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Kitchen Histories: The Bimuelo Pan

Mar 25, 2013

by Sarah Lohman

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Sarah Lohman is a historic gastronomist. She recreates historic recipes as a way to make a personal connection with the past, as well as to inspire her contemporary cooking. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Four Pounds Flour. In this series, Lohman will comb Etsy for items that speak to America’s culinary past.

Although no one has lived at 97 Orchard Street since 1935, if you knock on the door of the rear first-floor apartment, a resident in a long, black wig, dressed in the latest 1916 fashions, will answer the door.

No, this isn’t a ghost story. That’s because twice a week, the person behind the door is me. When I’m not blogging for Etsy, I work as an educator at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a historic structure that offers a peek into the life of new immigrants on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It’s an important neighborhood when you consider 25% of Americans have an ancestor that lived here at one time or another. Freed from velvet ropes and display cases, a visitor can instead participate in a “living history” program — such as meeting one of the building’s 1916 residents, a 14-year-old Sephardic Jewish immigrant, Victoria Confino.

Will Heath

The author in the apartment where she plays Victoria Confino, holding a photo of the Confino family.

I got my start as a historian in “living” history, an immersive style of teaching not only for the audience, but also for its practitioners. As a “first-person interpreter,” you attempt to learn every nuance of life in a different era; I challenge myself to be able to describe the sounds, smells, and flavors of another era — like 1916 — as well as I can explain any experience today. Which is why my heart skipped a beat when I came across an odd-looking pan on Etsy, designed for cooking a dish I had never experienced first-hand: bimuelos.

 

You’ve probably seen this pan before, but you may not know it by the same name. It’s often called an egg pan, an escargot pan, or a poffertjes pan — the same basic shape creating a dozen different iconic foods for different ethnicities. I know it for making bimuelos, a type of fried dough made by Sephardic Jews, who were exiled during the Spanish Inquisition. Sephardic Jews ended up around the Mediterranean and eventually in the New World — some of you might be familiar with bunuelos, the South American version of the same fried-dough dish.

Bimuelos were a special treat, reserved for big breakfasts and holiday celebrations, and the recipes vary by region. A yeast-risen, fried dough was drizzled with honey or cinnamon for Hanukkah celebrations; for the last course of the Passover Seder, bimuelos were made with crumbled matza, a crisp, flat bread, that could be soaked in a lemon sugar syrup and sprinkled with nuts. Being able to create light, fluffy bimuelos was the sign of an accomplished cook and never went without praise.

NYPL Digital Archive

Orchard Street, 1902-1914.

A handful of Synagogue cookbooks written in the middle of the 20th century give us the best look into the recipes that were carried from the sunny shores of the Mediterranean to the crowded streets of the Lower East Side. It’s from one of these lovingly compiled books, Cooking the Sephardic Way, that I found my recipe for bimuelos, brought to this country by Betty Albalam of Kastoria, Greece — the hometown of Victoria Confino, the real life immigrant my historic portrayal is based upon.

Tenement Museum

The Confino family’s kitchen at 97 Orchard.

For Victoria, the tiny tenement apartment she shared with nine other family members would have been wildly different from her three-story house in beautiful, mountainous Kastoria. By portraying her and giving visitors the chance to “meet” her, we forge emotional links to the people of the past and their very human lives. I am one of seven women who weekly dons Victoria’s costume. We recently threw a party in anticipation of Passover and had a potluck of pesach-friendly foods. I cooked up bimuelos, frying them fresh in my special pan before soaking them in syrup, and we each had our first taste of one of the Sephardim’s favorite treats. Plucking them burning hot from the plate, we juggled them between our fingers before popping the soft, eggy doughnuts into our mouths. We smiled, knowing that in this moment of consumption, we’ve brought ourselves just a little closer to understanding the life of a young immigrant girl on the Lower East Side.

Sarah Lohman

Freshly fried bimuelos.

Pesach Bimuelos (Fried Dough for Passover)
Adapted from Cooking the Sephardic Way, published by Temple Tifereth Israel, 1971.

Dough:
1 cup finely crumbled matzos or matzo farfel
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying (Mazola is preferable, or, if using a bimuelo pan, olive oil)
Roasted, salted nuts for sprinkling (almonds, pistachios, or walnuts)

Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cook sugar and water at a low simmer for ten minutes. Add lemon juice and cook 1 minute longer. Let cool before dipping bimuelos.

Wet matzo or farfel until just moist; drain by squeezing excess water with your hands. Add eggs and mix. Drop batter by the tablespoonful into a bimuelo pan with a drop of oil heated in each well, a small electric fryer (heated to 360-375 degrees), or a stovetop pot or pan filled with three inches of oil. Fry until golden brown, flipping once. Lift from oil with a perforated spoon and lay on a platter covered in paper towels to drain. After a minute, dip into prepared syrup for 5-10 seconds, remove and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Serve hot.

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75 comments

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Neat to finally know the story behind the "egg pan" :) Thanks for sharing!

  • ArigigiPixel

    Gina from ArigigiPixel said 6 years ago

    Interesting story!

  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 6 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • VintageScraps

    Meg from VintageScraps said 6 years ago

    Family history involving every day life is my passion; I so enjoyed this!

  • ThePattypanShop

    ThePattypanShop from ThePattypanShop said 6 years ago

    Nice Story! Thanks for sharing a bit of history!!

  • HansHolzkopf

    Natalie from HansHolzkopf said 6 years ago

    wow! recreating of historic recipes..very magical!:)

  • sukran

    Sukran Kirtis from SukranKirtisJewelry said 6 years ago

    fantastic story with impressive vintage photos

  • PruAtelier

    Jeanne B from PruAtelier said 6 years ago

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMM.....Oh do these look delicious and along the lines of the fried dough French Beignets and Italian Zeppoli. These seem to have another dimension- a bit different composition and with the use of the egg pan for making them! I also miss going down to the Lower East Side in the 70s with the crowds waiting on line to get in to the discount shops that lined Orchard Street....then to cap the day, we went for a bite at some of the great places to eat Kosher food! I understand that Orchard Street has been quite modernized over the years and gone is the old character. Great article and would love to visit that museum too!

  • HoodVintageandWool

    Elisabeth Ryan from hoodwool said 6 years ago

    I think the intersection of history and food can be so interesting and also a powerful tool for connecting us with the past. I have several heirloom cookware items- a 100 year old molcajete and several cast iron pans- that I cherish. I feel connected to past generations when I use them and also am amazed that they are still just as functional today as when they were made a century ago. Vintage cookware is the best! I've always seen those pans but never knew what they were for. Thanks for sharing!

  • revivalbancroft

    Moxie and Suzy from RevivalVintageStudio said 6 years ago

    What a fantastic idea for a blog! The recipes are creative and look delicious. Thank you for introducing me to Sarah's blog!

  • atinyforest

    Kimberly from atinyforest said 6 years ago

    This is a new one for me - thank you! Looks tasty!

  • H88255

    H88255 from HillarysSuperfoods said 6 years ago

    So interesting! Love hearing about history!

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 6 years ago

    Mmm delicious!

  • xZOUix

    Zoui from XZOUIX said 6 years ago

    wow, this sounds totally exotic to me! i've never tried the stuff like this recipe :::-)

  • mirabellamorello

    mirabellamorello from mirabellamorello said 6 years ago

    I must admit having seen pans like this and never knowing what they were for! How interesting it is to know the history behind them! My favorite photo from this post was the one of the kitchen. For some reason, windows between rooms fascinate me, but I'm sure there were reasons for them, like keeping the smoke from the woodstove out of the rest of the house or apartment! I find them charming all the same!

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 6 years ago

    One of the wonderful things about food and cooking is that we can enjoy exactly the same recipes that people long buried in the past also enjoyed. Cool looking pan too!

  • hoyden5000

    hoyden5000 from AEKFunctional said 6 years ago

    My grandma made bunuelos. My mom would love one of these pans. Great knowing it's history. Thanks.

  • rystorteboom

    RY Storteboom from KnitGoodWomanKnit said 6 years ago

    Poffertjes are one of the greatest contributions of the Dutch to the world! One of my cousins has an electric pancake pan and my sisters and I are always on the look-out for a poffertje pan. In the city of Delft, in the Netherlands is a pofferthe house that serves a Bill Clinton Special. Apparently on his visit there, he enjoyed--enthusiastically--a huge platter of poffertjes with powdered sugar, syrup, whipped cream and strawberries. I had it on my birthday when I was there. Totally worth all those calories!

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 6 years ago

    Never knew much about these pans. Thanks for the lesson and recipe. They look so good!

  • ASParkerJewellery

    Amy Sarah Parker from ASParkerJewellery said 6 years ago

    How very interesting! :D

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 6 years ago

    Very interesting article ! Thank you for the recipe and the history! What a wonderful thing to do = play the part of a person in history at a small museum!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 6 years ago

    Fascinating!

  • fireflynotes

    Sandy from fireflynotes said 6 years ago

    oh my those look soooo yummmy!!!

  • empanada

    Sharon Amezquita from BasquePebble said 6 years ago

    this is so great!!! I grew up on buneulos and I am a Spanish Jew... this means so much to me to have this info! thank you

  • mamasgroove

    Marsha from mamasgroove said 6 years ago

    Great Article! Happy Passover!

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    mmm . . . you had me at fried dough! Reminds me of corn fritters. Great article. Thanks.

  • khateraahmad1

    Khatera Ahmad from Khatera9 said 6 years ago

    I love the Lower East Side Tenement and the history to New York. I love and miss New York!

  • StayArtisan

    J.K. Ramirez from HudsonBlueArtisans said 6 years ago

    YUM Yum, yum.... I grew up on these...

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 6 years ago

    The food looks amazing, and the article was a fun and interesting read. Thanks for the great article!

  • jeanamichelle

    Michelle Miller from jeanamichelle said 6 years ago

    I will have to jot down this historical residence. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit. Will you be cooking as well? Haha. Nice story. I have always been drawn to this era. Michelle

  • Keansburg

    Karen Cameron said 6 years ago

    Thanks for the recipe and for your work at the tenement museum. It's my favorite site in the city, and I hope to be able to take my grandkids someday.

  • eeartprints

    Emily Elizabeth from EEartstudio said 6 years ago

    Lovely article! I am defiantly going to make these! Thank you for sharing!

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 6 years ago

    Wonderful- thanks for sharing!

  • fbstudiovt

    Laura Hale from FoundBeautyStudioArt said 6 years ago

    This rocked my history and food loving world! Thanks for a great story, Sarah, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series.

  • OttavaDesigns

    Ellen from OttavaDesigns said 6 years ago

    One word: yum!

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka said 6 years ago

    Wonderful!

  • CozyMoments

    Michelle from CozyMomentsLLC said 6 years ago

    Awesome read, thanks for the recipe for Pesach Bimuelos, I am going to make it! :)

  • susio

    Susanne Ryan from TheFeltedGnomeKnows said 6 years ago

    I have been wanting to go to the tenement museum the next time I go to New York and your post has put it on the top of my to do list.

  • RosieBlackheart

    RosieBlackheart said 6 years ago

    What a great post! I visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum when I was in New York a few years ago and it was amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone who is visiting New York! I am going to need a bimuelos pan now.

  • BemusingBaubles

    Sarah Laguna from BemusingBaubles said 6 years ago

    Looks delicious.

  • SpaceMauve

    Caroline Bee from SpaceMauve said 6 years ago

    yummy yummy

  • coalchild

    coalchild from coalchild said 6 years ago

    they look so good...gotta go nosh now!

  • StudioYTE

    StudioYTE from StudioYTE said 6 years ago

    How interesting! Thanks for sharing - would definitely like to make these!

  • girlindustries

    Katy from girlindustries said 6 years ago

    The tenement museum was one of my favourite places to visit when I lived in NY! My first grown-up home was a tenement flat in Glasgow, Scotland, built in the same era. Thanks to visits to the tenement museum I often wondered what it would look like with a tin tile ceiling and 8 people to a room, instead of just me and the luxury of 4 rooms to myself. Fascinating to learn more about Victoria Confino and bimuelos.

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 6 years ago

    Interesting!

  • Shab2Chic

    Shab2Chic from Shab2Chic said 6 years ago

    Today I learned something new, thank you! I enjoyed the article and the recipe seems yummy!

  • AllthingsWood

    Bettie from AllThingsWood said 6 years ago

    The Pesach Bimuelos really sounds so yummy-maybe more so because I'm hungry right now... You seem to really enjoy what you are doing and that is the most important thing of all. Congrats on the feature and I wish you all the best in the coming years! (: Bettie♥

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing a bit of history and love the photos! My great grandmother had a stove like the one in the photo and I could never understand how she made the most perfect biscuits.

  • WoodlandCottage

    WoodlandCottage from WoodlandCottage said 6 years ago

    I always wondered what those pans were! Thank you for the fascinating history lesson of the day, and GREAT recipe!

  • dessybells

    Dessy Bells from DessyBells said 6 years ago

    Hi Sarah what a great blog you have created!!! I send you a little contribution to the "Bimuelos", they are also called "Bunuelos" and "Burmuelos". The conversos in Spain used to make them and hid them, because of the matzo, and the inquisition. They are delicious and I never saw a pan for them. My grandma used to make them in a common fry pan. Lots of success to you! Dessy

  • somsstudiosupplies

    Som from somsstudiosupplies said 6 years ago

    Fascinating to know the history and hats off to you on sharing a piece of history in the form of food!

  • janicewd

    janicewd from janicewd said 6 years ago

    Interesting pans and what a story of history. Thank you.

  • LinaNstich

    Lina Rodogianni from LinaNstitch said 6 years ago

    My mother makes these! She learned from her great-grandmother. We live in Greece.

  • kookubug

    Jackie from kookubug said 6 years ago

    Look so good...Yum..

  • Rabiosa

    Rabiosa from Rabiosa said 6 years ago

    Arent those BUÑUELOS? they are a traditional South american dessert we eat them with soft caramel very popular in any South American country they were Spanish heritage, they are also very common in Spain

  • TheresasGourmet

    Theresa Ryales from TheresasGourmet said 6 years ago

    I love this... Yummmm

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 6 years ago

    Great story!!

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 6 years ago

    Interesting. ♥ Thanks for sharing a special recipe.

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 6 years ago

    Looks really good!

  • FantasticaIdea

    Roberta from FantaIdea said 6 years ago

    I love culinary history! Great post Thanks.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Great recipe! Thanks!

  • HoneyThistle

    Wei from HoneyThistle said 6 years ago

    I am definitely trying this recipe out sometime :) I love the idea of immersing yourself physically in a historical story!

  • MrPimm

    Meghan P from BustinCaps said 6 years ago

    Awesome recipe! Cheers!

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 6 years ago

    Nice posts...The food looks yummy!

  • nwangurufred

    Frederick Attah said 6 years ago

    The food looks incredible. Get more information on nice diets from http://unn.edu.ng/department/home-science-nutrition-and-dietetics

  • nwangurufred

    Frederick Attah said 6 years ago

    Nice pictures that mean a lot to the senses. Get more info from http://unn.edu.ng/artsculture/art-exhibitions

  • eshannon12

    Eric Shannon from BigBarkerDogBeds said 6 years ago

    Very interesting story!

  • stepbackink

    Sam from stepbackink said 6 years ago

    I love those puffs , in our culture we call gaymaat , we soak them with simple syrup and rose water and serve them with coffee and on especial occasions yum Thanks of writing this article, we live in a such small world that we all make similar foods with a twist :)

  • lgaleski

    lgaleski said 6 years ago

    Wow! I have a couple of these pans - that I bought years ago from an antique store that claimed they were from france. Have always wondered the exact use for them. Just hung them from an Iron rack above my stove because they were beautiful and obviously had a story. Thanks for the info....I may try the recipe - although my pans are so very old, I'm not sure if I should use them or not.

  • Thebaroqueprincess

    Lisa Neuberger from Thebaroqueprincess said 6 years ago

    yummy -i have a pan like these but with heart shapes. Is that right?? lol I hope to try these now, THANKS !Love foodies Blogs! Lisa

  • joselopezserrano

    Jose Lopez-Serrano said 6 years ago

    Never heard of Bimuelos. We usually called them Buñuelos.

  • shannonbeck04

    Shannon Beck from StitchesByShan said 6 years ago

    thanks for the history on the pan. always neat to hear what different uses there are for old cooking pans :)

  • jorgensenstudio

    jorgensenstudio from jorgensenstudio said 6 years ago

    Isn't it amazing how almost every culture has a traditional little fried dough goodness - My Italian side has zeppoles and my danish side has ebleskivers. I remember both from my childhood -The Danish Brotherhood breakfasts with giant pans that made huge batches and the Italian festivals with a bag of hot dough balls covered in powdered sugar - fried dough is comfort in any language.

  • Belgalsan

    Belen Galan from Belgalsan said 6 years ago

    Hi Sarah It's buñuelo, with ñ, and in Spain is very common too; the only difference is that we have two varieties, one that comes from the Middle-Ages Morisco popolation and other from the Middle-Age Jewish popolation, which are called nowadays "buñuelos de viento" because of their lightness ("viento" means "wind") and traditionaly are eaten in Halloween. Never knew that those pans are specially made for frying them, though. Interesting story and nice pictures.

  • Jacquieloo

    Jackie from 4MyUsedKitchen said 6 years ago

    Cool! I really enjoyed your story and will probably include it in my personal cookbook which I am trying to compose from other old cookbooks. I am collecting interesting stories and recipes like this just for me. I enjoy reading old cookbooks to learn cultural history. There are amazing facts are in them.

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