Tirggel are traditional Christmas biscuits from Zürich, Switzerland. Made from flour and honey, they are thin, hard, and sweet.
Tirggel-like honey cakes were already popular in antiquity. The earliest known baking moulds for similar pastries date to 3rd millennium BC Mesopotamia. The recipe is believed to have come to northern Europe with the conquests of the Roman Empire. In what is today Switzerland, tirggel are said to have been used as pagan offertory cakes, cut in the shape of sacrificial animals.
Tirggel are first recorded in Zürich as Dirgel in 1461. They have been manufactured there ever since with elaborately carved wooden moulds depicting Biblical or regional themes. More recently, the wooden moulds—four of which are exhibited in the Swiss National Museum—have been replaced by polycarbonate casts, which are easier to handle.
Tirggel dough is composed of flour, 29 percent honey, some sugar and water; although one source reports that it is or was made without sugar, which is taken to be an indication of the tirggel's pre-Christian origins.
The dough is pressed very thinly into elaborately carved moulds of varying shapes and sizes; the tirggel can be as large as windowpanes. The biscuits are baked in a high-temperature oven at 400 °C (752 °F) for only 90 seconds and require good timing to get right.
Because tirggel are hard and dry, they are best when sucked on for a while, allowing the honey flavour to become more pronounced.
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A Tirggel Recipe, www.chroniclesofthyme.com