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Nov 27, 2011 05:57 PM

Hanukkah Treats!

In a few weeks, my boyfriend and I are co-hosting a holiday cocktail party with desserts. I celebrate Christmas (in an agnostic, very commercial way) and have a definite idea of what sort of "Christmas" cookies/treats I want to make. My boyfriend is being very vague or perhaps lazy about his idea of Hanukkah treats. (He is better suited for being the bartender. :)

Anyone have any thing I should think of making? I know Hanukkah is not a religious holiday and may not have its own set of food but I wanted to see if there was anything anyone else would suggest so that when the party comes around, its not just candy cane cookies. And if there is nothing specific, that is fine too!

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  1. Hanukkah is a religious holiday. It's not one of the High Holidays, and it's gone pretty mainstream, but for most of us, it's inextricably linked w/ our Judaism. It really does have foods that in Jewish communities all around the world, are very closely and sometimes exclusively associated with the celebration of Hanukkah. That said, you could go Israeli and serve sufganyot ( mini jelly donuts). If you poke around on CH, there a number of Sephardic Hanukkah recipes that could be really interesting to try, too. Like a bimuelo- fried honey puffs. I grew up Ashkenazic, so I'm not as familiar with those. We always had great desserts ( an abundance of chocolate) for our Hanukkah parties, but we mostly went crazy for latkes ( not a dessert food). The key for Hanukkah is the miracle of the oil that burned for 8 nights, so anything fried using oil is sort of considered "Hanukkah". Wishing you luck and fun!

    12 Replies
    1. re: MRS

      I agree - we had a crazy abundance of chocolate, and yes, anything fried is great. Having had sufganyot that were homemade, I have to say they're amazing if you want to take the time to make them. Also I've eated a lot of sugar cookies in the shape of Hanukkah "items" i.e. Jewish star, dreidel, etc. Both frosted and un-frosted. If made right they can be delicious! I like the sugar cookie recipe in the Joy of Cooking, but I'm sure there are many others.

      1. re: MRS

        I might have this all wrong, and I may well be corrected, but I don't believe Hanukkah is a religious holiday. It is my understanding that because the events commemorated by Hanukkah took place after the end of the Old Testament and before the beginning of the New Testament, the context is historical rather than biblical, making it more of a secular holiday than a religious one.

        That said, there certainly are foods that are traditionally served during Hanukkah. In my home, nothing says Hanukkah more than latkes.

        1. re: CindyJ

          Secular to whom? If you mean to Jews, then by definition it's a religious holiday since Judaism is a religion, not a nationality or an ethnicity. If you mean to Israelis, then no, it's not a holiday to Israeli Muslims, Christians, Bahais, etc. So it's a religious holiday. The holiday is about a miracle brought about by G-d, so in my book the connection with the Deity makes it religious.

          That being said, the traditional holiday foods are anything cooked in oil and dairy products (see the story of Judith for the reason for dairy). Cheesecakes and rugelach are very popular. Latkes, of course, but latkes don't have to be only white potato. They can be made from sweet potato, rice, zucchini, corn, cheese, or anything you can make into a pancake shape and fry in oil. They can be sweet or savory, cocktail-sized or plate-sized. The only limit is your imagination. Sufganiyot have become very popular in the US in recent years. Just please don't make them out of fried refrigerated biscuit dough. That stuff is just plain nasty.

          1. re: rockycat

            We may be getting caught up in semantics here. The point I was making -- and I did say I may well be corrected on this -- is that although Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, its origin is not based in Talmud. I'm no Jewish scholar, but I do believe there is a distinction between biblical holidays and post-biblical ones.

            1. re: CindyJ

              Certainly not when it comes to food. Nor, for that matter, to the obligation to observe.

          2. re: CindyJ

            Of course it is a religious holiday.
            It's timing near Christmas has made it come into the awareness of non Jews in a way that is different from other Jewish holidays such as Sukkot, Purim, Simchat Torah.
            Personally, I find the folding in of Hanukah into what is clearly a Christmas celebration odd, but I know it is often done.
            I would go with sweet and savoury latkes, rugelach and I have a weakness for chocolate gelt.

            1. re: magiesmom

              Thanks everyone for your replies! To answer the question of why its a mixed holiday event: I am agnostic and my boyfriend is pretty much a non-practicing Jew, but wanted to have people to our house and the holidays are a good excuse! This gives me a good start, plus hopefully it will prod the boyfriend into thinking more about it himself. So far, he has 3 drinks he wants to make, so we need more food to avoid everyone being quite drunk!

            2. re: CindyJ

              Hi Cindy, Chanuka is totally a religious holiday, in which we celebrate two miracles: The Jewish victory over the Hellenists who tried to force assimilation and basically stop the Jews from being Jews; and after that, when they were able to re-open the Temple, after it was ransacked, and could only find enough oil to light the Menora for one day, it burned for 8 days. To commemorate these miracles, we light an 8-branched candelabra called a chanukia, say prayers of thanksgiving and eat fried food. The fact that secular Jews also celebrate doesn't make it a secular holiday, Enjoy your latkes.

              1. re: jtownfoodie

                Just playing "devil's advocate" (poor choice of words, perhaps) for a minute -- if Chanukah is a religious holiday, why is it that the story of Chanukah is not told in synagogues as part of a Chanukah service, the way the story of Purim is, for example?

                Latkes... hamentachen... it's all good.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Because the book of the Maccabees (which really does exist) was not cannonized as part of the Tanach, the way that Megillat Esther was. There are other Jewish books that were not made an "official" part of the Jewish Bible, the same way that there are writings that were not cannonized in the Chrisitan Bible. That does not make the writings any less true or holy.

                  Btw, the story is told and taught and learned from in synagogues. There are specific prayers unique to Hanukkah inserted into the daily services and there are prayers over the candles. Why would we be saying prayers if the holiday were NOT a religious one?

            3. Hi Lindsey,

              The trouble with Hanukkah foods from a cocktail party perspective is that they are generally deep fried. If you can fry up some latkes on the spot, your guests will love you, but that's pretty labor-intensive for the hostess. Some people may have tips for re-warming latkes, but I haven't had good results.

              A smoked fish platter might be a good non-fried but vaguely Jewish option. I like smoked salmon, sturgeon and smoked trout spread with a variety of rye breads. You could also do smoked fish canapes.

              If you are just sticking to sweets, then I'll chime in in support of sufganiyot, which are wonderful homemade. The fresher the better, but as long as they're made the same day as the party, they should be better than anything you'd get in a donut shop. I fill mine with a mixture of high-quality raspberry jam and cooked puree of frozen raspberries, which I press through a sieve. Truly the world's best jelly donuts.

              If you're not up for deep frying, Marcy Goldman's Chanukah Gelt Double Fudge Chocolate Layer Cake is my favorite chocolate cake ever. You really do need to decorate it with the gold coins to make it Hanukkah themed, though.


              1. For us, the festive food items to look forward to at Hanukkah are nuts and oranges, since when I was younger, it was the one time of year when we'd get them as a special treat. (This is probably a specifically eastern european thing; nowadays oranges might not seem so special, but they were a big deal for us!) So, my mind goes towards nut cake, clementines, and things with raisins and honey. We are also typically working our way through the fall's jars of applesauce at this time of year, so warm applesauce is a common treat during Hanukkah, too.

                Although I know some communities have specifically Hanukkah-themed foods (as mentioned above), I can say that in our family, there really aren't any except for potato latkes, so it's possible that his vagueness is for a similar reason? (Not everyone does- for many, it's a very minor holiday, celebrated only within the immediate family.) If so, I bet any type of cookies or sweet treats will be appreciated as seasonally festive!

                1 Reply
                1. re: another_adam

                  I agree with the fact that its a vague request and that everyone celebrates differently. I was just trying to get the creative juices flowing and start thinking ahead! Appreciate everyone's opinion on this.

                2. I am not Jewish (idk if that makes my idea carry a different weight) but here are my ideas.

                  From what I understand fried things a very traditional, especially donuts. A friend of mine made a big Hanukkah meal last year and the donuts were a highlight. He served them with a crumbly brown sugar topping, but I have not idea if this is traditional.

                  Of you want to do a sweet play on latkes, smitten kitchen has an apple latke recipe.

                  Not sure if this is Hanukkah specific, but noodle kugel is always tasty.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Excellent suggestion. I was so scared that you were going to link to the infamous Sandra Lee Hanukkah cake. :-)

                      1. re: rockycat

                        Wow- Sandra Lee Hannukah cake. I've officially heard it all.

                        1. re: jvanderh


                          The video is all over the net. Everyone can use some good laughs this time of year. Enjoy!

                          1. re: rockycat

                            Bwahahaha. Marshmallows! How did I know she'd get a pork product in there? :-D

                            Seriously, though, I find her very inspiring. If she can start off life with no advantages aside from slightly above average looks, gain fame and fortune as a TV chef while possessing not a single discernible cooking skill or charming personality characteristic, surely I can be elected president or something.

                        2. re: rockycat

                          ME? suggest a Sandra Lee recipe? only on April Fool's Day ;)