What’s the best thing about Hanukkah? In my house growing up it was always the cookies: Sugar cookies rolled out and cut with menorah and stars of David, iced with blue and white powdered-sugar icing, A grand mess and wonderfully fun.
But what about some new traditions in Hanukkah treats? Over the years as a chef, I have collected great recipes for easy and absolutely delicious sweets. This year, I’d like to share with you one of my favorites for Hanukkah. It takes an hour or two, is surprisingly easy and uses fresh fruit, so it’s actually good for you.
It is the traditional strudel recipe, you know the one that you stretch and stretch until you can read a newspaper through the dough? I know you’re thinking, “Oy! My grandmother made that, or my great grandmother (or someone’s great grandmother) and I could never do it myself!”
Well, I have done it with many completely novice, non-cooking groups and not only is it very fun, it’s actually easy — and you get a beat-your-aggressions-out kneading session besides!
The only “unusual” ingredient you may not have on hand is a couple handfuls of bread crumbs; just throw last week’s challah in the food processor and voila! Bread crumbs! You can fill the strudel with any fruit you have around, add nuts, cinnamon, jam, roll it up, cut in half and bake! This is a great project to do with kids because it’s fascinating, uses hands and bodies and is somewhat messy! Have fun!
Strudel for Hanukkah
For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2/3 cup warm water
For the filling:
4 to 5 cups peeled apples, pears, persimmons, grapes
3/4 cup jam
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Sugar to taste
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (optional)
1/2 cup flour
For stretching and rolling:
An old tablecloth stretched over a dining room or kitchen table (at least 4’x4’)
Flour to sprinkle on the cloth (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup bread crumbs, dry or fresh
3/4 cup oil, melted butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten, to brush on top
Sugar to sprinkle on top (about 1/2 cup)
First, make the dough. Sift the flour into a medium-sized mixing bowl, or put the sifted flour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the egg, oil and warm water and mix together until the dough holds together. If it’s sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. Now the fun workout part begins! Take the dough out of the bowl and throw it hard down on the counter or table. If it sticks, put a little flour down.
Repeat this about 300 times. That’s right! You get a great workout with your kids, the neighbor kids and friends while you knead the dough by throwing it hard (you should hear it sap/thump each time) down onto the counter. (This is a great family or family/friends event — doing it yourself, especially the stretching, is almost not possible and half as much fun.) When the throwing/kneading is done, put the dough back into the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 1/2 hour to an hour while you make the filling.
Peel and core the hard fruits (persimmon, too) and mix with the remaining ingredients except the jam. Let sit while you stretch the dough.
On the tablecloth that covers your table, roll the dough out as far as you can in a circle or square or rectangle. When it is about 15 to 18 inches round (or long) gather everyone around the table. All at once, (or about) everyone picks up the dough with their hands knuckles up (Very important!). Begin very gently stretching the dough by moving your knuckles out and in and moving the dough in a circle around the table (be sure you all decide which direction you will be stretching, right or left, before you start!). You will see thin spots develop as you stretch: pass by them with your knuckles to avoid tearing. If a tear develops, put the dough down and pinch it together; don’t worry about it too much because you will be rolling the dough up and each tear will get covered.
When the dough is about 4 or 5 feet long, and about 4 feet wide, put it down on the table and brush it gently all over with the oil or melted butter or margarine. Sprinkle the entire thing with the bread crumbs, then put the filling over two-thirds of the dough, leaving the remaining third uncovered. Dot the filling with the jam.
Starting at the side that is covered with filling, pull out one 2-inch length of dough the whole length of the strudel and put it on top of the filling, all the way down. Now the fun part: Pick up the tablecloth on that side and lift it gently along the length of the strudel to make the strudel roll up, over and over on itself, enclosing the filling, As you continue to gently lift the cloth and nudge the roll over and over, the strudel rolls up till all the filling is enclosed and you have a long, long roll of strudel sitting on the cloth!
Brush the entire thing with well-beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar and cut with a serrated knife into three equal lengths. Place them next to each other on one or two greased cookie sheets and bake at 350º for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the oven. When the fruit is bubbling and the strudel is golden to mahogany brown, your strudel is done!
Let it cool till it’s just warm and serve with vanilla ice cream. You can freeze any of the logs before baking and put them in a 325º oven to bake directly from the freezer so you can have them any time during the Hanukkah season. And have a very, very happy Hanukkah!
Emily Moore is a local chef with 30 years experience in her field, including 13 years in local and regional restaurants. Her business, Emily’s Kitchen, provides culinary services to all facets of the food industry and catering to the Jewish community. She also currently teaches culinary arts at Edmonds Community College.