Category Archives: Hanukkah

2011 Gift Guide: Edible Edition

This year, I really want to make some of my gifts, and since I was never one for shop class our friends and family can expect gifts made from chocolate and flours, not wood and glue.

I know, of course, that during the holiday season you’re able to find a variety of goods and gummies, but nothing says love, and hopefully “yum”, like something handmade and homemade.

Make: Spice Cookies, Pistachio Trees, Spiced Nuts, Savory Cookies, Caramel Sauce, Ginger Sesame Brittle, Meringues, Almond Bark, Gummy Drops

These edible gifts are my inspiration as I head into the kitchen.  There are a variety of flavors, textures and treats.  I love the idea of surprising bites, and taking classic and traditional treats and adding some sophisticated flavors to them.

What is your favorite edible gift to give?  Tell me in the comments!

Baked Donuts, a Delight for the Holiday Season

There are two “traditional” Hanukkah foods: latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganyot, (donuts, fried dough balls).  This doesn’t really add up to the healthiest food choices.  For our Hanukkah party last weekend I knew I couldn’t skimp out on traditionally made latkes, but donuts…  that I could tweak.  

I scoured the Internet for baked donuts, with ingredients that I had on hand and I lucked out with a recipe from Piece of Cake.  This rules out any recipe that calls for buttermilk powder, shortening, etc.  Which means, you probably have these ingredients too, and because they are baked and not fried you might want to enjoy this less guilty treat after Hanukkah, or Christmas morning.
Baked Donuts Ingredients
For the dough:
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tbsps of unsalted butter
1/3 white sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

So here is the thing, this recipe can look pretty intimidating.  It has yeast, it has a specific measurement for milk, yikes.  But here is the truth.  I made this recipe without a rolling pin, while preparing and serving a Hanukkah meal for 8 and with three adorable kids running around, in other words – these pictures, not so hot – but the donuts, out of this world.

Pour the yeast in the base of your Kitchenaid Mixer, or a large bowl, and then add 3 tbsps of the warm milk.  I used a thermometer to get this just right, and its important – in this case baking is more like delicious chemistry, than playtime.

While the warm milk and the yeast are dancing and expanding and doing their magic, you are melting some butter and combining it with the rest of the milk and the sugar.  Allow the yeast and milk to get to know each other for about five minutes, no less but, more is okay.  Then add the butter/sugar/milk combination to the mixer.
Now, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and nutmeg and slowly pour the dry ingredients into the mixer all while mixing with the paddle on a low speed (I used 2).  Add one egg and let that continue to incorporate.  When the flour is fully mixed in, should take 3 minutes or so, remove the paddle mixer and attach the dough hook.

Let that hook do its work for a few minutes and pull the dough from the bowl and put some of your own muscle into it.  Sprinkle some flour on your workspace and knead the dough into a soft, smooth ball.  Place the ball into an oiled bowl and wrap the bowl with plastic and tuck it away into a warm space for at least an hour.
I did this at 11am, when family arrived at noon.  After about an hour roll the dough out to about 1/2″ thick and cut your donuts.  You do NOT need fancy tools.  I used a juice glass for the big rounds and a shot glass for the holes.  Once the donuts are all cut, cover with a clean kitchen towel and tuck the pan away for another 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes your donuts are soft, puffy and are ready to bake place them in a 375 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes.  They should have a very soft golden glow, mine were very soft gold, but that just added to their super soft chewiness.

While the donuts are baking, melt three tablespoons of butter.  When fully baked dip each donut (top and bottom) into the butter mixture and then into the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Yes, your fingers will get messy, and yes you will have used a lot of utensils and bowls, but you know what will also happen?  The twelve awesome donuts that you made will disappear, and your niece will return again and again to the table seeking out one more bite.  I think they even beat Dunkin’.

Basic Brisket, and so good!

When you want an authentically Jewish brisket recipe, (not barbecue brisket, or pulled brisket, just you the familiar brisket found on Hanukkah, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah tables),  you’ll probably need to call a mom, or grandma or aunt.  If you want a different variation, visit Food and Wine.

Anyway, so I found myself in Whole Foods standing in the meat refrigerator looking at some huge pieces of meat.  That is step 1 to making a brisket, the meat is huge.  Understanding that, getting over it, and knowing that it will shrink to half it’s original size is critical.

I called my cousin Amy first – she gave a list of her ingredients.  Then I called my mom, and she gave a similiar list of her ingredients.  When it came time to go, I just did everything.

 Jewish Style Brisket Ingredients, serve 8-10
3.5 – 4 lb brisket
1 onion
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 packet of Lipton Onion Soup starter (crazy, I know)
1/2 can of San Marzano Pureed Tomato
1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup of red wine
2 tbsp of Ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp of butter
Salt and Pepper
Cooks for at least 3-4 hours, at 325 degrees.

In a very large non-stick pan on medium-low heat melt some butter and add the chopped onion.  Let the onion simmer and add a sprinkle of salt.  When the onion are closer to translucent than white add the brisket to the pan.

Let the brisket cook on both sides for 3 minutes.  You’re not really cooking here, you’re just browning.  Here’s the warning, brisket has a strip of fat on one side, seeing it can be a little overwhelming and gross, keep moving, don’t worry about.
After the brisket has browned on both sides place it in a large baking pan with the raw chopped vegetables and the cooked onions.   Make sure the fat part of the brisket is on the top.

In a medium bowl mix the ingredients, onion soup starter, tomato, wine, vinegar, ketchup and sugar. 
Then pour all over the brisket.  You may need to use some muscle to lift the brisket to get the sauce in every little spot.  Yep, just like that.  To be fair, I texted this image to my parents to get a virtual thumbs up.  You don’t have to text my parents, you don’t even have to text your parents.  This is what it should look like.
Find a roll of aluminum foil and start wrapping.  The pan needs to be completely covered and secured. Now, you can put it in the oven for 3 – 4 hours.  Walk away.  Try not to worry, definitely do not open the oven and play with the foil.   
After removing the brisket from the oven, keep it covered for an additional 30 minutes.  This will give you enough time to make a side dish or two, maybe Kasha, or potatoes?  We made kasha and bow-ties.  Seriously good.

When you unwrap the pan, you slice against the grain.  You can let it cool completely and remove the fat, or  you can go authentic, and keep the fat on.  It’s a holiday, its going to be okay.  Enjoy the sauce, the carrots will be full of a sweet and tangy flavor and the meat will be very tender.

It’s a holiday tradition, and one that is easy to be creative with.  I think when you make it for many years, like your aunt, grandma and mom, you’ll tell someone else just add some of this and some of that.  But if you need a recipe, now you’ve got it!

Happy Hanukkah!

Light the Lights

There are almost as many common spellings for Hanukkah as there are days to celebrate it.  That can be a little tricky, but nonetheless the holiday is a fun and easy one to celebrate.  Unlike other Jewish holidays there are no food rules or restrictions of any kind – so far, so good – and when you add in some latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganyot (jelly donuts) this 8-day celebration is an oil filled party.

The centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration is a Chanukiah, a nine candled holder, most commonly referred to as a Menorah.  They are often works of art and there is a style to match every home, and budget (I promise)!

When we got married we registered for a menorah that would be functional/cool enough to have out all year round.  I love the work from Michael Aram, and I couldn’t resist this menorah when I saw it.

Michael Aram Olive Branch Menorah
For an even more natural look, how cool is this from West Elm?  The Manzanita trend isn’t lost on me – it was a huge trend in wedding/event floral centerpieces and I love the natural element and sculptural design of this untraditional menorah.
Manzanita Candelabra at West Elm
If your style is more modern than this menorah is perfect.  It is nine separate pieces so you can change the shape and pattern.  This is like grown up Legos, but for Hanukkah.
Nine Piece Menorah by Marit Meisler at Unica
If your home is one filled with kids, and Hanukkah means lots of presents than maybe you like a menorah that is filled with color and whimsy.  This menorah, inspired by the story of Noah’s Ark is almost as much fun as opening the presents every night.
Painted Noah’s Ark Menorah at the Jewish Museum

And if tradition is your thing, and like you a menorah that is elegant and a classic piece of art, look no further than the cut crystal by Waterford.  The simplicity is stunning, and I can only imagine how when lit with nine candles it would shine to the delight of family and friends.
Waterford Crystal Judaica Menorah

If Hanukkah is your holiday, I hope it is filled with light and love – and if it’s not I hope you’ll find a friend to share a latke or donut with over the next week.  Hanukkah recipes are coming soon!

Roasted Potatoes, Poupourri You Can Eat

To be fair this is not so much of a “recipe” as it is a suggestion.  

I know that this weekend is dedicated to running around for last minute costumes, carving pumpkins, excessive makeup, buying candy, consuming lots more candy, and indulging on some other celebratory vices.  And that is all good.  But, the weekend is long, and eventually you’ll want something that is healthy, and easy.  This is so easy that while you’re setting your hair in curlers and finishing the details of your meat dress this can cook.

Roasted Potatoes is the most homey non-recipe recipe there is.  I like to mix a large variety of potatoes (white, red, purple, sweet, yellow) and chop them all up into chunks that are about 1/4 – 1/3 of an inch thick.

Set the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  And get chopping. 

Ta da!  All chopped.  When all the chopped potatoes are in a bowl drizzle on some olive oil, sprinkle on some Kosher salt, crack some black pepper.  
Okay, now here is where you have some creative license.  Are you feeling traditional?  How about some rosemary and thyme.  Want some heat?  Sprinkle on some cayenne.  Want Italian flavors?  Try oregano, parsley, and maybe some  finely grated Parmigiana-Reggiano, or do as we do and go a little crazy with the Old Bay.  There is no right or wrong amount, but you’ll want to see the flecks of flavor on each piece of potato.  This is truly an instance of “flavor to taste”.

Throw in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, the longer it’s in there the more browned the edges will become, again this is a personal preference.  Also, I am going to again recommend mixing up the variety of potatoes, they each have a different flavor and texture and so all together they are like a little (healthy) party in your mouth.
Enlarged to show flavor intensity detail!
Happy Halloween, this year instead of a pre-trick or treating peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or pizza (which are all more than fabulous), mix it up with this!