Herta’s Krokerle (Spiced Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies) with Recipe
Ours is a story of continuity and discontinuity – a story of community and people within that community. For me (Gaby), the story takes place in a visually stunning setting, one in which the cliffs of the Palisades of New Jersey tumble straight down to the Hudson River with the iconic George Washington Bridge spanning the scene. In my mind’s eye, I can also see the blue lights of Bill Miller’s Riviera, a nightclub that clung to the top of the cliff directly across from my apartment building in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, until it closed in 1953. The lights screamed out (it is easy to get dramatic with memory) and illuminated the night sky. My apartment building was a few doors down the hill from Herta’s — though I didn’t meet her until many years later — and I walked this hill twice a day every day of my childhood, because we came home for lunch from grammar school in those days. That view is burned into my brain so much so that the imagery has entered my artwork. It is always a wild trip to return here, where all the buildings and streets remain the same.
Gaby visiting Washington Heights, 2013
In the here-and-now we cling to the mundane, and yet our tale is far from mundane. We are visiting Herta Bloch, who had her 92nd birthday in June. She is almost a generation older than me (even though I am starting to feel like I belong to the oldest generation). “What can you do about age? Accept it” she says. Charging around her beautiful apartment with a majestic view of the Hudson and George Washington Bridge, Herta is bright-eyed, cheerful and vibrant. Time has been good to her. We are here to learn how to bake Krokerle – a cookie that is unique to her German-Jewish family. It was baked by her mother and exists in Herta’s archive of family recipes.
Herta Bloch, 2013
We are surprised – and find it hilarious – when Herta says: ‘I have never made these cookies before.” We came to learn from an old master, only to discover that it is her first time! In fact, we learn that the recipe skipped a generation, passing from grandmother to granddaughter — and it is Marion, Herta’s daughter, who bakes the Krokerle in the family. On second thought, we decide that this is great! It adds to the “living quality” of the food, that the old-timer is learning to bake her mother’s recipe for the first time.
Herta’s German measuring cup that converts weight to volume
Herta carries within her the traditions and the food of the culture we are exploring, yet she is a thoroughly modern woman. As a young immigrant in New York City, she worked as a nanny for many years, often being exploited and overworked. She met her man, who then went off to war for three years. When he returned and they married, she worked in the kosher butcher and sausage shop they owned, Bloch & Falk, while also raising three children. More on the shop and sausages to come in another post, coming soon. -Gaby
Krokerle Makes 45-65 cookies (adapted from Herta and Marion Bloch)
This recipe produces confections with a wonderful combination of chocolate, spice and a rich nutty flavor, but they are not overly rich as they don’t contain dairy or oil. The clove may be substituted with another spice if desired, such as nutmeg or cinnamon. One other note, the size of the cookies is variable as desired, dropped either by the teaspoonful or tablespoonful. The Bloch family traditionally made Krokerle for Channukah, but they are delightful any time of year.
1 ½ cups sugar
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground clove
¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brandy (or whiskey)
8 ounces hazelnuts, skinned* and coarsely chopped *(see note below for instructions on skinning hazelnuts)
For Lemon Glaze:
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1) Mix eggs and sugar with a whisk until light and foamy.
2) In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together and add to egg and sugar mixture. Stir to combine. Add liquor and nuts, stir to combine.
3) Drop by the spoonful (either teaspoon or tablespoon) onto greased cookie sheets and place about 2” apart.
4) Bake 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
5) While the Krokerle are baking, make the glaze: Combine the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice and stir until smooth. Add a drop of water if it is too thick.
6) While the Krokerle are still warm, drizzle each one with a small spoonful of lemon glaze. Let cool.
Note: To skin hazelnuts: Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350° F for about 10 minutes, or until you start to smell them. Be careful not to let them burn. Immediately remove from oven and spread them on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the corners of the towel over the top and let sit for a few minutes – the steam will help loosen the skins. Roll the nuts around in the towel, unwrap and most of the nuts will be skinless.
Gabby & Sonya,
I am forwarding this to my brothers. I will also tell my mom about it tonight.
Carol F forwarded the link to the website yesterday. It’s a small world – we met a few years ago through a bicycle club in NJ. I am glad to see that your mother is doing well and is still in the old neighborhood. I’m still in Teaneck (as is my mother for almost 1 year), so call next time you are in the old neighborhood (or anytime), and perhaps we can re-connect.
I will make an attempt on the Krokerle, now that the weather is cooler;)
i was just showing this to my mom! I had not checked the comments for this post until now. I would love to be in touch! I was thinking of looking for you on facebook.
A wonderful story from the beginning to the “Krokerel” – the most touching for me is the old German Measuring cup! Warm regards from Bamberg and from
Sorry: I meant of course “Krokerle” (I think it derives from “Krokant”
because of the nuts (German for brittle)
Thank you, we’re so glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, I too adore that measuring cup! Please let us know if you bake the Krokerle how you like them.
Best wishes from New York,
May be I try them for Christmas (Herta said they were originally for Chanukkaa nd I can imagen that) – ist is too hot these days! I let you know, of course.
Wonderful, I hope you try them at Christmas – and of course we look forward to hearing about it!
The word origin (relating to nuts) is interesting, thanks for mentioning it.
Brilliant! My mom and I wondered where the name came from and this makes sense.
They look wonderful! Gaby, that pic is of you in Fort Tryon Park, no? I spent so much time in that beautiful place when we visited Grams on Fort Washington Ave…somehow I am always startled by the intersections in our past lives. I’m pretty sure my mom knows all about Bloch and Falk (at least, I know the name of the place) — although my great uncle, Siegfried Lowenthal, had a butcher shop on Dyckman St (I think), and I’m sure my family got their meat from him. I am so glad you and Sonya are writing this blog…and someday when time and health are on my side I am planning to try your recipes — some of which are also my grandmother’s recipes!! Love to all, Deb
Deb: The picture is actually in the rear of Castle Village on Cabrini Boulevard. Its pretty much the same view as Fort Tryon Park. Glad you like the story.
Herta you look terrific! Can’t get a good cervelat anymore!
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I remember Bloch and Falk so well. They were the source of our Sunday night dinners. How I wish I could taste that cervelat again. By the way, Dyckman Market was on Broadway and 172nd Street.
Wonderful story….and it was repeated many times in”the Heights”. Do you have German-Jewish recipes to share, or the name of a cookbook that has some? I lived in the South but was raised on this cooking.
Best regards, and be well.
Thanks for writing, I’m glad you liked the story! Yes, we have shared some recipes here on this website. If you scroll back through our various posts, you will find recipes for Krokerle (hazelnut cookies), Krautsalat (cabbage slaw), Berches, Kohlrabi in white sauce, Himbeersaft (raspberry syrup) and pan-roasted potatoes. We are currently working on a cookbook of German-Jewish recipes — when it is published it will be the first and only one in print! We will keep you posted. best, Sonya
Oh, what I would not give, for even a small taste of some of those incredibly delicious wursts I remember eating every Sunday as a child from Bloch and Falk. Doesnt anyone have the recipes or interest in producing them?
Michael, Yes, that would be something if some of the old wursts could be produced again!
Why was Sunday always the day for cold-cuts?
As co-proprietor of this web sight I just want to appreciate that it has become a Washington Heights forum and network, which is great. I also want to post a reply to Jay W. In my household Sunday was not a cold-cut day. In fact, some time in the early 50’s my parents discovered a little Italian restaurant next to the RKO Coliseum on Broadway (and 181st Street). We discovered spaghetti with red sauce at that time and Sunday afternoons we often ate there. For dessert I joyfully recall the biscuit tortonis. On other Sundays it was probably a day for crepes to have with sour cream and applesauce, which my father. Stephen Rossmer, always made.
Was that Italian restaurant Al’s Diner which was closer to 184 St and Bway if I remember correctly. Good food and not a diner.
The restaurant you refer to I went with my friends from high school. No, the place I recall was where I said – on Broadway next to the RKO Coliseum.
please send me the receipe for phlomenkoken thank you
Made the krokerle. Mixture became impossibly thick, with only half the hazelnut added
Sue: We will let you know when we re-try the recipe…. it is a tricky one. Perhaps the 1/2 amount of hazelnuts caused the flour to become too thick.
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I’ve got a copy of “Kochbuch fur Israelitische Frauen” von Rebekka Wolf (geb. Heinemann)
Frankfurt Am Main 1888 edition. I also have an electronic version of another cookbook by the same title by Theresa Lederer (geb. Krauss) Budapest 1876. If you are interested, I can send you the second book.
Sure, Joel, it would be interestng to have the Hungarian book electronically, since we don’t have it. Thank you.
grew up on this “deli” including small, fat greenah wurstchen. ignore the bad German. also, had greenah kern soup. like to know where I can buy this. lots of memories as family lived on 172 street,apartment house, around the corner of B&F.interested in cookbook if it includes (again bad German)plumb cake, rivell cake, butter cookies, henchen, yeast baked callah, etc.
Hello, thanks for your comments (and sorry for the delay in replying)! You can buy greenkern (gruenkern in German) from Schaller & Weber in Manhattan (they also do mail order). Of the recipes you mentioned, we include plum cake (with muerbeteig dough, though you could substitute yeast dough, which we also have in the book), butter cookies, and Berches (what you called yeast baked challah). I’m not sure what rivell cake is? –Sonya