The Chanukah flavors of yore

The Chanukah flavors of yore

An old-school Festival of Lights table


For Chanukah this year we present adaptations of Old World recipes preserving the flavors the Jews in Eastern Europe and Germany enjoyed during Chanukah. 

Potato latkes, grated potato pancakes fried in oil, get dressed up with three topping options, while krokerle, German spiced cookies, mix unique flavors of hazelnut, chocolate, and lemon. Serve these with the suggested wine pairings. 

These recipes are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but are classics you’ll make again and again, just as generations past have made them. They’re perfect for a family gathering where fond reminiscences and memories will be rekindled all night long.


Makes 45-60 cookies

For the cookies:

Neutral-flavor oil for greasing the pan, if needed

8 oz. hazelnuts

4 large eggs

1½ cups granulated sugar

2¾ cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg, or a combination

¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa

2 oz. brandy or whiskey

For the lemon glaze:

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar,

1½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or grease with neutral-flavored oil.

2. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until you start to smell them. Be careful not to let them burn. Immediately remove them from the oven and spread on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the four corners of the towel over the top and let sit for a few minutes — the steam will help loosen the nut skins. Roll the nuts around in the towel — most of the nuts will become skinless. Coarsely chop and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until light and foamy.

4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, spices, and cocoa. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture. Add the brandy and the nuts and stir to combine.

5. Drop by teaspoonfuls or tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Making the glaze:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Add a drop of water if the glaze is too thick.

While the cookies are still warm, drizzle each one with a small spoonful of glaze. Let cool.


Excerpted from “The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine” by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman (Brandeis University Press).

CLASSIC POTATO LATKES (with assorted toppings)

Yields about 2 dozen

6 large potatoes

(preferably Idaho/russet), peeled and cut into chunks

1 large onion,
cut into chunks

2 eggs

¼ cup potato starch

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

grapeseed oil, for frying


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with
parchment paper.

2. In a food processor fitted with the shredding disk, shred potatoes and onion, using medium pressure. Transfer vegetables to a large colander set in the sink or over a large bowl; press firmly to drain excess liquid.

3. Place drained veggies into a large bowl. Add eggs, potato starch, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, drop large spoonfuls of batter into hot oil to form pancakes, flattening them slightly with the back of the spoon. Do not crowd the skillet. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, or until crisp and golden.

5. Drain well on paper towels. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; place into oven to keep warm.

Norene’s Notes

Freeze with Ease: Arrange latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet; freeze until firm. Transfer to resealable plastic bags, press out all air, and freeze. To reheat, place frozen latkes onto a large baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, at 400-degrees F for 12-15 minutes, until hot and crisp.

Note: Do not freeze toppings!

Sour Cream Topping 2 Ways

Yields 4-6 servings

1 cup sour cream (regular or low fat) or Tofutti sour cream 

1 tbsp. lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or dill

freshly ground black pepper

½ cup pomegranate seeds, or ¼ lb./125 g fresh smoked salmon, thinly sliced


1. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream with lemon juice, parsley (if using pomegranate seeds) or dill (if using smoked salmon), and pepper; mix well.

2. Top latkes; add pomegranate seeds (if using parsley) or smoked salmon (if using dill).


Yields 4-6 servings

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. honey

3 Israeli pickles, diced

½ lb./250 g deli meat, diced


Add topping ingredients to medium bowl; mix to combine. Use as a topping for latkes.


Yields 4-6 servings

1 ripe avocado, peeled,
pitted, and diced

¼ cup minced red onion

1 tomato, diced

1 tbsp. lime juice,
preferably fresh

1 tsp. kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper


Add topping ingredients to medium bowl; mix to combine. Place plastic wrap directly onto mixture to prevent darkening.

Right before serving, top latkes with avocado mixture.

Reprinted from “Silver Platter Simple Elegance” by Daniella Silver with Norene Gilletz with permission of ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, LTD.

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