Alan Mishell/Collage by NPR
All Things We’re Cooking is a series starring family recipes of you, our readers and listeners, and the special stories behind them. We’ll continue to share more of your kitchen gems throughout the holidays.
Pancakes, like many other baked goods, require a leavening agent, but what if you can’t add any? Insert bubaleh, the kosher sweet and savory egg-based pancakes that Alan Mishell and his family have enjoyed for decades during Passover.
Instead of flour, Mishell’s Bubaleh recipe uses matzo flour and whipped egg whites to give this crepe its lift.
“Matzo is a reminder of the affliction of slavery and sugar, the sweetness of freedom,” Mishell said. “And we eat them together so we don’t remember one without the other.”
Mishell learned to make the pancakes from her grandmother, Florence Mishell, who lived in New York after arriving in the United States from Kinsk, Poland.
“This town, when she lived in it, was over 60% Jewish, and it was kind of a center of learning,” Mishell said. “And my grandmother … was able to leave before World War II. Her mother, my great-grandmother, managed to scrape together enough money to go with her children to the United States before the invasion Nazi, who was super lucky for us.”
After the Nazi invasion of the city, Mishell said the percentage of Jews fell to zero because they were all killed or sent to the Treblinka death camp.
“While this is a food that celebrates our freedom from slavery, it also comes across as a food from another escape,” Mishell said.
Mishell divides his time between Boulder, Colorado, and Chesterfield, Mo., and is the third generation of his family in the United States to make the recipe. He recently passed it down to his 14-year-old son, Sander Scharff, who loves cooking. Mishell hopes he continues to do so.
“I think it’s significant that we share it, especially now that there’s an alarming rise in anti-Semitism right now,” Mishell said. “It’s scary, and it’s important to share our traditions and pass on information and reflection over thousands of years ago to today.”
Although it’s traditionally a food that Mishell and her family eat during Passover, it can be made any time of the year, he said. Once you have your bubaleh, slice it like a pizza and top with cinnamon or maple syrup.
Regarding the meaning of bubaleh, Mishell said that in Yiddish it has several meanings.
“One is just bubbles, right? That’s what you do. You whip the eggs into this bubbly froth,” he said. “But it’s also like a term of endearment…kind of like ‘sweetheart’ that a grandparent might say to a grandchild.”
Recipe submitted by Alan Mishell
Boulder, Colorado, and Chesterfield, Missouri.
- 4 eggs (sometimes up to 6)
- 1/4 cup matzo flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- jam or syrup, your choice
Separate the eggs.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff (preferably in a stainless steel or copper bowl).
In a second bowl, combine the egg yolks, matzo flour, sugar and salt.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and grease it with butter.
Gently fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites until lightly incorporated.
Pour the batter into the skillet and fry, covered, turning once.
Plate then sprinkle cinnamon over it.
Cut into wedges and serve with jam and syrup—and fruit!