeast may have expired—go buy some fresh yeast!
  • Add the foamy yeast water to the mixing bowl.
  • Stir all ingredients in the mixing bowl until just combined, switching to kneading when the mixture becomes to thick to stir. Do not overwork the dough; knead just a few times until a rough dough ball forms.
  • Grease a larger mixing bowl with oil. Punch dough down into the greased bowl, then flip the dough so both sides are lightly oiled.
  • Cover bowl with a damp cloth and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a wide, shallow bowl, mix 2 tsp of liquid vanilla extract with 1 1/2 cups of sugar till the sugar is evenly scented with vanilla.
  • Dust your rolling surface with 1/2 cup of the vanilla sugar. Take dough out of the refrigerator and place it on the sugared rolling surface.
  • Roll out the dough into a rough 12x16 inch rectangle. If the dough sticks to your rolling pin, rub the pin with sugar periodically.
  • Cut the rectangle lengthwise so there are 3 long, thin rectangles of dough. Cut each rectangle of dough into strips about 1 inch thick (each strip will be about 4 inches long).
  • Dip each strip into the vanilla sugar so that both sides of the strips are evenly coated in sugar.
  • Twist the sugar coated strips two or three times each and pinch at the ends to taper. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Turn the tray halfway through baking to ensure even browning. The darker you let them brown, the crisper the cookies will be.
  • Remove cookies from baking sheet immediately, otherwise the cookies will stick to the sheet. Place on a wire rack or plate to cool.
  • These Sour Cream Twists go great with tea, coffee, or a glass of ice cold milk. Store in a sealed tin or Tupperware.

Comments (56)Post a Comment

    1. Thanks for reading, Lisa! These family historical recipes are my favorite… so neat to be able to help preserve family traditions this way. :)

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    What a lovely story and wonderful recipe Tori! I’m Sephardi descendant on my father’s side, so I’m familiar with certain Jewish recipes. My grandmother (“Mama Sultana”) would bake the most amazing things! :)

  2. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I am going to make these tonight! I am just a good Irish Catholic girls who grew up in a very orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles and grew to love all things Jewish(especially all of the youngsters I babysat)! I was ofter referred to as the “Shabbos goy”. Although I am still a practicing Catholic, I have always been somewhat tickled by Judaism and the traditions! (I love gifelte fish with horseradish and matzah on Passover whether I go to a Seder or not!)

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story with this recipe! My kids are gonna love em!

    1. Awesome Colleen! Please report back and let us know how you liked them. I know Andrea would be so pleased to hear that her grandma’s recipe is being enjoyed by others. “Spreading the food love,” so to speak. :)

    1. With no sugar at all? That’s an interesting idea. Maybe some cheese and a sprinkle of garlic… if you give it a try that way let me know how it goes, Angel!

  3. My grandfather (from Russia) had a Jewish bakery in Boston in the very early 1900′s ’till the 50′s and made something called Kichel. It looked like what you picture, but the rolled dough was cut in 2″ squares instead of twisted, then coated with sugar It was my favorite, and I’ve never come across it again … until now!

    1. Hey Joyce! I love kichel, too. These cookies are similar to kichel, but the texture is different… the dough bakes up softer and less crunchy than kichel dough. Maybe I should blog about kichel… I agree they are delicious!

      Do you have any of your grandfather’s recipes? I would love to know what he made, and what the favorites at his bakery were! :)

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Love it, of course. Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful family memories! May we all continue to make such memories, preserve them, and all while eating delicious cookies.

    1. Andrea, thank you so much for taking the time to share this wonderful recipe! It was an amazing experience getting to know your family’s story through your grandmother’s delicious cookies. xoxo

  5. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi, I am Renee’s daughter, Andrea’s aunt. I often make these cookies pareve (non-dairy) by using non-dairy sour cream and margarine instead of butter. They come out absolutely wonderful and then can be eaten with a meat meal. My mother was an incredible baker and left a legacy that continues in my kitchen to this day.

    When I use my mother’s recipes I can sense her being with me and I am sure she is proud that her recipes are used and loved by the next generations.

    Annette Glassner

    1. Annette, what a pleasure to hear from you! And great to know about the pareve version of the Sour Cream Twists. I am grateful that you and Andrea were willing to share this family recipe, and I know it will be enjoyed by many! I hope this blog inspired others to write down their family recipes, so they can pass these culinary treasures down to the next generation.

  6. I think I will make it with Garlic, Sharp Cheddar,Rosemary and Parsley….. I will let you know how it turns out!

    1. Thanks Kim! This blog is a labor of love, and these family recipe entries are the most rewarding. It’s an honor to be able to share a person’s story along with their recipe. Happy you enjoyed it!

  7. These are very similar to a recipe given to me by a friend from his German grandmother. Mel passed away this week, so I had been telling my kids about this recipe (with ingredients in lb. measures) and planning to make them. His recipe calls for 3 egg yolks, for the dough to rise in refrigerator overnight and then be rolled out and folded into thirds, adding sugar on each fold. Then cut into strips and give a little twist. (I’m going to try the vanilla sugar.) Thanks for the lovely story and recipe.

    1. You’re welcome Edna! I did read a few similar German recipes that had this roll and fold method you described. I may try them that way the next time I make them. Thanks for sharing! And if you have any family recipes you’d like to contribute to the blog, please consider doing so. Here is the link: link to theshiksa.com

  8. I’ll keep you in mind about contributing recipes. My cooking consists of Appalachian, Southern and Jewish recipes. We now split our time between South Carolina and Michigan. You have a delightful blog, and I am glad I found it!

    By the way, I know you are in California. Do you happen to be in LA or familiar with Rabbi Wolpe? He is one of my favorite rabbis.

  9. These cookies are dilectable. The instructions say to cut rectangle in half. Based on the picture, should probably say cut in thirds

    1. Thanks for noticing that Kathleen! The first time I made them I cut the dough in half, but the cookies were too big– I must have missed that when I edited the recipe. Now it’s fixed. :)

  10. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I loved your website.So glad I tuned into Joan Hamburg today. I can hardly wait to try the Honey Apple and honey date cakes.I bake my mother-in-law’s recipe for honey cake with coffee and liquor. It’s about a hundred years old. A great family favorite but sometimes rises over the pan. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Bev, have you tried using a slightly larger pan? If it’s a loaf cake (honey cakes usually are), the loaf pans tend to come in three sizes– try the next size up and see how that works. Good luck!

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I’m another Catholic girl with some German and Polish family food tendancies that verge into the Jewish territory often. My mother’s version of schnitzels which were adapted from the old German pork recipe and made with Chicken were always affectionately known as Rabbi teasers due to their origins. I’m so happy to have found your wonderful blog. Your family food memories are beautiful, as is your writing — it’s lovely to come across someone who has found their calling (or one of them). Thanks for sharing!

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I am intrigued by this recipe and want to try it. So, just a question: What kind of sugar did you use? It looks coarser than sugar normally sold in supermarkets. Light brown sugar? Or maybe turbinado sugar?

    Thanks, from a loyal fan of your recipes. Everything I’ve tried so far has come out great!

    1. Hi Muriel, thanks! It’s actually just plain granulated sugar– when mixed with the vanilla it takes on a grainier appearance. Enjoy! It’s a sticky process, but so worth it.

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    WOW>..these remind me about my great-grandmothers, and yes, their to die for…I loved them as a child and love them even more now, since the recipe was shared…Thank you so much

  14. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for all the delicious recipes.The yeast one packet would be about how many teaspoons? Thanx again

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I happened upon this recipe and it brought back wonderful memories. My grandmother used to make these often. To this day we call them Bubie cookies. Everyone in the family knows exactly which cookies we mean. My sister and her daughter have made them several times from her recipe, but they are never as good as hers. We can’t duplicate her perfect twist. Thanks for the recipe.

  16. Thanks for the visual demo of how to prepare these.I’m not sure I’d attempt it without this step-by-step process. MUCH appreciation.

  17. we are making them today but have to go and get some sour cream my nine year old has had this on her brain for a whole year and a half……..they sound so good MMMMMMMM….

  18. My dad always talks about how his grandmother use to make these, but I could never find a recipe! His mother eventually made them with leftover pie crust, but they aren’t the same. Thanks for the recipe!

  19. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I have been doing these cookies for years, and always do the roll and sugar, then fold and roll and sugar and fold method. Another great flavor for the sugar is almond extract. I usually do two batches, one of vanilla sugar and one of almond sugar. You can use a bit of colored sugar like red and green to differentiate for those who prefer one taste to the other.
    Also, it is important to remove the cookies from the sheet trays quickly after removing them from the oven or the crystallized sugar cools and hardens…sealing the cookies onto the sheet tray!

  20. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori
    I was searching the net for ages for a recipe for the sugar cookies that my grandmother used to have always in her pantry. I ended up using your recipe ( I had no idea how she made them :) They have been fantastic. I have made 2- 3 batches and love them. All my aunts and uncles have said they are just like her biscuits .
    Thanks so much – the dough is so easy to handle .
    Julia

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