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Eatsy: A French Hanukkah

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Joan Nathan is the authority on Jewish cookery, so who better to consult on the eve of Hanukkah? Her cookbooks — for which she’s won two James Beards and two IACP/ Julia Child Cookbook of the Year Awards — are engrossing, encyclopedic collections. Joan, according to Alice Waters, is a “historian, anthropologist, and extraordinary cook, but above all she is a tireless custodian of a wonderfully rich culture.”

Joan began work on her latest book, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, the first time she set foot on French soil as an undergraduate studying abroad. Recalling her first impressions, she says “you could see that the buildings were still very sooty,” and “the Jewish community, in particular, was repairing their lives after the horror of World War II.”

When I ask Joan how France celebrates Hanukkah, she explains that “unlike America, Jewish culture in France is slightly undercover, slightly quiet. There are synagogues throughout France and Jewish life is celebrated, but differently.” French Jews — an eclectic mix of Eastern European, Alsatian, North African, Spanish — each have “their own traditions.” Nonetheless, ever the epicurean, Joan managed to unearth a delicious collection of Hanukkah recipes. Asked to share a favorite from her book, Joan gave three: a buckwheat and onion latke that predates potato latke, a delicious apple cake, and fruit bread from Alsace. Thank you Joan, and Happy Hanukkah to everyone!

joan-nathan-headshot.jpgGâteau de Hannouka (Polish Hanukkah Apple Cake)
Yields 8-10 servings

Danielle Fleischmann bakes this apple cake in the same beat-up rectangular pan that her mother used. Known as a “Jewish apple cake” because oil is substituted for butter, it is called gâteau de Hannouka in France. When Danielle makes the cake, she uses very little batter, half sweet and half tart apples, a combination that makes a really tasty version of this simple Polish cake. Although her mother grated the apples, Danielle cuts them into small chunks. I often make it in a Bundt pan and serve it sprinkled with sugar.

1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing pan
5 apples (3 Fuji and 2 Granny Smith, or any combination of sweet and tart apples), peeled, cored, and cut into ½- inch pieces (about 6 cups)
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup walnut halves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a Bundt pan or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Toss the apples in a large bowl with the zest and juice of the lemon, the walnuts, and the cinnamon.

Pulse together the flour, baking powder, salt, almonds, and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. With the food processor running, add the eggs, oil, and almond extract, processing until just mixed.

Spoon 1/3 of the batter over the bottom of the pan. Scatter the apples on top, and cover the apples with the remaining batter.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar (you’ll need less if using a Bundt pan).

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

The cake will take a shorter time to bake in the shallow rectangular pan than in the Bundt pan.

nathan-atmosphere-1.jpg
Photo: Courtesy of Kugels, Quiches and Couscous

Hutzel Wecken (Alsatian Hanukkah Fruit Bread)  
Yield: 2 Loaves

Most Jews in France prior to the twentieth century used handwritten cookbooks passed down from mother to daughter. Since Alsace-Lorraine was under German occupation between 1871 and 1918, the majority of the Jews living there read German, using many of the dozen or so kosher cookbooks published in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Combing through these German books and her mother’s handwritten cookbook, Agar Lippmann, a caterer in Lyon, came across a recipe she had been trying to track down for years. Hutzel wecken, which literally means hat or dome-shaped little rolls in German, is a very old Hanukkah and To B’Shevat (the new year of trees) fruitcake rarely made today. I prefer it treated more as bread, sliced very thin and served with cheese or really good butter. My guess is that the peanuts were a later addition. If you don’t have all the different dried fruits and nuts, just use what you have. The recipe is very flexible. Once, when I made it for a party, some of the guests liked it so much that, unbeknownst to me, they took home little slices hidden in paper napkins for their breakfast!

2 cups chopped dried pears
1 cup chopped dried pitted plums
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried currants
1 cup roughly chopped dried figs
1 cup roughly chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup salted peanuts
1/3 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup kirsch
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Put the pears and plums in a saucepan with water to cover by an inch. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Drain, reserving both the fruit and the liquid.

Toss the pears and plums in a large bowl with the raisins, currants, figs, dates, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, orange zest, and lemon zest. Add the kirsch, and toss again.

In a separate bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the reserved fruit liquid, and then add 1/2 cup of the flour, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Cover, and let rise for 1 hour.

Stir in the remaining 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt.

Knead the dough in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook. Add the fruits and nuts, and, using a low setting, slowly stir into the dough. When everything is incorporated, turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface, incorporating enough more flour to make the dough smooth and elastic. Even so, it will be a wet dough. Shape into a large ball, put in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a round ball, and put both on the baking sheet. Let rest for 20 minutes. Bake, turning the temperature down to 375 degrees after 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the dough is cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes.

If you want, while the breads are baking, make a glaze by whisking together 1/2 cup of the fruit water and the confectioners’ sugar. As soon as the breads come out of the oven, spoon the glaze over them. Serve warm or at room temperature.

latkes.jpg

Photo: Latkes by slgckgc

Gretchenes Latkes (Buckwheat Onion Latkes)
Yield: 8 Latkes

People often ask me what kind of latkes were eaten before potatoes came to the Old World from the New. This onion pancake gives us a taste of that past. Buckwheat, called farine aux Sarrazins or blé noir in French, is used for this recipe. Although rendered goose fat was traditionally the oil used in Alsace and elsewhere in Europe, oils made from safflower, walnuts, and other nuts and seeds were also used, probably pressed by the farmers who brought them to markets where they were sold. The recipe, although attributed as Alsatian in one cookbook, is clearly from eastern Europe, as the word “gretchenes” means buckwheat in Polish.

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups grated onions (about 2 medium)
Vegetable oil for frying
Sour cream or applesauce for garnish

Stir the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl. Beat in the eggs, mixing well. Then stir in the onions.

Heat a nonstick frying pan and add a film of oil. Ladle about 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture into the frying pan and heat, frying until golden, then flip and cook the second side. Eat alone or with sour cream or applesauce.

  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel says:

    happy hanukkah!! thanks for sharing these great recipes...esp lattkes! yum!!

    3 years ago

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts says:

    Nice, looks like I'm going to be cooking today. Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • bootmeister

    bootmeister says:

    those onion latkes look unbelievably good!

    3 years ago

  • tennyoceres

    tennyoceres says:

    Latkes sound so delicious right now. Or maybe that's my stomach being lured by the siren call of lunch. No, no, latkes still sound delicious right now.

    3 years ago

  • FirstImpressionGem

    FirstImpressionGem says:

    HAPPY HANUKA! :) One thing is sure - this is not the right time to start a diet... :)

    3 years ago

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry says:

    Happy Hanukkah! I'm going to try the apple cake recipe for sure!

    3 years ago

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage says:

    YUM! great recipes!

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Oniony latkes?? Yum. Happy Hanukkah!

    3 years ago

  • HomemadeZen

    HomemadeZen says:

    Happy Hanukkah! Mmm the Latkes looks YUM!

    3 years ago

  • katrinshine

    katrinshine says:

    happy hanukkah for all!! Today one girl fron Israil bought my necklace)

    3 years ago

  • whodabuddah1968

    whodabuddah1968 says:

    Happy Hanukkah! yummmm Latkes!

    3 years ago

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories says:

    Happy Hanukkah to all. Love the latkes.

    3 years ago

  • DevineCollectible

    DevineCollectible says:

    Just lit my 1st candles, read psalm 1, yes, several times thru peace out!

    3 years ago

  • LucentJewels

    LucentJewels says:

    Fascinating article, I love the insight into both the food and the culture of Jews in France. I've been the proud owner of a battered copy of Claudia Roden's book of Jewish food for some years, and am delighted to be introduced to Joan Nathan's work as well. I'll be going on a hunt for her books now! Thanks, and Happy Hanukkah!!

    3 years ago

  • Menuchachic

    Menuchachic says:

    Lovely post!!! happy hannukah - i'm so full of latkes,it's putting me to sleep..ymmm! I find this article very interesting as 2 years ago I spent hannukah in paris. The cooking there, although the same... is so different! the north african Jews there can cook to kill.. :)

    3 years ago

  • PlumeandPetals

    PlumeandPetals says:

    Happy Hanukkah~!

    3 years ago

  • theroyal

    theroyal says:

    fun

    3 years ago

  • carlossantiago

    carlossantiago says:

    Viva la Hanukkah! that recipe looks good!

    3 years ago

  • brooksbarrow

    brooksbarrow says:

    One of the more interesting posts I've read lately.That Tree of Life Menorah is gorgeous!

    3 years ago

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu says:

    Yummy! Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • Asianexpressions
  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord says:

    Nice article, the recipes look great!

    3 years ago

  • bedouin

    bedouin says:

    Love Love the article recipes and super finds ~*~ Happy Hanukkah

    3 years ago

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage says:

    wow, I'll have to try the latkes...very similar to potato pancakes - an old favorite!

    3 years ago

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios says:

    Happy Hanukkah! Thanks so much for sharing the recipes!

    3 years ago

  • bbesigns

    bbesigns says:

    Happy Hanukah Love the Latkes

    3 years ago

  • MarlaFayeCreations

    MarlaFayeCreations says:

    Okay, time to go home and light the Menorah and make some delicious potato latkes!!!

    3 years ago

  • NaturalPetProducts

    NaturalPetProducts says:

    Here's one for you from a treasury of mine http://www.etsy.com/listing/62347702/hanukkah-dreidel-pet-hat-fits-all-sizes?ref=tre-4cec54fca73c8eef1dc3bf14-11 TY (Kath)

    3 years ago

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie says:

    Mmmm... Latke Fest 2010 is this Sunday night at my house. Come one over...it's tradition. Thanks Kitty, can't wait.

    3 years ago

  • ohbabydotcom

    ohbabydotcom says:

    Potato Latkes! YUM! I love them. I make them on Christmas morning. That was our tradition. My father use to make them.

    3 years ago

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny says:

    this book is so wonderful - such a treat seeing it featured on etsy.

    3 years ago

  • HopePhotoArt

    HopePhotoArt says:

    Happy Hannukah everyone! I have some really cute Hannukah digital collage sheet gift tags listed in my shop under Holiday Collages for the celebration if anyone is interested! http://www.etsy.com/listing/56489976/new-modern-hanukkah-menorah-holiday-hang

    3 years ago

  • FunWithNeedles

    FunWithNeedles says:

    ahaha! awesome recipes! yummmmmmm

    3 years ago

  • RockLove

    RockLove says:

    Said my blessings, lit my candles, now planning my attempt at your Apple Cake!

    3 years ago

  • dorydesigns

    dorydesigns says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful recipes. I am looking forward to trying out one of them during the holiday. Happy Channukah!

    3 years ago

  • secretchief

    secretchief says:

    just what i was looking for!

    3 years ago

  • dvinedesigns

    dvinedesigns says:

    Happy Hannukah!! Let the light Shine!!

    3 years ago

  • silvertique

    silvertique says:

    happy chanukah!!! great to see some cool recipies =)

    3 years ago

  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the wonderful recipes! It must have been wonderful to live in France, that's always been a dream of mine. Happy Hannukah!

    3 years ago

  • beadenchanting

    beadenchanting says:

    i will be making the fruit bread and apple cake for sure!! thanks for sharing these recipes!

    3 years ago

  • paperdesigner

    paperdesigner says:

    Latkes sound so delicious right now.

    3 years ago

  • Prittyfy

    Prittyfy says:

    Happy Hanukkah! Great recipes! I made some potato latkes tonight for my family ... with onion, of course.

    3 years ago

  • NoMoreTwistHandmade

    NoMoreTwistHandmade says:

    thanks for sharing these wonderful recipes and the stories behind them! i am always looking for a new spin on the classic hannukah and am so delighted to encounter this post as i spent a good bit of time in france and didn't have the opportunity to experience the jewish culture while there. thanks so much!

    3 years ago

  • ValerieKStudio

    ValerieKStudio says:

    happy hanukkah! i am from morocco and we make "beignet", french words for donuts.

    3 years ago

  • juln

    juln says:

    The latke idea is making me so hungry! Great article.

    3 years ago

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna says:

    My husband's family has a super Apple Cake recipe and reading yours made me all crave it, even though we just made Apple Cake a few weeks ago with some of the fresh apples of Fall. It's so nice to see these stories and hear the backgrounds of these foods, I was unaware of some of them. Thanks so much for this post & Happy Hanukkah everyone!

    3 years ago

  • Simag

    Simag says:

    Happy Hanukkah Everyone,From Colorado:) שיהיה לכולם חג חנוכה שמח עים הרבה סופגניות מתוקות וטעימות

    3 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    Great recipes! I always make potato pancakes but never tried buckwheat. Thanks for the recipes!

    3 years ago

  • thetimetravel

    thetimetravel says:

    looks yummy :)

    3 years ago

  • pipapiep

    pipapiep says:

    Happy Hanukkh!

    3 years ago

  • MyGlitterQueen

    MyGlitterQueen says:

    Looks great- just opened up my appetite:) Happy Hanukkh!

    3 years ago

  • brooklit

    brooklit says:

    Mmmmm. Going to a Chanukah Gift Sale tonight with latkes, you've got me salivating for them.

    3 years ago

  • genevas

    genevas says:

    happy hanukkah!!

    3 years ago

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart says:

    "she is a tireless custodian of a wonderfully rich culture" I hope that someday someone will say that about me and my Hawaiian culture, what a compliment. Thank you for your recipes, I want to make the latkes soon!

    3 years ago

  • ikabags

    ikabags says:

    Happy Hanukkah!

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Happy hanukkah to all those celebrating! I must admit I dont know that much about Jewish traditional food but certainly looks tasty : )

    3 years ago

  • nuvika

    nuvika says:

    You may feel that you have eaten too much...But this pastry is like feathers - it is like snow. It is in fact good for you, a digestive Nuvika (Bridal Jewelry store)

    3 years ago

  • SomsStudio

    SomsStudio says:

    Happy Hanukkah! And thanks so much for the recipes. I have to try them all!

    3 years ago

  • acacheofjewels

    acacheofjewels says:

    Sounds delicious... Happy Chanukah everyone!!

    3 years ago

  • QuiltFinger

    QuiltFinger says:

    MMMM! These recipes look delicious! It's only 7Am, but I'm feeling Hun-grrry!

    3 years ago

  • beatyboutique

    beatyboutique says:

    I can't wait to try these out, beautiful

    3 years ago

  • noyasilverjewelry

    noyasilverjewelry says:

    Happy Hanukkah from Israel !!! I'm on my way to eat Latkes Right now :D yummy !!! If someone wants my recipe, send me convo and I will give it with love.

    3 years ago

  • Barbiola

    Barbiola says:

    I am all over the food. Thanks for including such lovely photos. The best compliment to recipes is the sensation of starving after reading. I am right now making Latkes and apple cake for breakfast!

    3 years ago

  • mulch

    mulch says:

    Happy Hanukkah.. The article is wonderful. Thank you so much for it.--Mulch

    3 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Happy Hanukkah! Thanks for sharing the recipes.

    3 years ago

  • AtabbycatArts

    AtabbycatArts says:

    Happy Hanukkah! The apple cake is going to be made today!

    3 years ago

  • artlife

    artlife says:

    I will have to try those recipes! THANKS!

    3 years ago

  • Flipabill

    Flipabill says:

    Happy Hanukah to all! Thanks for the recipes. Now to decide to I make more magic wallets or latkes????

    3 years ago

  • shop1848

    shop1848 says:

    Wonderful article!

    3 years ago

  • PureCeramics

    PureCeramics says:

    I am going to lit the third candle with my family right now and eat some of the greatest latkes. Thank you for the great article. Happy Hanukah :)

    3 years ago

  • Threemoons

    Threemoons says:

    Chappy Chanukkah, Etsians! :) As someone from a mixed marriage, it's always nice to see Chanukkah get some rep! :)

    3 years ago

  • racheltreasures

    racheltreasures says:

    Happy Hanukkah!

    3 years ago

  • Marvidrio

    Marvidrio says:

    Would love to try out the recipes. It's always good to try something new:)

    3 years ago

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns says:

    Happy Hanukkah everyone!

    3 years ago

  • ZenBeach

    ZenBeach says:

    Love your beautiful, warm photos! Thanks for sharing your recipes, too. The latkes look scrumptious!!!

    3 years ago

  • yafithos111

    yafithos111 says:

    HAG SAMECH חג שמח Heppy Hanukkah

    3 years ago

  • jaipuronline

    jaipuronline says:

    Nice article, the recipes look great!

    3 years ago