Two recipes for sweets are included below.
The Spice Cookies are loosely inspired by the German Christmas favourite Pfeffernüsse and are actually more closely related to an Italian spice cookie, write Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi in the recently published "Jerusalem: A Cookbook."
Ottolenghi and Tamimi, who both emigrated from Jerusalem to London, England, say these round iced cookies are hugely popular on the sweet counter at their four Ottolenghi restaurants over the period of Hanukkah and Christmas as well as at Easter.
Rugelach is traditional for Jewish holidays, but the little pastries are perfect any time. While making rugelach may seem daunting, this recipe gives you helpful tips that cut the time and effort required. It has been excerpted from the recently published "The Epicurious Cookbook: More Than 250 of Our Best-Loved Four-Fork Recipes for Weeknights, Weekends and Special Occasions."
The Festival of Lights begins at sundown Saturday and ends on Dec. 16.
175 ml plus 30 ml (3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp) currants
30 ml (2 tbsp) brandy
Scant 500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) best-quality cocoa powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking powder
1 ml (1/4 tsp) baking soda
2 ml (1/2 tsp) each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
150 g (5 oz) good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
125 ml (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
150 ml (2/3 cup) superfine sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
2 ml (1/2 tsp) each grated lemon zest and grated orange zest
1/2 large free-range egg
15 ml (1 tbsp) diced candied citrus peel
45 ml (3 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
325 ml (1 1/3 cups) icing sugar
Soak currants in brandy for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt and dark chocolate. Mix well with a whisk.
In a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, place butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon and orange zest and beat to combine but not aerate much, about 1 minute. With mixer running, slowly add egg and mix for about 1 minute. Add dry ingredients, followed by currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together.
Gently knead dough in bowl with your hands until it comes together and is uniform. Divide dough into chunks (each about 50 ml/1/4 cup) and shape each chunk into a perfectly round ball. Place balls on 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about 2 cm (3/4 inch) apart, and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 190 C (375 F). Bake cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until tops firm up but centres are still slightly soft. Remove from oven; let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
While cookies are still warm, whisk together glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth icing forms. Pour 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the glaze over each cookie, leaving it to drip and coat cookie with a very thin, almost transparent film. Finish each with 3 pieces of candied peel placed at the centre. Leave to set and serve, or store in an airtight container for a day or two.
Makes 16 cookies.
Source: "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Appetite by Random House Canada, 2012).
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
250 ml (1 cup/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
250 g (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
125 ml (1/2 cup) plus 20 ml (4 tsp) sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
250 ml (1 cup) apricot preserves or raspberry jam
250 ml (1 cup) loosely packed golden raisins, chopped
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) finely chopped shelled walnuts
Milk, for brushing cookies
In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until combined well. Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then flatten (in wrap) into a roughly 18-by-12-cm (7-by-5-inch) rectangle. Chill until firm, 8 to 24 hours.
Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Line bottom of 2 large shallow baking pans with parchment paper and have 3 additional sheets of parchment ready.
Cut dough into 4 pieces. Chill 3 pieces, wrapped in plastic wrap, and roll out remaining piece into a 30-by-20-cm (12-by-8-inch) rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer dough to one of the parchment-lined pans and chill while rolling out remaining dough in same manner, transferring each to another sheet of parchment and stacking on top of pan.
Whisk 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar with cinnamon. Arrange one dough rectangle on a work surface with a long side nearest you. Spread 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the preserves evenly over dough. Sprinkle 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the raisins and a rounded 50 ml (1/4 cup) walnuts over jam, then sprinkle with 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the cinnamon sugar.
Using parchment, roll up dough tightly into a log. Place seam side down in the second baking pan, then pinch ends closed and tuck underneath. Make 3 more logs and arrange 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart. Brush logs with milk and sprinkle each with 5 ml (1 tsp) of the remaining granulated sugar. With a sharp large knife, make 2-cm (3/4-inch) cuts crosswise in the dough (not all the way through) at 2.5-cm (1-inch) intervals. (If dough is too soft to cut, chill for 20 to 30 minutes longer.)
Bake until golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool to warm in the pan on a rack, about 30 minutes, then transfer logs to a cutting board and slice pastries.
Makes about 44 rugelach.
Source: "The Epicurious Cookbook: More Than 250 of Our Best-Loved Four-Fork Recipes for Weeknights, Weekends and Special Occasions" by Tanya Steel and the Editors of Epicurious (Appetite by Random House Canada, 2012).