Kiffles (pronounced “keef-lees”) are small cream cheese pastries with a thin crust and a crispy bottom.
They can be found at many restaurants during holidays such as Easter or Thanksgiving.
They were originally created by German immigrants who settled in Lancaster County in the mid 1800s.
The Germans brought their recipes from Bavaria, Austria, and Bohemia to America before moving on to other places like Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
Kiffles originated in Germany but have since been adopted into American culture.
What Is A Kiffle?
The name comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch word for kiefel (which means “little keyhole”), which explains how they look.
A kiffle is usually about two inches wide and resembles a miniature piecrust.
It has a thin top layer and a thicker, crispier base.
Some bakeries call them kipfels (pronounced kee-falls).
These little treats are easy to make and require very few ingredients.
You will need butter, flour, salt, baking powder, milk, eggs, and cream cheese.
If you want to add some flavor, you can use vanilla extract or cinnamon sugar.
This simple recipe uses all white food grade flour, so there’s no chance of it being contaminated with wheat flour.
To get this type of flour, check your local grocery store’s bakery section where the bulk bins may offer different brands than what you would find in a typical supermarket.
These foods tend to be more expensive because they don’t travel well, so if you buy too much of one brand, you might end up throwing out most of it!
It’s important to keep an eye on your oven temperature when making these sweet delights.
As they bake, the moisture rises quickly causing the dough to puff up.
Once baked, the steam inside causes the tops to crack.
When you see these cracks forming, remove them immediately to prevent burning.
If you want to save time, you can just set aside half of the dough and freeze it until needed.
Then thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and roll it out.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 2 large whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup heavy cream plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Is The Origin Of The Kiffle?
The word kiffle comes from two sources.
First, it is related to the English word “cackle,” which means “to make noise.”
Second, there is also an old German word for a type of wooden shoe called a kaffle, meaning a flat piece of wood that was used to bind shoes together.
Kiffles come in several different shapes, including hearts, stars, diamonds, and triangles.
Some kiffles are round while others are square.
Some varieties are filled with jam, fruit preserves, or even chocolate chips.
How Is A Kiffle Made?
To make this kiffle you will need flour, butter, shortening, eggs, milk, salt, vanilla extract, and baking powder.
You might also want to include sugar if your taste buds prefer it sweet.
If so, add one tablespoon more than called for.
You start out by creaming together the butter and shortening until fluffy.
Add the eggs and mix well.
Then add the dry ingredients, including the flour, salt, baking powder, and vanilla.
Mix all of these ingredients together until they form a dough.
To create an even layer of dough, use a spatula dipped in cold water to spread the dough evenly over the countertop.
This should take about 10 minutes.
Once the dough has formed, roll it out using a rolling pin until it’s around 1/8 inch thick.
Cut it into squares using a pizza cutter or knife.
Once you have cut each square, fold them in half diagonally to form triangles.
Now place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake in a 350° F oven for 15-20 minutes.
When the kiffles come out of the oven, let them cool completely.
Take a fork and poke holes in the side of each triangle.
Fill the center of each kiffle with some whipped cream cheese.
Use a spoon or piping bag to fill them with anything else you would normally put inside a kiffle!
If you don’t eat dairy, feel free to leave the whipped cream cheese off.
But if you do enjoy it, here are some ideas for what to stuff inside:
- Peanut Butter
- Cherry preserves
- Fruit salad
- Chocolate chips
What Is The Traditional Filling For A Kiffle?
The filling of a kiffle varies depending on where it was made.
In Pennsylvania, they usually use cottage cheese, while those in New York prefer ricotta cheese.
Some people also add ground beef, sausage, or bacon bits to the mixture.
There isn’t one right way to make them.
This recipe uses a combination of both cheeses.
It’s really up to you if you want to go all out and mix everything together or keep things simple and just put in the two types of cheeses separately.
What Are Some Other Popular Fillings For Kiffles?
The most common filling of a kiffle is cinnamon sugar, which adds flavor to the crisp bottom of the pastry.
But there are also savory options like potato leek sausage kiffles and apple cobbler kiffles.
Some people prefer to use whipped cream instead of buttercream frosting when they make kiffles because it doesn’t leave any greasy residue behind after baking.
You could even add chocolate chips to your kiffle dough if you want!
How Do You Shape Kiffles?
You will need two 9 inch pie pans filled halfway full of water.
Once they are ready to go, remove them from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.
While this may seem counterintuitive, it helps prevent sticking when shaping.
Using an offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup of flour onto each pan then flip over one pan onto another.
Using a rolling pin, roll out your dough so it covers both pans evenly.
If there are any holes or cracks, patch them up with more dough.
You should now have a perfectly round circle.
Flip over the second pan, place it on top of the first, and use your hands to gently press down firmly.
When done correctly, the dough should stretch easily without breaking.
Remove the top plate and carefully slide off the bottom plate.
Use a knife to trim off the edges if necessary.
Place the plates back in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, combine all ingredients together with your fingers and mix well.
Be sure not to overmix!
Once everything comes together nicely, scoop about 1/3 of the mixture onto each plate.
Spread evenly across the surface.
Take a fork and poke little holes all around the edge of the kiffle.
Do not pierce through the center because you want the steam to escape.
Now take a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the entire kiffle.
Fold the ends under slightly and put it on top of the kiffle.
Press down firmly.
Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
This allows the kiffle to firm up, making the next step easier.
Now we get to the fun part.
Remove the kiffles from the fridge, unwrap them, and cut them diagonally into 6 equal pieces.
Then, using the same method used to shape them, fold each piece into quarters.
Roll out each quarter again, forming the dough into a perfect rectangle.
Repeat the process three times.
At this point, your kiffles should look something like this.
Place each kiffel in your preheated 350 degree F oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Carefully remove from the oven and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
How Do You Bake Kiffles?
The first step for making kiffles is to prepare your ingredients.
You will need 1 cup of flour, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, and 4 tablespoons unsalted butter which has been cut into pieces.
Once your ingredients are ready, add them together and mix thoroughly using either an electric mixer or a fork until the dough becomes one mass.
Next, divide the mixture evenly between two bowls.
To make the filling, combine 3 ounces cream cheese with 2 tablespoons sugar and beat it well with a hand mixer or whisk.
Add some vanilla extract if desired.
To assemble the kiffles, place half of the dry mixture in a bowl and cover it with the cream cheese mixture.
Repeat this process once more, ending up with three layers of each ingredient.
Lastly, roll out the dough so that it covers all sides of the bowl and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
Make sure that there is plenty of space around the edges of the refrigerator because they expand while chilling.
After the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking oil and set it aside.
Place the kiffles onto the prepared pan and bake them for 20 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and flip over the cookies so that the uncooked side faces down.
Bake for another 10 minutes.
When the kiffles are done, let them cool completely before storing them in airtight containers.
However, it would be wise to keep them refrigerated after they come out of the oven since they lose crispiness quickly when stored at room temperature.
What Is The Best Way To Store Kiffles?
If your kiffles will not be eaten within a few days of baking them, it is important to keep them in an airtight container until they are consumed.
If stored properly, kiffles should stay fresh for up to two weeks.
You may also freeze kiffles if you want to save them for later.
Simply place them in ziplock bags and lay flat in the freezer for about one hour.
Once frozen, transfer to an airtight container.
How Long Do Kiffles Last?
Although they look simple to make, kiffles take time to prepare.
It takes around one hour of active work, plus another half an hour for the dough to rest after rolling it out.
Once you roll your dough out, you need to let it sit until it rises enough to fit into your pan.
Then, once baked, the kiffle will usually stay fresh for up to two days if kept away from moisture.
If you don’t want to wait for them to rise first, then all you have to do is bake them right away!
However, I recommend waiting at least 30 minutes because the crust will continue to cook while sitting in the oven.
If you want to keep them longer than 2 days, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them.
To reheat, just pop them back in the microwave for 10 seconds per side.
It is important to note that kiffles should never be frozen.
When freezing, the water content inside the kiffle increases which could lead to dryness when thawed later.
Also, the texture changes slightly so the kiffles become less fluffy and more dense.
Lastly, if you plan to freeze any leftovers of these tasty treats, be sure to label them well so you know what was in each package.
What Are Some Other Interesting Facts About Kiffles?
The name of this treat comes from the word kifft which means “to cut through” or “to slice” in Yiddish.
It was also known as a crescenze because it resembled a cross when sliced.
In addition to being a traditional holiday food, they are often served for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, graduations, and more.
There are several different types of kiffles that vary depending on where you live.
Some examples include:
- Bavarian kiffelet – Similar to a croissant but smaller.
- Also called an egg tart.
- German kiffelet – Made out of puff pastry and contains raisins.
- Hungarian kiffelikalács – Contains poppy seeds, chocolate chips, nuts, fruit, and spices.
- Pennsylvania Dutch kiffel – A sweetened dough filled with buttercream frosting.
- cookie sheet
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 2-1/2 cups cake and pastry filling about two 12-ounce cans
- Set aside the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
- 2 to 3 minutes, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until very smooth and creamy.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until just combined. The dough should be moist but not sticky.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1/2-inch thick square. Cut into four equal pieces and wrap each in plastic wrap separately. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and place a rack in the center of the oven to roll and cut the dough. Using parchment paper, line a large cookie sheet.
- Remove one portion of the dough from the fridge and place it on a well-floured surface.
- Cover the dough with a sheet of wax or parchment paper and dust with flour. Roll the dough out to a 1/8-inch-thick square, working from the center outward. It should be about 9 inches long.
- See our recipe notes below to learn how to roll your dough into a perfect square for the best results.
- Cut your dough into small squares both lengthwise and crosswise with a pastry wheel or a sharp knife.
- Your total yield will be determined by how big you make them. We recommend 1-1/2-inch kiffles, which will yield 36 kiffles per square of dough, or approximately 12 dozen total.
- To keep the size even, use a ruler and mark all four sides of the dough square at regular intervals with the tip of a knife. You can also use the handle of a spatula to guide your cuts and keep your lines straight (similar to drawing straight lines on a sheet of paper).
- Place a small mound of filling (about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) in the center of each square as quickly as possible. If your filling flavor is relatively smooth, spoon it into a small freezer bag, snip off a tiny bottom corner, and squeeze the filling onto the squares. This is especially effective with the poppy and almond flavors.
- Lift and gently pinch two opposite corners of the dough over the filling. Fold that “point” to one side, moisten the tip of your finger with water, and gently smooth it down on one side of the kiffle. This keeps the kiffles from popping open while baking.
- Arrange the kiffles 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 12 to 14 minutes, or until barely golden. Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet before carefully transferring the kiffles to cooling racks.
- Repeat with the remaining three dough portions, using different filling flavors if desired.