Sweet Treats for Chanukah: Apple Latkes and Sufganiyot
This year, the Jewish festival of Chanukah will begin at sundown on December 8 and conclude eight days later on December 16. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem during the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BCE).
To celebrate the holiday, Jewish families light candles on a nine-branched menorah or chanukiah. One candle is used to light the other candles. For each of the 8 nights of Chanukah, an additional candle is lit. On the eighth night, all of the candles flicker brightly.
Children also enjoy playing with a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. Outside of Israel, those letters are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and ש (Shin), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" or "A great miracle happened there [in Israel]." Israeli dreidels are slightly different. The letters are נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay), and פ (Pey), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Po" or "A great miracle happened here." Children usually play with gelt, chocolate coins covered in gold or silver foil. Candy, nuts, raisins, or anything else can be used.
If you ask American Jews what food(s) they associate with Chanukah, the two most common answers would be potato latkes (pancakes) or sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). Jews with ancestors from Eastern Europe would most likely respond with the former while Jews who came from Mediterranean countries, would be more inclined to mention the latter.
What do the two foods have in common? They are fried in oil.
During Chanukah it is customary to eat fried foods. Thus, latkes (pancakes) can be made from a variety of ingredients. Lighter and sweeter latkes that resemble a fritter can be found in Judy Zeidler’s cookbook, The Gourmet Jewish Cook. (William Morrow and Company, Inc: 1988)
Apple Dessert Latkes Recipe
Makes 2 Dozen
- 2 eggs, separated
- ½ cup milk or water
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Vegetable oil
- 3 or 4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- Powder sugar
Beat the egg yolks until light. Blend in the milk. Stir in the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold them into the egg yolk mixture.
In a large skillet, heat ¼ inch of oil. Dip each apple slice into the batter. Lift out with a fork and fry in the hot oil until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and/or favorite preserves.
Additional suggestions from Judith Zeidler
Latkes are best fried as close to serving time as possible. Keep the first batches warm in a low oven (200 degrees Fahrenheit) while cooking the remaining batter. Latkes can be frozen.
For crispier latkes—Fry the latkes in very hot oil, turning only once. Latkes absorb oil that is only moderately hot, and they get soggy when they’re turned too often.
Another option is to try making sufaniyot (jelly doughnuts) This recipe comes from Our Cooks' Best Secrets (Sisterhood Congregation B'nai Shalom, Buffalo Grove, Illinois)
- 2 Tablespoons yeast
- 3 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 egg yolks
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of softened margarine
- Strawberry preserves or your favorite flavor
- Oil for frying
- Granulated sugar
Dissolve yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in milk. Place flour on a board and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, egg yolks, salt, cinnamon, and remaining sugar. Knead well. Add margarine. Continue kneading until dough is elastic. (I have combined the above ingredients in a Kitchen Aid mixer). Cover. Let rise 2 hours. Roll out dough thin on a floured board. Cut into 2 inch rounds. Let rise for 15 minutes. Heat oil in a pot to 375 degrees. Drop doughnuts into oil, 4-5 at a time, turning when brown. Drain on paper towel. Take a tiny spoon and insert it with the preserves in the top of the doughnut and turn the spoon. Remove it from the same hole made upon entering. Roll in granulated sugar. Serve immediately.
I hope you enjoy these traditional sweet treats for Chanukah.
Do you celebrate Chanukah? What is your favorite Chanukah traditions?
Sandra Bornstein, an international educator and writer, has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. She is the author of May This Be the Best Year of Your Life: A Memoir (www.amazon.com/author/