Once a year, for the Jewish holidays, I make my grandmother’s recipe for camisbroit (pronounced ca-MISS-broit). Outside my family, I think it’s more commonly known as roly-poly. Camisbroit is basically a cookie dough, rolled into a large rectangle, then slathered with sugar, cinnamon, jam, nuts, raisins and coconut. You roll it up from the long side, and slice it when it’s done.
For me, it’s pure comfort-slash-nostalgia food.
I love reading the recipe. My favourite line is “Add Crisco, and rub out,” a turn of phrase I associate with my grandmother. It’s not something you see in contemporary recipes, and even if I understood exactly what it meant, I wouldn’t follow the directions, because I prefer to use oil. But that particular instruction, along with the “1/8 glass of lukewarm water” that is listed as an ingredient, comprise part of the recipe’s charm.
I asked my mother yesterday if she knew its origins. Her best guess is that her mother got the recipe from a friend named Gertie, who was a wonderful baker.
She doesn’t think it was passed down from her own grandmother. “I don’t remember her making it,” my mom told me.
The recipe is not always precise when it comes to measurements. I just add more flour until the dough is workable. This year, I made a big mess, mostly with the jam, but the end result was worth the trouble. I also used a mix of nuts – almonds, pecans and pistachios – even though my grandmother usually used almonds alone.
For a treat (before I was born), my mother recalls that Baba used to put Turkish Delight in the centre. But, for me, the recipe that follows is the most authentic.
Scant half-cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 lb. Crisco (or 1/4 cup oil)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 glass lukewarm water
1 cup of flour (to start)
Almonds (or other nuts)
1. Beat eggs with sugar. Add Crisco, and rub out. (Or add oil, and beat together.) Add vanilla. Add water, flour and baking powder together. (One cup of flour isn’t nearly enough.)
2. Let rest in fridge 15 minutes.
3. Roll out dough into large rectangle, not too thin.
4. Sprinkle dough generously with sugar and cinnamon. Spread jam on top, then add nuts, raisins and coconut.
5. Roll up dough from long side. Mark 1/2-inch pieces with a knife, scoring the top of the dough gently.
6. Bake at 350 F until brown. Check after 20 minutes. The camisbroit should be just starting to brown.