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Eatsy: A French Hanukkah

Dec 1, 2010

by kittykatherine

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.

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.


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.

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menorah - Jar oil clay hanukah menorah
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Green Ludwig, Eco friendly Menorah, recycled oak wine barrel stave candleholder, Nine white porcelain holders
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Tree of Life Menorah 9 Candle for Hanukkah - Item #824, Holiday or Decor
Tree of Life Menorah 9 Candle for Hanukkah - Item #824, Holiday or Decor
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6 pack Dreidel Girl Hanukkah Cards
6 pack Dreidel Girl Hanukkah Cards
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Winter Blues. Fleur Hair Pins.


  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel said 9 years ago

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

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 9 years ago

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

  • bootmeister

    bootmeister said 9 years ago

    those onion latkes look unbelievably good!

  • tennyoceres

    tennyoceres said 9 years ago

    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.

  • FirstImpressionGem

    FirstImpressionGem said 9 years ago

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

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry said 9 years ago

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

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 9 years ago

    YUM! great recipes!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 9 years ago

    Oniony latkes?? Yum. Happy Hanukkah!

  • HomemadeZen

    HomemadeZen said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah! Mmm the Latkes looks YUM!

  • katrinshine

    katrinshine said 9 years ago

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

  • whodabuddah1968

    whodabuddah1968 said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah! yummmm Latkes!

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah to all. Love the latkes.

  • DevineCollectible

    DevineCollectible said 9 years ago

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

  • LucentJewels

    LucentJewels said 9 years ago

    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!!

  • Menuchachic

    Menuchachic said 9 years ago

    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.. :)

  • PlumeandPetals

    PlumeandPetals said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah~!

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 9 years ago


  • carlossantiago

    carlossantiago said 9 years ago

    Viva la Hanukkah! that recipe looks good!

  • brooksbarrow

    brooksbarrow said 9 years ago

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

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 9 years ago

    Yummy! Thanks for sharing.

  • Asianexpressions

    Asianexpressions said 9 years ago


  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord said 9 years ago

    Nice article, the recipes look great!

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 9 years ago

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

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 9 years ago

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

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah! Thanks so much for sharing the recipes!

  • bbesigns

    bbesigns said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukah Love the Latkes

  • MarlaFayeCreations

    MarlaFayeCreations said 9 years ago

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

  • NaturalPetProducts

    NaturalPetProducts said 9 years ago

    Here's one for you from a treasury of mine TY (Kath)

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie said 9 years ago

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

  • ohbabydotcom

    ohbabydotcom said 9 years ago

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

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny said 9 years ago

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

  • HopePhotoArt

    HopePhotoArt said 9 years ago

    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!

  • FunWithNeedles

    FunWithNeedles said 9 years ago

    ahaha! awesome recipes! yummmmmmm

  • RockLove

    RockLove said 9 years ago

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

  • dorydesigns

    dorydesigns said 9 years ago

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

  • secretchief

    secretchief said 9 years ago

    just what i was looking for!

  • dvinedesigns

    dvinedesigns said 9 years ago

    Happy Hannukah!! Let the light Shine!!

  • silvertique

    silvertique said 9 years ago

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

  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry said 9 years ago

    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!

  • beadenchanting

    beadenchanting said 9 years ago

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

  • paperdesigner

    paperdesigner said 9 years ago

    Latkes sound so delicious right now.

  • Prittyfy

    Prittyfy said 9 years ago

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

  • NoMoreTwistHandmade

    NoMoreTwistHandmade said 9 years ago

    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!

  • ValerieKStudio

    ValerieKStudio said 9 years ago

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

  • juln

    juln said 9 years ago

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

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna said 9 years ago

    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!

  • Simag

    Simag said 9 years ago

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

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 9 years ago

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

  • thetimetravel

    thetimetravel said 9 years ago

    looks yummy :)

  • pipapiep

    pipapiep said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkh!

  • MyGlitterQueen

    MyGlitterQueen said 9 years ago

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

  • brooklit

    brooklit said 9 years ago

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

  • genevas

    genevas said 9 years ago

    happy hanukkah!!

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 9 years ago

    "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!

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 9 years ago

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

  • nuvika

    nuvika said 9 years ago

    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)

  • SomsStudio

    SomsStudio said 9 years ago

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

  • acacheofjewels

    acacheofjewels said 9 years ago

    Sounds delicious... Happy Chanukah everyone!!

  • QuiltFinger

    QuiltFinger said 9 years ago

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

  • beatyboutique

    beatyboutique said 9 years ago

    I can't wait to try these out, beautiful

  • noyasilverjewelry

    noyasilverjewelry said 9 years ago

    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.

  • Barbiola

    Barbiola said 9 years ago

    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!

  • mulch

    mulch said 9 years ago

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

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah! Thanks for sharing the recipes.

  • AtabbycatArts

    AtabbycatArts said 9 years ago

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

  • artlife

    artlife said 9 years ago

    I will have to try those recipes! THANKS!

  • Flipabill

    Flipabill said 9 years ago

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

  • shop1848

    shop1848 said 9 years ago

    Wonderful article!

  • PureCeramics

    PureCeramics said 9 years ago

    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 :)

  • Threemoons

    Threemoons said 9 years ago

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

  • racheltreasures

    racheltreasures said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah!

  • Marvidrio

    Marvidrio said 9 years ago

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

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns said 9 years ago

    Happy Hanukkah everyone!

  • ZenBeach

    ZenBeach said 9 years ago

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

  • yafithos111

    yafithos111 said 9 years ago

    HAG SAMECH חג שמח Heppy Hanukkah

  • jaipuronline

    jaipuronline said 9 years ago

    Nice article, the recipes look great!

  • Joyeux Hanukkah from Kwiziq French! said 4 years ago

    […] Eatsy: A French Hanukkah […]

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