6 Sweet Treats to Serve During Hanukkah
The Festival of Lights is a time for friends and family to gather over faith, good fortune, and food. There are many traditional dishes served during the holiday, many of these foods incorporating oil in honor of the Jewish people’s rich and enduring history. The dessert dishes typical of this season are particularly popular, ranging from freshly fried doughnuts (sufganiyot) to chocolate coins (gelt), and just about everything in between.
These six Hanukkah sweets, rich in both flavor and tradition, can be enjoyed by everyone this holiday season.
1. Apple-Granola Bimuelos
Bimuelos are round, yeasted dough fritters, the Sephardic variation of the typical Hanukkah doughnuts. At The Immigrant’s Table incorporates oats, apples, and nuts into this sweet recipe, finishing off the flavorful puffs with a golden honey glaze. These baked bimuelos are ideal for celebrants who love the traditional tastes of Hanukkah but wish to cut down their fat intake slightly over the season. The recipe takes about an hour and 45 minutes to make and yields 20 to 30 bimuelos, depending on size. Keep in mind that these Apple-Granola Bimuelos are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven — they will taste delicious after several days, but the glaze will eventually soak into the pastry.
- 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup granola
- 1 Honeycrisp apple, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ water
- ¼ cup honey
Directions: In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, and 1 teaspoon sugar and whisk together. Let stand for 10 minutes, frothing, until mixture doubles in size.
Add flour, granola, chopped apple, and salt to bowl with yeast mixture. Mix to combine, then knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Return to bowl, cover loosely with a towel, and let rise for about 1 to 1½ hours, until dough has doubled in volume.
To make syrup – In a medium-sized saucepan, combine sugar, water, and honey, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered and undisturbed, for 5 more minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When your dough has doubled, shape dough into small balls using wet hands. Arrange Bimuelos on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet, leaving about an inch of room between them. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes.
Dip balls into cooled syrup with thongs, turning over to ensure all sides have been covered. Serve immediately.
2. Chocolate-Raspberry Rugelach
The decadent tastes of of cocoa and raspberry come together in Ambrosia Baking’s Chocolate-Raspberry Rugelach. Rugelach are a traditional Jewish pastry stuffed with filling and served in the shape of a crescent. The dough is customarily cream cheese-based (for optimal results, have your cream cheese at room temperature when you start prepping the dish), and typical fillings include raisins, walnuts, preserves, and chocolate. Ambrosia Baking’s variation on the cream cheesy, buttery dough rolls offer a sophisticated and sweet center that every guest will enjoy. The recipe yields 3 dozen rugelach.
For the dough
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
For the filling
- ¼ cup walnuts, very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons raspberry preserves, divided in three
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Directions: To make the dough – Cream together the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth, and then mix in the vanilla extract and sugar. Mix in half the flour on low speed, and then mix in the other half. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 seconds, just to ensure that everything has been incorporated together. Divide the dough into three parts, forming each part into a 1-inch disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
To make the filling – In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, sugar, light brown sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon, and set aside.
To assemble the cookies – Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
Remove the disks of dough from the refrigerator and allow them to warm up a bit. Once the disks have loosened up a bit, on a lightly floured work surface, roll one of the disks of dough out into circle that is about ⅛-inch thick and 14 inches in diameter.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the raspberry preserves around the surface of the circle of dough, leaving about an inch around the outside edge and a 2-inch circle in the center. Sprinkle ⅓ of the nut mixture on top of the raspberry preserves.
With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into quarters, and then cut each quarter into 3 wedges, so that there are 12 wedges in total. Carefully slide out one of the wedges from the circle. Beginning at the wide end, tuck in the corners about ¼ inch, and then gently roll in toward the center. Try to get as little filling on the outside of the cookies as possible, otherwise the filling will burn as the cookies bake. Repeat with the remaining wedges and disks of dough.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart form each other. Curve the ends of the cookies in toward the center, to make a slight crescent shape. Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets, and then dust lightly with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
3. Fritters With Warm Chocolate Sauce (Levivot)
In a departure from the typical honey glaze found on Hanukkah fritters, Tori Avey amps up her family recipe for levivot – known by Israelis as sufganiyot – with a rich, warm chocolate sauce. To lend the dish a refined character, try adding a hint of rose water to the creamy, decadent chocolate sauce to take it to extraordinary heights of deliciousness. These fritters are quick to cook: Simply fry them up for about 3 minutes and try to enjoy them soon after cooking, when they’ll be at their crispiest. The fritter dough itself isn’t too sweet, so be sure to treat yourself with liberal amounts of chocolate and powdered sugar! This recipe yields 24 Fritters With Warm Chocolate Sauce.
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1 large bottle grape seed or peanut oil, for frying
- Powdered sugar for dusting
Warm chocolate sauce
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 3 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ cup half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon rosewater (optional)
Directions: For the fritters — In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Whisk the milk into the egg until well combined. Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until a thick batter forms.
Warm oil (use the whole bottle) over medium heat until hot enough for frying (around 365 degrees Fahrenheit). Use a metal soup spoon to scoop up each portion of batter. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into the hot oil. The oil should sizzle but not splatter. Test one fritter first to see if you’ve got the oil temperature right. You want the oil temperature at the low end of the frying spectrum, as these fritters take a while to cook through.
Between each scoop of batter, dip metal spoon into a dish of water. This will help keep the batter from sticking to the spoon. Make 4 to 5 fritters at a time. Keep a metal slotted spoon handy to turn the fritters as they become golden.
Fry the fritters until golden brown on both sides. If the oil is at the right temperature, it should take about 3 minutes for the fritters to brown completely and cook all the way through. Drain fried fritters on a wire rack.
For the warm chocolate sauce – Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar, butter, and salt, stirring constantly, until the butter is completely melted and mixed into the chocolate. Whisk in the half-and-half, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, stirring to combine after each addition. Whisk the sauce over medium heat until the half-and-half is fully incorporated.
Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and optional rosewater. Add additional sugar or salt to taste, if desired. Chocolate will thicken as it cools. Dust the fried fritters with powdered sugar, using a wire mesh strainer to sift the sugar.
Pour the warm chocolate sauce over the fritters and serve. Pairs well with fresh, cold whipped cream; you can also serve fritters and sauce over vanilla ice cream to make a Hanukkah fritter sundae.
4. Caramel-Apple Kugel
Parsley Sage Sweet’s Caramel-Apple Kugel is constructed similarly to an upside-down cake. The dish consists of an egg noodle base, flavored with brown sugar and apples for a delectable dish, one that can be served during dinner for a sweet and savory dining experience, or enjoyed separately for dessert. Cottage cheese and sour cream meld beautifully with the flavors of sweet-tart apple and spiced cinnamon for a wonderful winter sweet. The recipe takes an hour and 10 minutes to make and yields 10 to 12 servings.
- 1 pound wide egg noodles
- ½ stick butter, melted
- 1½ cups cottage cheese
- 1¼ cups sour cream
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 Granny Smith or apples of your choice, peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 cup light brown sugar
Directions: Grease the sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter.
Boil the noodles in salted water for about 4 minutes. Strain noodles and shake until dry. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients before the apples.
Pour the custard over the noodles, mix well, and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the stick of melted butter over the bottom of the baking dish, then top with the cup of brown sugar, pressing it down so it soaks up the butter. Arrange the sliced apples on top of the brown sugar.
Give the noodles another toss to make sure the custard covers them all and pour over apples. Distribute the noodles evenly over the apples. Cover top of dish with buttered tin foil.
Bake until the custard is set, about 1 hour. If you have a platter larger than 13-by-9 inches, flip the noodle kugel on to the platter, as you would an upside down cake. If not, let cool, then cut slices and flip them over on to plates. The dish tastes great warm or cold.
5. Chocolate Gelt
Chocolate coins, or gelt, are another favorite Hanukkah custom. These sweets are as simple to make as they are delicious to eat. For added festive character, Oh Nuts brushes her chocolate “coins” with a golden luster dust, available at many cake and candy supply stores (you can use edible gold leaf to serve the same purpose). Although the coins are traditionallly made with milk chocolate, you can also use white or dark, according to your preference. This recipe for Chocolate Gelt yields 24 chocolate rounds.
If you’re looking to stray from tradition with this year’s gelt, we’d suggest trying out dpm does’s Green Tea White Chocolate and Spicy Dark Chocolate gelt.
- 8 ounces (about 1⅓ cups) milk melting chocolate wafers
- Gold luster dust
- Clean, food-safe paintbrush
Directions: Place the chocolate wafers in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the wafers in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds, until the wafers are melted and smooth.
Drop a spoonful of melted chocolate into 24 mini muffin cavities. Note that the coins look better when they’re thinner, and about 1½ to 2 teaspoons of chocolate per coin will work well.
Bang the muffin pans against the counter several times to level out the chocolate and reduce any “peaks” on top of the chocolate. Refrigerate the pans until the chocolate is completely set, about 20 minutes.
Next, turn the pans upside-down over a clean surface, and flex them to release the coins. If some of them stick in the pan, sharply knock on the bottom of the tin to dislodge the coins. Use a clean, dry, food-safe brush to brush luster dust over the surface of the coins.
6. Dreidel Cookies
A dreidel is a four-sided top with Hebrew character on each side, and it is the central component of a popular Hanukkah game that goes by the same name, writes My Jewish Learning (find the rules here). Couldn’t Be Parve offers a charming and delicious Hanukkah sugar cookie in the shape of a dreidel. In a playful twist, the recipe allows you to place surprise chocolate gelt in the center for the enjoyment of friends and family. This Dreidel Cookie recipe takes an hour and 15 minutes to make.
- 1 cup natural vegetable shortening
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 5 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons orange juice
- Royal icing
- Small chocolate gelt, unwrapped
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the shortening, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt all at once and combine. With the mixer running at low speed, slowly add in the orange juice.
If the dough is very sticky, refrigerate before trying to roll out.
Divide the dough into three sections. Cut two pieces of parchment paper the size of the cookie sheet. Lightly flour one sheet of paper. Place one section of dough on the paper. Sprinkle lightly with flour and top with the second piece of paper. Roll out the dough to ¼-inch thick. Cut out the dreidels for the top and the bottom, leaving at least an inch of space between the cookies. Remove the scraps from around the cookies, but do not move the cookies (moving them will distort the shape).
If the cutter is not completely symmetrical, cut half of the cookies in the reverse (flip the cookie cutter over to do this.) Roll out a second section of dough in the same way to cut the middle cookies. Cut out the dreidels and remove the scraps.
Using a small cutter or the back of a decorating tip, cut out the center of each dreidel, leaving a ½-inch border on each side. You should have half as many of these cut out cookies as you do top/bottoms. The goal is to have one cookie of each type (top/middle/bottom) for each gelt-filled cookie. Repeat until all the dough is gone. Freeze the cookies until firm, approximately 15 minutes.
Bake the cookies 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown at the edges. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.
To assemble the cookies – Take the first dreidel cookie and lay it upside down so that the baked bottom is facing up. Outline the dreidel with royal icing (or a thick glaze made with ½ cup of powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons of non-dairy milk).
Put the middle cookie on top of the frosting glue and place the unwrapped gelt in the open center. Put another outline of frosting glue on the middle cookie and place the opposite-cut dreidel cookie on top. Let these sit and harden for at least 30 minutes before decorating the top with royal icing and sprinkles.