This year, Hanukkah kicks off on the eve of Sunday December 2 and runs for the customary eight days until Monday December 10. Which means doughnuts, latkes and other delicious symbolic dishes are just around the corner for those of us celebrating the Jewish holiday. And for those of us who aren’t, well, you’ll be tempted anyway. Chanie Apfelbaum, the resident blogger at Busy in Brooklyn, takes Hanukkah fare (and cooking in general) to a whole new level with fusion twists. Think kosher poutine with parmesan gravy (oil and dairy are important Hanukkah ingredients), jelly ring doughnuts, a take on the classic American candy, or gold crinkle chocolate gelt cookies (just wait till you see them), and even a healthy spin on latkes made with seasonal produce and harissa sour cream.
“Having grown up in a traditional Jewish home in Brooklyn, New York, so many of my childhood memories are associated with food. Each Shabbat, we feasted on my mum's gefilte fish and matzo ball soup.
“And if we were lucky, we'd get a piece of Bubby's [grandmother] challah or potato kugel, made from recipes that have been passed down for generations. The holidays were always filled with symbolic foods – sweet honey cake on Rosh Hashanah, crispy potato latkes on Hanukkah and buttery jam-filled hamantaschen on Purim.
“As a mum of young children, creating loving memories around food is so important to me, so I began to reinvent my family favourites in a modern and healthy way. Putting my own spin on traditional holiday dishes allows me to express my creative spirit while still staying true to my roots and honouring my Jewish heritage.
“I was born on Hanukkah, so it’s my favorite holiday to play around with – we’ve got eight days to celebrate! Since Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of oil, we enjoy lots of fried foods like jelly doughnuts and potato latkes, and we always finish with some chocolate gelt. So I put my own spin on potato latkes, smothering them in gravy and cheese curds, like the classic Quebec dish, poutine. But my all time favourite are beautiful chocolate olive oil gelt crinkle cookies. I used edible gold spray paint so that when the cookies spread during baking, they actually resemble a crumpled up foil wrapper surrounding the chocolate gelt.”
Beer-battered pumpkin rings from Chanie's blog.
Chanie is all about mixing things up in tandem with tradition, be they Jewish holiday classics or everyday kosher cooking. For regular updates beyond her blog, where Chanie also gives fascinating rundowns on Jewish traditions, you can follow the New York born-and-bred blogger on social (FB, Twiter, Insta) @busyinbrooklyn.
I started my blog… After I had my third child. I could no longer work outside the home and I needed an outlet for my creative energy. I loved to cook and my background was in web design, so I decided to start a blog. Blogging has pushed me to develop my photography skills and improve my cooking techniques.
The must-cook recipe on my website is… My drunken hasselback salami. I made it for the holiday of Purim, when it’s customary to drink alcoholic beverages, and some say, to eat salami.
I can’t wait to go back to… Israel to eat halva from Machane Yehudah market until my stomach hurts.
My current food obsession is… Shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce. I’ve developed so many variations of this dish; I just can’t seem to get enough!
Eating… Stuffed cabbage takes me back to the house of my Bubby, my Jewish grandmother on my mother's side. She always made it the traditional, old-fashioned way with lots of sugar in it, so it was extra sweet.
Nugget of cooking wisdom… Love is the secret ingredient.
I learnt to cook from… My mum. But I refined my culinary style and techniques at the only kosher culinary school in the world (outside of Israel), The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts in Brooklyn, New York.
Best Hanukkah food memory… I was born on Hanukkah! One year, my mum threw me a huge birthday party. She made all types of little tea sandwiches and fresh homemade doughnuts.
Friends always ask me to cook… Zoodles (zucchini noodles).
The one thing I can’t cook is… Offal. Offal is aw-ful.
If I ever met… Chef Meir Adoni, I would ask him if I could apprentice in his restaurant, so I could learn from the best! He’s an innovative and creative chef/restaurant owner/TV personality whose food philosophy echoes my own: pushing the boundaries with innovative and modern interpretations of traditional flavours, plus ingredients that draw on his Moroccan/Israeli heritage.
I always have… Tahini in my pantry, sriracha in my fridge, and homemade strawberry basil popsicles in my freezer.
My favourite biscuit to dunk in a cup of tea is… Lotus Caramelised Biscuits.
My most sauce-splattered cookbook is… The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur.
The most difficult food to shoot/style and make look tasty is… Cholent, a stew that cooks overnight and is traditionally served for Shabbat lunch.
Beyond my own blog, some of my favourites reads are… My Name is Yeh – we share a love of tahini and Middle Eastern flavors, plus Molly's so damn cute and her photography is beautiful. Kitchen Tested – Melinda creates original, out-of-the-box recipes. She's fearless in the kitchen and that inspires me. What Jew Wanna Eat – I love Amy's creative twists on ‘jew food’, especially around the holidays. And The Kosher Spoon – Sina's recipes are always light and healthy, and they're family friendly, too.
Top picks from Busy in Brooklyn
Blog Appétit Editor Yasmin Newman
Blog Appétit is our curated list of go-to food blogs we love, with a focus on high-quality photography, trusted recipes, strong editorial themes and a unique voice and personality. View previous Blog Appétit entries.