As many of you may know, tonight is the 8th night of Chanukah – the Jewish Festival of Lights! I’m not gonna go into the whole story of Chanukah (after all, that’s what Wikipedia is for), but I will say that the Jews know how to have a feast :).
In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not Jewish. My husband Ben is! He considers himself to be “culturally Jewish” rather than “religiously Jewish”. Although he didn’t necessarily grow up practicing the religion, Ben grew up with the culture – the food, the holidays, a bit of the language. I should also note that, while his mom is a Jew from New Jersey, his dad is an Irish Catholic from the Chicago area (who later moved to Seattle).
It wasn’t a big deal to Ben to find a Jewish partner, but it is important to him (as it should be to all of us) to be able to celebrate his history. I love partaking in traditions and creating new ones as time goes on.
“Ho`i hou i ka iwi kuamo`o.”
Return to the backbone (to return or reconnect to the homeland or family).
Ben comes from a long line of strong yet gentle people, and anyone who knows him can tell you that it shows. Since his moving to Hawai`i, I’ve seen a deep yearning in him to become more conscious about his history and strengthen his roots. To be able to share in the experience is profound and beautiful!
For the past few years, Ben and I have hosted a Chanukah party and are somehow always fortunate enough to have special guests in attendance! This year, Ben’s parents were visiting from Seattle (which was especially exciting because Pop makes the greatest latkes/potato pancakes)! We love to make latkes, rugelach, and challah for our Chanukah festivities because they’re pretty simple and just so delicious. Last year someone thought to fill the rugelach with Nutella – and now it’s a must-have item at our Chanukah parties.
Rugelach are little filled crescent-shaped cookies. I’m pretty positive that it’s not traditional to fill them with Nutella, but they are amazing.
[Ingredients – makes 48 cookies]
- 1/2 pound block cream cheese (they say not to use the soft kind – we used low-fat)
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter (we used Earth Balance)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 c sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- enough flour to make a stiff dough (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups – we used half whole wheat, half unbleached)
[Fillings – feel free to get creative!]
- chopped walnuts
- peanut butter
Mix all ingredients (except flour) in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add flour.
Place on a floured board and work with hands until smooth.
Cut into six equal parts and form into balls; wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight (or at least 3 hours).
Remove dough 15-30 minutes before ready to use (if you live in Hawai`i, you don’t want to leave it out for too long as it gets warm quickly).
Get your toppings ready! 🙂
Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and chopped walnuts (or your desired filling(s)).
Tip: you may want to cut it into 8th’s first and then blob the fillings on the wide end – this keeps the fillings from seeping.
[cinnamon/walnut] + [peanut butter/nutella (what happens when you leave my Portuguese mom and bro in charge!)]
Cut into 8th’s.
Roll to make a crescent, trying to keep the fillings from seeping (because they’ll seep out while baking).
Place rugelach on non-stick cookie sheet at least an inch apart [option: brush with egg white/sprinkle with sugar]
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are light golden in color.
Enjoy! Happy Chanukah!