Gingerbread Sufganiyot (Hanukkah Doughnuts)

  

 

sufganiyot_stackChristmas and the first night of Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. Growing up the child of a divorced, interreligious family, this would have blown my mind even more than it does as an adult. While I was raised primarily in my Jewish mother’s home, my brother and I spent every Christmas with my dad, stepmother and half-sister, and we loved it. I mean, loved it. Sure, the extra presents were nice (very nice), but the experience of both holidays was nothing short of warmth.

Now, at 36, as I think back to having to shuffle between houses for holidays, I feel nothing but warmth. I loved lighting the menorah and the smell of the match as it lit a fresh batch of Hanukkah candles. I equally loved the smell of eggnog and the sound of Nat King Cole’s classic Christmas record as I helped my dad and family decorate the tree. I never once felt I was compromising my enriched and grounded Jewish identity as I played along with my dad and stepmom in pretending, for the sake of my beloved half-sister, that Santa and his reindeer were, in fact, on the roof trying to figure out how to get down the chimney.

Somehow, my family figured out how to give my brother and me a safe and inviting interreligious experience growing up and never asked us to choose. It was our normal, and it was perfect. I hope this recipe helps you bring some of that warmth into your home.

Gingerbread Sufganiyot

Ingredients

For the doughnuts:

  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar, plus ½ cup extra for coating
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tsp. warm water
  • 4.5 Tbsp. room-temperature butter
  • 4 cups neutral oil for frying (like canola)

 

For the filling:

  • ½ cup cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. allspice
  • ¼ Tbsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ Tbsp. ground cloves
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

 

Instructions

1.  Place all doughnut ingredients, except the butter, into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Work on a low speed for about 4 minutes, or until well-combined and elastic.

2.  With the mixer still running, add the butter piece by piece, until it’s all worked in and incorporated. There should be no visible pieces. This will take about 5-8 minutes.

3.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

4.  While the dough is rising, make the filling. Place the cream, milk, vanilla and gingerbread-spice mixture into a small saucepan over medium heat.

5.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. When the milk begins to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.

6.  Pour the mixture back into the pan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until it boils and becomes very thick, about 1-2 minutes. Once the mixture is the consistency of soft butter, scrape it out into a bowl, cover and set aside to cool completely.

doughnut dough

7.  When the dough has risen, punch it down and scrape it out onto a well-floured surface. Make sure your hands are properly floured and pat the dough into a rectangle, about ½-inch thick, and cut out nine doughnuts using a well-floured 2.5-inch round biscuit cutter or large glass. Place the doughnuts on a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 45 minutes, or until puffy.

8.  When the doughnuts are finished their second rise, place about 2 inches of oil into a high-sided pan (or use a deep fryer) and heat over a low flame, until it reaches 350 degrees (or until a small piece of dough dropped in the oil bubbles and rises to the surface).

9.  Fry the doughnuts a few at a time (don’t crowd the pan) for about 1 minute each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.

10.  Drain on paper towels and toss in the ½ cup sugar.

Inject doughnuts with gingerbread

11.  To fill the doughnuts, I use a flavor injector, like you would use for a turkey. I find this the easiest way to get the cream in. Alternatively, you can place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch nozzle. Press the piping bag into the side of each doughnut and squeeze until you can feel the weight of the doughnut increase slightly.

Find more Hanukkah recipes here

Gingerbread dougnuts

Ponchiki: Polish Cheese Doughnut Holes

  

PonchikiThere are two stories associated with Hanukkah: One tells how the vial of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight, and the other is the story of Judith and how she saved her town from annihilation at the hands of General Holefernes by getting him drunk on salty cheese and wine until he passed out and was killed. The latter story is not often told in Hebrew school (for good reason!), but the holiday’s culinary tradition of eating foods prepared with cheese is widespread throughout Mediterranean Jewish communities.

Doughnuts, or sufganiot as they are called in Israel, are a Sephardi treat. Ponchiki, however, are traditionally made in Poland and Eastern Europe, the area where Ashkenazi Jews came from. So this recipe not only combines two culinary traditions and two cultural areas of Judaism, it also fulfills the holiday traditions of consuming fried foods and cheese.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • ½ Tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 7.5-ounce packages Friendship Dairies Farmer Cheese or 2 cups homemade farmer’s cheese (see recipe below)
  • 3-4 cups corn or vegetable oil for frying

 

Directions:

1.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a one-quart bowl. Set aside.

2.  Whisk the egg in a two-quart bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, continuing to whisk until foamy and well combined.

ponchiki: whisk

add the cheese3.  Add the cheese and whisk vigorously to break it down into small particles, thoroughly combining it with the egg mixture.

4.  Add the flour mixture and stir with the whisk or a spatula until no particles of flour are visible.

5.  Heat the oil in a small, deep fryer or in a two-quart saucepan to a temperature of 375ºF. If necessary, add enough oil to come to a depth of about two inches. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you’ll know the oil is ready when a little bit of dough rolls in the oil and begins to brown.

 

 

Fry your doughnuts6. Using a small spring ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon and rubber spatula, scoop up some dough and drop it into the hot oil. Don’t fry more than six balls at a time so the oil temperature remains constant. Turn doughnut holes over, if necessary, to brown on all sides. Doughnuts will be done after about three minutes. If holes are browning too fast, lower the heat slightly.

7.  Crumple paper towels on a plate to drain the holes of excess oil. While still warm, toss them in confectioner’s sugar or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

They are best eaten warm but will stay crisp for a few hours.

 

Homemade Farmer’s Cheese

Makes about two to three cups.

Ingredients:

  • ½ gallon whole or 2 percent milk
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Cheesecloth

 

Directions:

1.  Bring milk and buttermilk to a simmer. Add the salt and continue to cook until the ingredients separate into curds and whey.

2.  Scoop up the cheese with a skimmer or small strainer and place in a large double-mesh strainer or colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Let the cheese sit so any excess moisture can drip out, then bring the edges of the cloth together and twist them to force out any leftover moisture.

3.  Refrigerate the cheese until ready to use in a recipe, or eat with jam on toast.

For more Hanukkah recipes, click here

Three-Berry Coconut-Almond Milk Popsicles

  

berry popsicles

Ahhhh, summer. The days are long and hot and Shabbat is even longer and hotter. When it comes to prepping for Shabbat in the summer, it’s always nice to have more hours in the day on Fridays. I love having those extra hours to work on a special main course or to enjoy a refreshing homemade margarita (compliments of my sous chef, who also happens to be my husband). But the toss up, of course, is that havdalah doesn’t come in until as late as 9 pm and with a preschooler who wants snacks every 20 minutes and a husband who eats everything in sight, I’ve gotta be prepared with tons of food options on Shabbat. Since I try to curb too much sugar eating, I’ve started having these homemade popsicles on hand for a late afternoon Shabbat treat. They are a BIG hit with the little and big members of my family. They are not overly sweet but lean more to the cool and refreshing genre of popsicles.

Feel free to add a little bit of maple syrup in with your honey if you’re wanting them a bit sweeter. Either way, you’ll feel a lot better for giving your family a tasty, cool treat that is free of refined sugar and food coloring and packed full of healthy goodness. Enjoy!

How to make popsiclesIngredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups mixture of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. water
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 2 Tbsp. honey
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

Directions:

1.  In a small sauce pot, combine berries, water and 3 tablespoons honey. Bring to a boil until liquid is syrupy and thick. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Do not mash the blueberries, keep them as is (it’s prettier).

2.  In a small bowl, whisk in 2 tablespoons of honey, the vanilla, coconut and almond milk.

3.  Fill popsicle molds a little over half full of coconut-almond milk. Spoon in berry mixture to fill the popsicle mold.

4.  Place mold in freezer for 1 hour. Remove molds and insert wooden sticks into each popsicle cavity. Place mold back in the freezer for at least another 4 hours until ice pops are solid.

Finished popsicles

 

Delicious berry popsicle

Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake

  

Semolina cara cara orange cake shavuot

Shavuot. The “Festival of Weeks.” If ever there was a confusing holiday (Shmini Atzeret aside), Shavuot is it. The definition of “Shavuot” alone is confusing enough. Festival of Weeks? Who wants to celebrate a festival of weeks!? That said, if ever there was an example of why one should never judge anything by its name alone, Shavuot is such an example.

So what are we celebrating, exactly? First, there is the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai (kind of a big deal). Then there is the completion of the counting of the Omer (the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, thus, “Festival of WEEKS”). The counting of the Omer reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed the Jews spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. But I always wonder, have we really been “freed” from our bondage to idolatry? I’m gonna go with a hard, “NO” on that one.

Semolina cara cara orange cake shavuot

IMG_4027Semolina cara cara orange cake shavuot

In my role as a high school counselor, I am often meeting and talking with students about their personal expectations. Too often, adolescents (and their parents, for that matter) have expectations for themselves that are not remotely attainable. Whether it’s trying to fit their body or personal image to that of a celebrity or the pursuit of academic perfection, I would argue that we are still very much bound to worshiping of idols. As a society, we have given so much power to fame and perfection, it is worshiped as truth. Adolescents “follow” celebrities and try in vain to emulate their lifestyle in such a way that they are willing to risk their financial status and physical, mental and emotional health. If that’s not worshiping of an idol, I don’t know what is.

Speaking of worship, Shavuot has recently become of my most favorite holidays due to the foods that are traditionally eaten on this day: dairy foods and spring/summer veggies and fruit. I’m talking foods such as cheesecakes and fresh green salads and gorgeous, ripe fruit. It’s a time of newness and of a re-commitment to learning and spirituality. I dream of hosting a huge picnic in a kibbutz sometime, the sun shining down upon my family and friends and eating salads and cakes until we feel we’re about to burst! One of the cakes I’ll be offering up during a meal this Shavuot is this gorgeous Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake. Not only does it lend itself to a beautiful presentation, it just so happens to taste good as well. A double threat, if you will.

Happy eating!

Cara Cara Cake

Top down Cara Cara cake

Finished Cara Cara cake

Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake

Candied Orange Peel with Syrup Topping:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup orange blossom honey
  • 3 Tbsp. green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced

 

Directions:

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring sugar, honey, cardamom and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add orange slices.

2.  Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, turning orange slices occasionally until tender and syrup is reduced to 3 1/4 cups, about 40 minutes.

3.  Arrange orange slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; remove cardamom pods and seeds. Strain syrup.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover syrup and orange slices separately; chill. Return orange slices to room temperature and rewarm syrup slightly before using.

Ingredients for Cake

  • ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt, which was completely fine and delicious)
  • 1 cup fine semolina PLUS 1 cup coarse semolina (or 2 cups coarse semolina)
  • ⅓ cup milk or almond milk
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

 

Directions for Cake

1.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2.  Place the butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Set aside.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, combine together the sugar and yogurt. Now add in the semolina, baking powder and milk. Finally stir in the melted butter and let the mixture sit briefly so that the butter is absorbed.

4.  Transfer the semolina mixture into a lightly greased 9″-round cake pan or baking dish. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.

5.  Pierce the hot cake all over with a metal skewer. Slowly drizzle 3/4 cup warm syrup all over. When syrup is absorbed, slowly pour 3/4 cup more syrup over the top. Reserve remaining syrup for serving. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake. Remove pan sides. Arrange candied orange slices over top.

Grain-Free/Vegan (mini) Chocolate Berry Pies

  

Passover dessert

Hello InterfaithFamily readers! My name is Whitney Fisch and I am beyond honored to be able to create recipes and write for this wonderful website. So here’s a bit about me:

I was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia. I’m the daughter of a Jewish mama and a Christian dad. My mom raised me within the Reform Jewish community. Throughout my childhood, my mom was incredibly active within our temple community, at one point as the founding member of what is now one of the larger Reform temples in metropolitan Atlanta (can you tell I’m proud of my mom!?).

In 2008, after living all over the map and working for various Jewish organizations, I decided to sell all my stuff, drop my dog off at mom’s house and head to Israel for the year to learn at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. While there (and immersed in an incredible multi-cultural learning environment), I met the man I would later marry. We got hitched in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2010 (we were the very first kosher wedding to hit the town—we even made the local paper! Huzzah! Take that, Kardashians! Who’s the celebrity now!?).

We now live in Los Angeles, where I work as the Director of Counseling at a private Jewish school and my husband is finishing his Ph.D. in Marine Biology. We have two beloved daughters, one finicky lemon tree and a lot of love . . . and babka. We love babka. We also LOVE to eat. It’s with this love of eating that brings me to food writing on my personal blog, Jewhungry and is what brings me to InterfaithFamily. I look forward to getting to know you, dear reader!

I developed the following recipe a few years ago during the ‘grain-free’ craze of 2013. It wasn’t until I hosted my first seder later that year that I realized this recipe is THE PERFECT recipe for a seder dessert. It doesn’t require any grains and is so incredibly easy to make as it requires no baking. In addition, it celebrates the fruits of the season and what is Passover but a celebration of the harvest! I hope you enjoy!

berry pie shell

berry pie shells

Fill your berry pies

Mini berry pie

 

Mini Vegan Chocolate Chip Berry Pies + Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

Ingredients for Crust:

Adapted from my own recipe for Raw Brownie Bites

  • 2 cups of dates, seeded and chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. almond meal
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. milled flaxseed
  • 3 heaping Tbsp. vegan cocoa powder*
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. organic maple syrup (depending upon your taste—start with 1 and if you make it again, up to 2 if it wasn’t sweet enough for you)

*Extra cocoa for rolling the bites in afterwards if you want an extra chocolate punch

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream (Recipe straight from my girl, Samantha, at The Little Ferraro Kitchen)

Note: chill your mixer for best results

  • 1 can coconut milk, chilled
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

 

Mixed Berry Filling:

  • 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup blackberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raspberries, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Demerara sugar

 

Directions:

Crust

I used regular-sized muffin tins to shape the crusts, but a ramekin will work just as well.

1.  Cut pieces of parchment paper into squares about 8 in. by 8 in. or large enough that when placed into the muffin tins there is an excess of paper sticking out.

2.  Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until well combined—to about the count of 30 or until the ingredients have a dough-like consistency. If you feel like it’s a bit dry due to too many walnuts or almond meal, just add a bit of water, about 1 Tbsp. at a time, until you get that doughy consistency.

3.  Once you’ve attained your desired consistency, scoop out enough “dough” to form a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Gently press the dough ball into the parchment paper-lined muffin tin and shape to the entirety of the tin so that a “crust” forms. Your crust should be thick enough to hold the filling but thin enough so that it doesn’t take over the pie flavor. Do this until you run out of dough. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

1.  If you haven’t already, open the coconut milk can and pour out the water in a separate bowl. (Save it and use for smoothies, soups, etc.) If you’ve been chilling your coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours in prep for this recipe, the watery part of the coconut milk will be at the bottom of the can so pour slowly and make sure to omit the watery part at the end.

2.  Pour the thicker coconut milk into your chilled mixer and begin to whip starting on low and gradually moving to medium-high setting. As soon as it begins to thicken, add powdered sugar and continue to beat. Check every so often for desired consistency.

Fruit Filling

Place all your chopped fruit into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and sugar and mix until well combined.

Assembly

Once your crusts have refrigerated, scoop fruit filling into each pie; enough so that the is a mound of fruit filling. Top with a dollop or two (or three) of whipped cream. Enjoy!

Read more delicious Passover recipes here!

Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts

  

By Mari Levine

halvahphoto_large

I’m in the throes of what I’ve dubbed the “Summer of Love.” I’ve hit the age where my Facebook feed is dominated by photos of engagements and newborns, and the only snail mail I get is wedding invitations and baby announcements. In the next three months, I’m slated to go to six weddings—and that’s after I found a way to weasel my way out of three. Oy!

But I’m not complaining! Quite the opposite. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting these new baby-friends and attending these open bars—um, I mean, celebrations of love. In fact, one wedding I’m especially excited for is in just a few weeks, when my dear friend Rachel marries Pascal, a guy she met and fell for while the two were in grad school together at Brandeis. But it’s not quite your typical Brandeis love story: Rachel is American Jewish, and Pascal is Haitian Catholic.

Their wedding will celebrate both of their cultures. They’re going to have some of the Jewish prayers also recited in French. We’re going to dance the hora, then get down to some Carimi (Pascal’s favorite Haitian band). And then there’s my favorite culture clash: the food. In addition to chopped liver, knishes and a latke bar (!), they’ll be offering fried plantains, mango chicken and du riz a pois (rice and beans). And for a familial touch, Rachel’s asked some of her food-minded friends—myself included—to bring a small plate of sweets to add to the dessert table.

The timing is perfect to be thinking about weddings: Judaism’s very own holiday of love, Tu B’av, begins at sundown on July 21. Historically, Tu B’av was a matchmaking day on which unmarried women were paired with spouses. But it’s morphed into a more general day of love. Kind of like a less acknowledged, summertime Valentine’s Day—minus the Hallmark domination. And, like the more popular day in February, Tu B’av is considered a lucky date on which to get engaged and married. Rachel and Pascal’s wedding is only a couple weeks later, so I’m thinking some of that luck will carry over (not that they need it).

While thinking about Tu B’av, I was struck with an idea for my dessert recipe’s base: halvah, the dense, nutty confection popular among Jews all over the world. I love its mellow sweetness and chewy tackiness, which feels a bit like astronaut food (in a good way!). Halvah is great eaten straight from supermarket shelves, but I plan to give it a little flair by dipping it in chocolate and topping it with nuts and sesame seeds. I think I’ve found a cross-cultural recipe that everyone can enjoy.

Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts

Makes about 16 pieces

  • 1 pound halvah (flavor of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (I used shelled and blanched)
  • ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate

 

1. Line a plate with parchment paper. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice halvah in half height-wise, making two planks. Cut each plank into 8 equal pieces.

2. Heat small, dry pan over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast until slightly darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

3. Heat now-empty pan over medium heat and add almonds. Toast until slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl with sesame seeds. Add pistachios and salt to bowl and stir until well-mixed.

4. Using microwave or double-boiler method, melt half of chocolate. Working piece by piece, dip half of halvah pieces in chocolate until fully coated, allow excess to drain off, and transfer to parchment-lined dish.

5. While chocolate is still warm, generously sprinkle nut mixture over tops of chocolate-coated halvah. Repeat chocolate dipping and sprinkling steps with remaining halvah pieces.

6. Transfer plate to refrigerator until chocolate has firmed up. Chocolate-coated halvah can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.

chosenfinal290pxcolor_largeReprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.

Barking Up the Valentine’s Day Tree

  

By Mari Levine

chocbark1_large

I’ve run the gamut of Valentine’s Day experiences. And while I’m rather indifferent to the general idea of the holiday, no celebration I’ve had as an adult has ever matched the ones from when I was a kid. I remember the excitement of picking out the perfect cards (in my case, always Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed), choosing which type of candy to attach to them, and then matching the message on the card to each of my classmates’ personalities.

This year, I was thinking about the adult equivalent of those childhood valentines. Now, instead of a classroom, most of us spend our days in an office. Instead of classmates, we have coworkers. And while I’m all for injecting a bit of youthful fun into the workplace, I draw the line at giving my colleagues cartoon cards that call them “dudette” and asking them to be my “mondo Valentine.” (That’s Ninja Turtle speak for “I like you.”) I wanted to bring back the Valentine’s Day tradition of bringing in treats for everyone, but this year I didn’t have time to make any quintessential adult sweets, such as homemade truffles or caramels.

Enter chocolate bark. This sweet can get pigeonholed as a December treat, but it’s easy to make (only four ingredients!), attractive to wrap and appealing to eat all year round. My coworkers will be noshing on this version, with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and coconut, but the toppings are easy to change based on your recipients’ tastes.

Chocolate Bark with Pepitas and Coconut

Makes eight 1-ounce portions

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Maldon sea salt

 

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Stirring frequently, toast coconut in small skillet over medium heat. Once coconut turns the color of straw, transfer to small bowl to cool.

3. Add chocolate to medium, heatproof bowl and set over pot of simmering water. (Do not let water touch bottom of bowl.) Stirring frequently, heat chocolate until fully melted. Quickly pour onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet and tilt pan until distributed evenly, but not covering entire pan. (Otherwise your bark will be too thin.)

4. Sprinkle coconut, pepitas and salt, to taste, evenly over chocolate. Transfer to refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and break into 1-ounce portions.

chosenfinal290pxcolor_largeReprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.

Jewish-Italian Inspired Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes for Hanukkah

  

Recipe courtesy of Marcia A. Friedman from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. Win a copy of her cookbook here!

Photos copyright Marcia A. Friedman

Ricotta pancakes for Hanukkah

One of my favorite foods from my “adopted” Jewish heritage has to be potato latkes, particularly my husband’s. It’s a family recipe lovingly passed down and painstakingly recreated (down to the fingers bloodied from hand-grating the potatoes) for generations. The recipe is special not only because it produces exquisite little crispy pancakes but also because it connects us to family history. Although I enjoy experimenting with recipes—especially those that unite Jewish culinary traditions with those of my Italian background—I haven’t been able to bring myself to experiment with the beloved potato latkes.

But when I discovered that the very first latkes were cheese pancakes, well, that provided motivation for some new recipes. Those early latkes came to be when Italy’s Jews adopted ricotta pancakes as a Hanukkah dish. Those creamy cakes, sitting squarely at an intersection of Jewish and Italian cuisine, could be something to experiment with and make my own.

Finding these connections enhances how I enjoy this simple winter holiday, which I first got to know after converting to Judaism. In contrast to Christmas, Hanukkah takes a quieter approach, an aspect I’ve come to greatly appreciate. Each night offers a little moment of peace as we light an additional candle to commemorate the historic rededication of the Jewish temple—when a small vial of precious olive oil provided light for eight nights.

Each night also offers an opportunity for fantastic food, given that the traditions evolved to incorporate foods fried in oil. But as if eight nights of fried foods wasn’t enough, there’s also a tradition of dairy dishes. This comes by way of an associated holiday story in which Judith infiltrated the enemy camp, used salty cheese to make the enemy leader so thirsty he got drunk on wine, and then killed him when he passed out. So some say the miracle was done (or greatly helped) through milk.

These food themes merge delightfully with Italian ricotta pancakes, fried ever so lightly on the griddle. And besides pulling from Italian and Jewish traditions, the recipe adopts the style of modern American pancakes or hotcakes. But it tastes so much better thanks to ricotta and lemon zest and the airiness of whipped egg whites.

My lemon-ricotta pancakes blend the frying and the dairy themes, but more important to me, they represent a marriage of evolving Italian, Jewish, and American food traditions that works in its own unique way to connect us to Hanukkahs past and present. By its nature, the dish welcomes all to the table, and, in so doing, I’d like to think makes all our holidays a little brighter. And it leaves plenty of room for those potato latkes.

These luscious pancakes made with ricotta, a cheese of Italian origin, should be made ahead—really. Reheating in the oven mellows the cheese and lemon flavor and perfects the texture so that a slightly crispy exterior gives way to a creamy interior. I love serving these as a “sandwich” with cream spiked with limoncello, a lemon-flavored liqueur originating from the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. The short stack makes a beautiful and appetizing presentation—especially for dairy-focused celebrations such as Hanukkah or Shavuot.

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Limoncello Cream

The hot pancakes work beautifully as a short stack with a dollop of limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur) whipped cream in the middle. A few blueberries scattered about add flavor and that blue color so festive for the holiday. If you are cooking with children, omit the limoncello from the whipped cream, and let kids help make the pancake “sandwiches” and decorate with the berries. These beautiful stacks can be breakfast but I prefer them as dessert. No matter what, just be sure to serve them right away.

Makes 20 to 22 small pancakes, or 10 or 11 pancake sandwiches (1 to 2 sandwiches per serving)

Ingredients:

Pancakes

Ingredients for ricotta pancakes1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

3 large eggs, separated

1½ cups buttermilk

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Lemon zest for ricotta pancakes2 Tbsp. lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)

Cooking spray or extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the griddle or pan

Limoncello Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

½ tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbsp. limoncello

1½ Tbsp. sugar

Garnish

Fresh blueberries or other berries (optional)

Directions:

This recipe, I discovered by happy accident, also improves when made in advance. Make the pancakes up to a couple of weeks ahead, freeze them, and then reheat them in the oven and make the whipped cream just before serving. The flavors meld and the exteriors become slightly crispy while their interiors stay creamy and rich. In the true spirit of the holiday, the cook can actually sit down and enjoy this recipe together with everyone.

Beat the egg whites1.  Lightly whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl or on a sheet of wax paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, buttermilk, ricotta cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.

2.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold stiff peaks, about 1 minute.

3.  Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the ricotta mixture and stir until just incorporated (will still be a bit lumpy). Fold in the egg whites until just a few stray streaks of white remain. The batter will be fluffy and lumpy.

Pancakes cooking

4.  Heat a griddle to medium-high and brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Drop ¼ cupfuls of batter onto griddle; spread gently with the back of a spoon to make an approximate 3½-inch circle. Cook until golden brown on both sides and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

Pancakes for Hanukkah

5.  Either serve immediately following the steps below, or when pancakes are completely cool, wrap and freeze.

6.  To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets, placing an ovenproof wire rack on each one. Place frozen pancakes in a single layer on the wire racks and bake until warmed and slightly crispy, rotating pans and turning pancakes halfway through, 16 to 22 minutes.

Limoncello cream for pancakes

7.  Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream, vanilla and limoncello. Beat on high speed. As the cream gains a little volume, sprinkle sugar over, and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks.

8.  When pancakes are done, place a generous dollop of whipped cream between two pancakes and top with another spoonful of cream. Scatter fresh berries over top and sides. The cream will start to melt, which is lovely. Serve right away.

Hanukkah ricotta pancakesLearn about Marcia’s other Italian-Jewish cooking ideas with her cookbook, Meatballs and Matzah BallsEnter to win a free copy!

 

Traditional Rosh Hashanah Teiglach

  

TTEIGLACHeiglach is an eastern European confection most closely associated with Rosh Hashanah. It was often served for festive occasions such as a wedding, bar mitzvah or bris and in some communities during Shavuot or Simchat Torah because Torah is often equated with honey.

Teig in Yiddish means dough and Lach at the end of a word signifies small. Therefore Teiglach are little balls of baked dough submerged in honey syrup and then mixed with dried or candied cherries or raisins and some nuts (usually almond or hazelnut).

Once readily available in bakeries in large Jewish communities throughout North America, this confection is rapidly disappearing, so whether you were raised Jewish or not, this treat may be new to you. Not to worry if your own family doesn’t have the recipe; Teiglach is easy to make!

Even small children can help make the dough because no electric equipment is required and children enjoy rolling the dough into “snakes” while you can rapidly complete the task. However, children MUST NOT be involved with making the honey syrup, as the high temperature will certainly burn them if they accidentally touch the syrup before it cools. They can watch from afar and measure the awaiting dried fruit and nuts, but an adult must work alone while making the syrup and mixing all of the ingredients together.

The Teiglach may be served in a large pyramid or a few coated balls spooned into little paper cups. It is meant to be eaten with the fingers, pulling the balls off one by one and definitely licking one’s fingers afterwards!

L’Shanah Tova!

Teiglach

Ingredients:Teiglach Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound wildflower honey (any honey is O.K. but wildflower is the best)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 piece of orange zest 2″ long 1/2 inch wide
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup candied cherries or raisins

 


Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the eggs, oil, water and vanilla and beat with a fork or whisk until light and combined. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, ginger and baking powder.

3.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until well combined.

Teiglach adding egg mixture

knead the dough4.  Knead with your hands for a few minutes until dough is smooth and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

5.  Roll out small balls of dough into long 1/2-inch wide snakes and cut into 1/3 inch pieces. Roll dough pieces briefly in your hands to make balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely or freeze until later use.

6.  When you are ready to complete recipe, combine the honey, sugar, orange zest and ginger in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the teiglach balls, nuts and cherries or raisins to the honey mixture and stir to coat well. Place in a pie plate or individual tart tins mounded to form a pyramid.

 

 

 

Teiglach Syrup boiling

Teiglach Syrup cooking

 

IMG_0509IMG_0508Teiglach finished

Molten Chocolate Cookies for Tu B’Av

  

ChocolateWhat better way to celebrate and #ChooseLove on Tu B’Av, the Israeli holiday of love which falls on Friday, July 31, than with an ooey, gooey, molten chocolate cookie? In fact, this recipe is so easy, and the dough will be stored in your freezer so you can easily bake a few any time your chocolate craving strikes!

Although chocolate has always been associated with love and romance (Montezuma was purported to drink 50 glasses of chili-laced chocolate a day to make him passionate) it is really the Theobromide in cocoa (often found in asthma inhalers) coupled with caffeine that makes one feel amorous. And the Aztecs aside, there were many Jews in history resonsible for the production of chocolate as far back as the 1680s when Benjamin d’Acosta De Andrade developed a method to process cocoa beans so that they could be shipped from South America and ultimately transformed into liquid gold or later, in 1847, into the first eating chocolate.

Famous Jewish chocolate artisans included Franz Sacher, a Jewish Viennese apprentice baker who created the now-famous Sachertorte in 1832. Eli Fromenchenko opened the Elite Chocolate Company in Ramat Gan, Israel, in 1933. In 1938, another Viennese Jew, Stephen Klein, immigrated to New York and opened the first kosher chocolate shop–
Barton’s Salon de Chocolate. And in Israel today, suitors from all over Israel flock to the café called Max Brenner to buy chocolates for the lucky women they will woo on Tu B’Av!

The following recipe is my modern take on the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake but in cookie form. The taste is fantastic but the real treat is that you make the dough, shape it into balls and then freeze them. When you want to serve them, you can pop the frozen balls onto a cookie sheet and bake them for a mere 6-8 minutes. The result is a rich cookie that is firm on the outside and oozes delicious cinnamon and coffee-scented filling when bitten into. You, and your love, will enjoy these, I promise. Take a photo of your finished product, and show us how you #ChooseLove on Tu B’Av!

Molten Mocha Cinnamon Chocolate Cookies

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

Chocolate butter closeupIngredients:

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate, either chips or chopped ¼ inch pieces

 

Directions:

Whisk ingredients1.  Combine the 10 ounces of chocolate and the butter in a one-quart glass bowl. Microwave this mixture on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds. Remove, stir until all chocolate is melted and set aside.

2.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

3.  Beat eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and lemon colored. Add the espresso, cinnamon and vanilla and beat to combine.

4.  Add the chocolate mixture to the mixing bowl and beat until all egg mixture is incorporated.

Mix ingredients

Freeze your cookie dough5.  Add the flour mixture and mix only until there is no flour visible. Stir in the chopped chocolate or chips. Remove beaters and scrape down sides of bowl. Refrigerate in bowl for 15 minutes.

6.  Using a 1 Tablespoon portion scoop or a rounded measuring spoon, place dough onto a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet.

7.  Freeze dough uncovered until very hard. When frozen, remove individual dough balls to a Ziplock freezer bag and freeze until ready to bake.

8.  To bake: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Place frozen mounds of dough onto a lined cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes (depending on size of the balls) or until the tops of the cookie are firm but very soft to the touch. Cookies will harden a little as they cool.

9.  Let cookies cool for 5 minutes if you want them to be hot and gooey; longer if you want them to hold their shape a little better.

baked cookies

Note: Baked cookies may be refrigerated and then re-heated in a microwave for 20 seconds on high. However, cold, baked cookies are like a cross between a cookie and a truffle and quite delicious!

Cookies

These molten chocolate cookies go perfectly with our Tu B’Av cherry soup! Get the recipe here.