The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jews over religious oppression during the 2nd century BCE. Following their triumph, the Jewish Temple was liberated, but oil was needed for the sacred light which is meant to burn day and night inside the Temple. There was only enough oil for one day, but that small amount somehow burned for eight days, enough time for a new supply to arrive. The 8-day holiday of Hanukkah (also known as the Festival of Lights) is celebrated in honor of this miracle.
Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually falls out some time in December; since the Hebrew calendar is lunar, Jewish holidays aren’t always celebrated on the same date in the standard western calendar. During Hanukkah, Jewish families light a special candelabrum called a menorah (or Hanukkiah) which is lit every night for eight nights, with a new candle added each night (1 on the first night, 2 on the second, and so on).
As a tasty reminder of the miracle of the oil, fried foods are often a part of Hanukkah celebrations. The two most popular are potato pancakes (also known as latkes, a Yiddish word) and jelly doughnuts, called sufganiyot (a Hebrew word). Some people also make sugar cookies cut out in the shape of a Hanukkah menorah, a dreidel (a spinning toy that is the centerpiece of a Hanukkah game) or a six-pointed Star of David. The cookies can be decorated with blue-and-white icing, to match the colors of the Israeli flag.
Hanukkah Recipes – Potato Latkes
Every family has its favorite variations, but here are the basics:
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled (about 4 potatoes) 1 large onion, grated 4 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon salt Oil for frying
Grate the potatoes (in food processor or by hand), then soak briefly in water. Strain, then add onions. Place mixture in center of clean kitchen towel (or heavy duty paper towel), hold corners together and squeeze out excess water; this will help keep the latkes from being soggy. Put potatoes and onions in bowl and stir in eggs and salt.
Heat 1/4 - 1/2” oil on 10-12” skillet over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 cup latke mixture into hot oil, then flatten mixture into pancake shape. Cook on one side until golden brown and crispy at edges (about 3-5 minutes), then gently turn with spatula and cook other side. Cook several latkes at the same time, but don’t crowd the skillet. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Using the spatula, transfer finished latkes to paper towels to drain, then serve. Keep latkes warm in low-heated oven (about 250 degrees) while preparing another batch. Recipe makes about 1 dozen latkes and can be doubled or tripled.
Potato latkes should be served hot and are often eaten with either applesauce or sour cream.
Hanukkah Recipes – Sufganiyot
2 packages dry yeast 3/4 cup lukewarm milk or water 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 4 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 1/2 tablespoon softened butter or margarine 2 egg yolks Pinch of salt Vegetable oil (for frying) Fruit preserves or jelly (for filling) Powdered sugar
Dissolve yeast and 2 tablespoons sugar in lukewarm milk or water; put aside for 10 minutes. Sift flour, then put it on flat surface and make a well in the center. Add yeast mixture, egg yolks, salt, cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Knead well, then add butter or margarine and continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic. Put in bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (several hours or overnight).
Roll dough out to 1/8” thickness on floured board. Using a cookie cutter or glass, cut out 2” circles. Cover and let rise 15 more minutes. With hands, form each circle into a ball. Insert a teaspoon of jam into center, then pinch closed. (NOTE: you can also spoon jam into center of circle of dough, then top with a second circle and pinch this closed; this will make bigger but fewer doughnuts.)
Pour 2-3” oil into 2-quart saucepan or deep fryer and heat until very hot. Gently drop dough balls into oil, 4-5 at a time. Brown on one side (about 3 minutes), then turn and brown other side. Remove with slotted spoon when done and drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Makes about 2-3 dozen.