Last updated on December 16th, 2019
Updated 2019. My grandmother, Nova Metzger Jacobs, routinely made Merveilles at Christmastime, and I, as a child, routinely ate too many of them! Can you blame me? Merveilles (French for “miracle)” are crisply puffed, orange scented strips of fried dough. Here’s how to make these insanely delicious treats:
Memory snapshot. Nova, along with my grandfather, Frederick, lived in a rambling 1920s house in Washington State. One closed-off room in the house held an enormous upright piano. As a toddler, I liked to sneak into that room, and tickle the ivories to my heart’s content. This music-making eventually lead to piano lessons with some of the most gifted teachers in the world, including Yvonne Kovacevich in Spokane, and German Diez in New York City.
Of course, the piano is indirectly responsible for my brief career as a punk-rocker. I performed not once, not twice, but seven times at CGBGs in New York. There were other dates at other hip venues as well. Like S.N.A.F.U. in the East Village, and The Other End in the West Village.
I don’t think my grandmother would have appreciated my punk rock days, nor my punkish appearance. My hair was spiky. I wore a spider-earring.
But grandmama would be glad to know that my piano-passion continues even to this day, as evidenced by the three grands in my home. Two pianos — a Steinway and a Yamaha — are located before a window garden. The plants seem particularly fond of Bach, Mozart, and Chopin. I have not tested their capacity for 1980s punk rock.
Enough memoir. Let’s hit the cookie-trail, okay?
First, put 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch of salt into a small bowl…
And violently whisk them together.
In a separate, medium-size bowl, add 3 tablespoons sugar…
I hope you have a micro-zester. If not, add it to your Christmas list. It is not an expensive gadget.
Use your fingers to rub the orange zest into the sugar until all is fragrant. Including your fingers.
Add 1 tablespoon thoroughly softened butter to the perfumed sugar…
And stir it in with a bright yellow spatula.
Then reach into your purse, and retrieve a bottle of…this stuff.
No brandy in your purse? Reach for the dark rum!
Stir into the sugar mixture 2 tablespoons of the brandy or rum.
Also stir in 1 large, beaten egg…
And 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Then stir in the dry ingredients.
Keep stirring until a soft, sticky dough forms.
Then scoop the dough onto a sheet of plastic film, wrap it up, and chill it for 2 hours or overnight.
No pictures of the following 2 steps: Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap, and generously flour a work surface. My work surface is a piece of canvas.
Cut the dough in half, and return one half to the refrigerator.
Flour the top of the dough, and then roll it out, turning it over and adding more flour to keep it from sticking, until the dough is paper thin.
Note: I rolled my pastry into a free-form shape. If you’d prefer a neat, 4-inch wide rectangle, go for it.
Use a ravioli cutter, a pastry cutter, or a sharp knife to cut the dough into strips. The strips can be long or short, wide or narrow. I made both long and short ribbons, all of them 1 inch in width.
Place the pieces on the baking sheet, and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
No picture here, because I forgot to take one: In a large, heavy pot (or a deep-fat fryer, if you have one), heat 4 inches of oil to 350°F. Don’t guess here — use a candy thermometer to make sure the temperature is correct.
Lay the Merveilles, 4 or 5 at a time, in the hot fat, and let them cook on both sides until golden brown. You can use chopsticks or a slotted spatula to flip them.
Then transfer the cookies to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, let them drain for a moment, and then smother both sides with confectioners’ sugar.
Enjoy these miracles while they are still slightly warm, and preferably while you are not wearing a black cashmere sweater.
Delicious, delicious, delicious.
Think you’ll try these cookies of my youth? You can let me know by leaving a comment.
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Here’s the printable:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- The grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons brandy or dark rum
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Flavorless vegetable oil for deep frying
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Tip the granulated sugar and orange zest into a medium bowl, and rub them together with fingertips until the sugar is fragrant. Add the butter, and blend it into the sugar with a spatula. Stir in the egg, brandy, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, and stir until a soft, sticky dough develops. Scoop the dough onto a sheet of plastic, and wrap it up. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.
- Cut the dough in half, and return one half to the refrigerator. Put the first half on a lightly floured surface. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour, and then roll it out, flipping it over frequently and adding more flour to keep it from sticking, until it is paper thin. (You can roll the dough into a neat rectangle or a free-form shape.) Use a pastry cutter, a fluted ravioli cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into strips that are approximately 1-inch-wide and 4 inches long. Roll out and cut the remaining dough into strips. Transfer the strips to the prepared baking sheet, and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
- Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. In a heavy pot, heat 4 inches of oil to 350°F as determined by a candy thermometer. Fry 4 or 5 strips at a time just until golden brown on one side. Then flip the strips with chopsticks or a heat proof spatula, and brown the other side. Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet, let drain for 1 minute, then coat both sides with confectioners' sugar. Merveilles are best when served on the day you fry them.
I would so love to see you in your punk rock days!
Allison K says
You can’t wax nostalgic about your punk days without showing at least one photograph!!
(Preferably with the spider earring!)
Brenda Johnson says
I agree with your other fans….a picture is in order!!! That vote cast…I shall continue on with my rave “review” of this spectacular cookie!! I do believe this one is my new favorite-
The texture is perfectly crisp and delicate, without being at all crumbly or brittle. The orange flavor is wonderful in this not too sweet cookie. The powdered sugar “snow” adds a melt in your mouth goodness, as well as a festive holiday touch!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you Kevin!!!!
myttle miller says
I’ll probably make some with my family. You should post some of your piano playing. When I was little and went to a home that had a piano I was always in awe. In my mind people who had a piano were somehow set apart from the rest of humanity. Lol…I purchased a piano a few years ago an electric piano and a few of the springs need to be replaced. I can play “Ode To Joy”.
I SO enjoy when you share so much of yourself with us! I can’t wait to try these cookies! I love how personal you make each blog/post, I just feel like I’m right there with you and can almost smell whatever it is you are making each time. Thank you Kevin!
I knew the moment I first laid eyes on your blog you were one cool orange zester. I admire how hard you try at everything. I highly doubt I will ever make these cookies but I had no idea one could carry rum in one’s purse….something I will now consider while dusting my walls
Will definitely try these for a quiet gathering during the snow season.
Would love to see an old punk rock picture. I’m a former punker myself.
Thanks for sharing.
Cary Bradley says
Hi Kevin! Do you know the country origin of these lovely-sounding cookies? Was your grandmere French? Our neighbor across the street when we were kids in the late 50s made a coveted treat much like this sounds and I wonder if they are of similar origin. She was eastern European and tres exotic to this little Southern Californian girl. Do really wonder where these cookies hail from. Thank you for sharing yourself. Big hugs!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Cary – I suspect that many European countries can claim these cookies as their own. But to answer your question, my paternal grandmother’s (Nova’s) family comes from Saarland, Germany. (My mother’s side of the family is all French.) In Provence, the cookies are called “Oreillettes” as well as “Merveilles.” But they are delicious by any name!
Joann DeLeury says
Hi Kevin……The cookies look wonderful and they remind me of the Italian cookies
my mother use to make called Crostoli. They were very, very good!! Would love to
see pictures also…..but really would love to munch on those cookies and listen to
you play the piano!!
badger gardener says
First of all, these look amazing and perfect as a holiday cookie. I was told I didn’t need to bring anything for Christmas eve dinner so was on the lookout for an idea that no one could refuse.
Secondly, I love that the Little People keep making appearances in your blog. I work for a hospital system in a pediatric therapy clinic and years ago we were consolidating 2 clinics. I was in charge of packing up at my site where we had 2 original sets of the Fisher Price Little People farm. You must remember the barn door that moos when you open it. Between the two they made a complete set right down to the silo and fences. Every fiber in me said I should just set it aside and tell my superiors I was keeping it. Technically, the older version is now considered a choking hazard, although the kids we see are always under direct supervision so we can still use it. Our team mostly does home visits and we are notorious for not being able to keep a toy set together which is why I thought I should not put a collector’s item into the general toy population. Alas, I did not listen to my instincts. I still work there and, of course, over half of the collection has ended up lost. Every time I see the empty barn and silo on the shelf I want to kick myself.
If making ahead, what’s the best way to store them to keep them fresh and crispy?
Happy Birthday Kevin! I can smell the merveilles… Definitely agree a punier pic is in order, or better yet a video
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
I confess to being intimidated by that large pot of hot oil.
But the cookies look so impressive.
And I must have lived a sheltered existence because that ravioli cutter is AWESOME !
These look wonderful!
I love the name Nova, I have a younger cousin (she is a teenager) named Nova. 🙂
Merry Christmas to your family!
Can grated ginger be substituted for the orange?
I love your site–it inspires me!
Having the kids over for Christmas breakfast…then opening presents!
Love your music room, do you do dueling piano concerts? Would love to sit and listen while munching Mervielles with maybe a flute of Champagne 🙂
Thanks as always, your recipes are always winners.
I have come to the conclusion that you have too much fun at your house! You make me laugh out loud.
Susan M. says
You are a man of many surprises! I too would love to see pics of your punk rocker days!
Happy Birthday, Kevin! May you have the best day ever. Add me to the list of folks that would love to see a photo of you with that spider earring.
The cookies look delicious and very similar to what my Mother used to make in Poland. They were cut in the middle and then flipped through the whole to form a bow. I still make them once a year for Fat Tuesday. I never added an orange zest (not something common in Poland in those days) and will have to remember to try it this time around.
First off, Happy Birthday! I hope your day in the Hudson Valley is as sunny as what we’re having here in central NY!
The oil intimidates me also, but we have to step outside our comfort zone, don’t we? I will keep the Merveilles in mind when I want to be daring! Ha!
Merci beaucoup. Monsieur Kevin,
Your recipe is merveilleux and your memoir tidbits leave me wanting more.
I teach French to young students; did you grow up speaking French?
I also attend an adult French conversation circle which is going to be treated to your Merveilles this week!
You also made my day by mentioning Spokane where my youngest now lives. Anything to let me know Spokane really exists is thrilling.
So is your blog; thank you.
All I can to say is YUM!
Haha I mean “manage to say”
These remind me of my childhood also. My Mother would make Kruschiki – Polish. Thanks
I truly enjoyed reading this receipe, you are so funny.
These are Polish favorites and Christmas in Poland isn’t official until someone makes these Chrusciki (spelling is “krusczyki”).
My recipe is very simple, but a vinegar and sour cream is a must! And lots of egg yolks!
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoon vodka or Brandy
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2,5 cups flour
Oil for deep-frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
And there’s a special way of cutting them and then forming them into a bow:
Here is what they’re called in other countries:
Belarus – хрушчы (chruščy) or фаворкі (favorki)
Croatia – krostole
Denmark – klejner
France – bugnes
Germany – raderkuchen
Hungary – csöröge
Italy – bugie, cenci, chiacchiere, crostoli, frappe, galani, sfrappole
Lithuania – žagarėliai
Malta – xkunvat
Romania – minciunele, regionally: cirighele, scovergi
Russia – хворост (khvorost)
Sweden – klenäter
Ukraine – вергуни (verhuny)
USA – Angel Wings or Bow Ties
Marry Christmas! 🙂
I will definitely make the Miracles…can’t wait. They sound divine. Happy Birthday!!!
Happy Birthday Kevin!! I wish you many happy returns on the day. XO
Wish you had a print button…I have never been successful at copy and paste…even when I follow the directions step for step…
Happy Birthday Dear Kevin! My first born Birthday is Dec.8, winter born people are so creative!! Love your Grandmas first name, did you call Nona Nova? Or Grammy or what? These cookies look devine, and i bet they smell & taste that way too. Thanks for sharing on your special day.
You can bet your sweet by and by I’ll be making these sweets. My grandmother would make Raderkuchen and I won rave reviews from my kids when they learned about this tradition. While your version is a tad different from Nanny’s the memories that come with these little treats are priceless. Wish I could give you a big hug for bringing these back into my life.
Merry Christmas everyone!
I love your stories! My great grandmother lived in a huge house on a lake in Washington. It sounds more romantic than it was really. She took in borders to make ends meet during the recession, and ran a fishing resort all by herself. She was one ballsy lady. Anyway…
One summer in the 10th year or so, I decided to go through the house and collect all the neat keys in the old doors. There were MANY. My mother was appalled when she saw my collection, and we spent the better part of an afternoon figuring out which door they went to. Ha, youth!
I’ll have to try your grandmother’s special cookies. Those grannies are very special people!
Herb Fogelberg says
My grandmother and mother also made these every Christmas but they were/are the Swedish rendition called Fatiman (poor mans cookies). I have not attempted them for many years but since I am now pretty much retired and you have brought them back to mind I will have to make them this year.
Thanks for all your posts & recipes. Love your site.
Since my hubby is a Metzger and German, I think I had better make some of these cookies.
Going to down town Spokane this week to see the Christmas Tree in the mall. Us Metzgers love cookies and this looks like a winner. Thanks.
I have not made these delicious cookies in years! But we called them Angel’s Wings.
Anne in Vermont Zone 4/5 says
Happy Birthday! Tonight I made a double batch of your lentil kale sausage stew. I gave you the credit for the recipe. It is good fresh, but even better the next day or two when the rice and lentils have swollen more. We will have it again on Tuesday while the snow falls. Paul mixed you up with The Beekman Boys, but I set him straight.
Many Happy Returns of the day.
We made them yesterday, and they are ooh, ooh, ooh, so delicious! I sealed half the cookies in an airtight bag overnight, and ate several for breakfast this morning. Still good! Thank you for the very clear directions!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Ceillia – Music to my ears!
Brooklyn Bob says
I shot coffee through my nose when I saw the picture of Mrs. Little People. Thanks for the great food, the clear recipes, and yes, the humor!!!
Lori G. says
These look divine! And I think I will try them this year…if I can find the time between decorating and spritz cookie making.
Also, I agree. A punk rock pic is in order.
Happy birthday! Mine is the 12th of the 12th… & I was punk too, with pink & purple hair & a nose stud Such fun to shock staid middle-aged ones! Now I’m that age myself… ho hum. Love your postings; where the piccie?! xx
I know I have to make these cookies! Yum! As I do not do any deep-frying what do you suggest to do with the oil when you are finished making the cookies. And please be serious. LOL
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Donna – I usually toss the oil after use. But lots of cooks filter their deep-frying oil, and then re-use it. More info here.
Happy birthday, Kevin!
As soon as I saw the pic of these cookies…shazam! I was instantly transported back to the vision of my Italian grandma and me making these cookies, which she called “wandies.” I had completely forgotten about them! Wow, thank you for that very fond memory and for the recipe!
With my grandma’s passing, her recipes were lost to our family (her recipes weren’t written down, but baked from her heart and memory). I have spent years trying to recreate all of the fabulous baked goods she would make throughout the year, at every major holiday. I’m so excited to now make these.
I enjoy your blog and so many of your recipes, but this one recipe really means a lot. Thanks again and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Why the name change? It used to come in as A Garden for the House. Now it says Kevin at A Garden for the House. Just wondering why.
Holly R says
The dough is in the fridge. It smells soooo good!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Holly R – Hurray! If you get the chance, let me know how they turn out for you. (Delicious, I hope!)
Thank you for such a delightful recipe! selecting the perfect green bowl for the occasion! <3
also huge thx for the wintering geranium tip… trying that too!
Ravina Engebretson says
Kevin..In Norway a similar recipe is called Fuddyman/Fuddymon..It means Funny man because you take the dough and twist it to make it look like a man!! My husband makes these for the holidays along with Krumkeke and Lefse….and happy late birthday too!!!
Cindy Norton says
I love the look of these cookies, as soon as I can aquire some good brandy I will be making these little babies.
You see I live in Indiana, they have a crazy law here, no liquior sales on Sunday. Monday i will give them a try!
I was in southern Germany last fall, and found a shop selling snowballs” , which look like a play on these Miracles.
They took the strips of dough, formed them into a loose ball and then fried the ball and dusted with confectioners sugar….so pretty.
Kathleen Killmeyer says
Hey Kevin – These look outstanding and remind me so much of my German heritage. I grew up in the PA Dutch area and my family on both sides goes way back as Germans. That photo of your pianos is just beautiful and your story really made me smile. Nothing at all is wrong with being a punk rocker and I am really impressed that you were a part of the culture. Patti Smith is one of my most favorite artists!
Ruth DiChiara says
I always enjoy your stories, your sense of humor, and your fabulous recipes. Can’t wait to try this one!
These look amazing! I can’t wait to try them.
These memories are awesome!. Thank you for sharing. You are very fortunate to have been so blessed. You ended up a long way from home! Hope you go back sometimes!
Happy Thanksgiving, again!
I too have memories of a fantastic piano teacher at the Grosse Pointe Conservatory in Michigan – Fontaine Zeff. What a wonderful woman she was – and I owe my love of all things classical to her. No spider earring for me – darn! We need to see a photo of you in all your New York glory however! LOVE this recipie — Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Kevin!
These are beautiful! Much more delicate than beignets. YUM!
Amy G. says
Oh my gosh, these sound absolutely divine. I’m not big on deep frying, so I don’t know if I will make them, but I might have to get over it. 😉 (It’s just so messy.)
I LOVE that you were a punk! What band were you in? I may have heard of it! I love that whole scene, those were the days, yes? 😉
Sheri Syverson says
I’m not going to be able to wait until Christmas to try these.
My twin sis walked over to a piano when she was about two and started picking out songs. So we were both blessed with piano lessons.
This sounds like something fun to make with my grandson over the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately he will want to take all that are not eaten home to his mom, dad, and brother.
Mona Klassen says
i have had these cookies from Ukrainians, Poles, Hungarians, and my own Norwegian family.
all slightly different, but all really delicious. the problem is, you can eat a whole plate of them!
Hi Kevin, California here — I’m groaning at the 4 cups of oil for deep frying – BUT, they look so good, I must try them. Stupid question, but what type of oil would you suggest. I can bake, I just don’t do it much anymore. Thanks.
My mother always made the polish version at Christmas as mentioned above. They are called Kruschickis. To make the cookie look like a bow, cut a one inch slit in the middle of the cut dough and pull one end through the slit, then fry. They are so delicious. My children love them but they are quite a bit of work to make.
Anne in Vermont Zone 4/5 says
I was looking forward to these beauties until I reached the 4″ of fat. Too much work for me to deal with that, though I am sure they are wonderful. I was planning to take them to the garden club Christmas party, but now am back to an appetizer. Perhaps I will branch out this year to one of your recipes for it is sure to be a hit.
Thanks for keeping these coming.
ingmarie peck says
Thank you for the recipe.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Julie R says
Kevin, I like that you share personal things about yourself and your family. You have a way of making me feel like I am right there with you when I am reading your recipes and gardening blogs. I never would have guessed that you did some punk rock, back in the day. It sounds like you have fond memories of plunking on the piano at you grandparents house. It reminds me of when I was younger, and I would play my brother’s piano.
These Merveilles look yummy. Oh dear, I never knew that Mrs Little People was a party animal Ha Ha = )
Brenda E says
Thanks for sharing! LOVE that you have two pianos in one room. At the moment, so do I… simply because I purchased a “new to me” electric grand and my daughter has yet to pick up the upright I received for my sixteenth birthday. Hopefully, my four-year-old granddaughter will enjoy the old upright as much as I did!
Kat and I enjoyed making pies, breads, and other yummy things for Thanksgiving. I’m sure we’ll enjoy trying out the Merveilles! There’s a special bond between Grandmas and their grandchildren when they cook or make music together!
Rosiland Ball says
COOKIES LOOK FABULOUS WAS WONDERING WHERE THE 3RD PIANO WAS LOCATED? I DON’T RECALL SEEING IT IN ANY OF YOUR HOUSE PHOTOS.
Here is a question that may turn your stomach —- what would happen if you used this dough, but baked instead of fried?? (asking for a friend:)
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi MaryMargaret – The strips of dough puff up like pillows when they are fried in oil. Also, the oil gives the confectioners’ sugar something to cling to. These two “miracles” won’t occur if the dough is baked.
Diane Hinkle says
I can hear you saying to grandma…….”but, baby, look at me now!” About the cookies……how well do these keep. Being fried they may need to be eaten quickly ? They sound interesting and I love interesting cookies. But I don’t want to have to eat them all quickly!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Diane – Although Merveilles taste best on the day they are made, they are still quite good 3 days later. Heck, I ate them 5 days later after I’d made an ENORMOUS batch for a video shoot one year!
Jerry King says
Kevin, how long will these keep after being made?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Jerry – Merveilles will keep for at least 3 days.
Deep-fried and a ‘miracle’ treat – sounds like Hanukkah to me – yumm!!
By the way – I don’t know about my plants, but my little songbird responded only to classical music – began to sing the instant I sat down to the piano – but never made a sound when there was ‘music’ on the television.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Welcome Anita. Yes, Merveilles for Hanukkah! Love the bird story!
These look fantastic. Can they be made with a gluten-free flour?
Diane Peak says
Kevin, an easy way to get your dough paper thin is to use a pasta machine!!
Carolyn D Contois says
You know that your stories make the recipes!!! Over the years, I’ve come to read your blog like I’m talking to an old friend….thank you
Hers to a wonderful Holiday…. and a gracious, fruitful New Year!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Diane – Pasta machine. Brilliant idea!
Hi Carolyn – Happy holidays to you as well!
Sandra Payette says
Kevin, I wonder if the air fryer machine would work for these? It made a nice job of the chicken you made. I am ordering an air fryer for my Christmas gift. Thanks.
GREGOIRE CHESAUX says
Wow! My late Swiss father used to make these, cut round and placed between waxed paper in the freezer till he wanted to cook them in oil, and sprinkle with powdered sugar. I thought I’d never find a recipe. He learned from his GrandMother. I googled Merveilles and finally found an image. Thank You!!!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Gregoire – So glad you found this recipe. Enjoy the Merveilles!