"I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice." – Albert from Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell C. Hoban
EDIT: The Gulab Jamun aren’t really ideal with my modifications, but they’re still tasty if you’re lacking the ingredients you need.
Chanuka (spell it however you want), like any Jewish holiday, has great traditional food to make, as well as contemporary options. I decided to have a little Chanuka party and bring the light of tasty, oily foods to the people out here.
Obviously, you won’t be able to use these recipes this year, but Chanuka foods aren’t time bound and anything fried is pretty tasty.
I made potato latkes (or potato pankakes or לביבות) and Gulab Jamun (I pronounce that “Guh-lahb Jah-muhn”).
For the latkes, I used this excellent recipe from the New York Times, followed exactly. I doubled it, used flour (not matzah meal), hand-grated the potatoes, and used a bit more onion. “Vegetable oil for frying” means a lot of oil. Make sure you have enough.
If the latkes aren’t cooking properly, make sure your oil is hot enough (without smoking).
The recipe for Gulab Jamun (An Indian dessert) is adapted The Jewish Holiay Cookbook, by Gloria Kaufer Greene. I made many, many more balls than the recipe says, but it might have been because I just added more ingredients when tweaking to get the dough right.
I used milk for water and flour for milk powder (Original recipe had 1 1/2 cups milk powder, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4-1/2 cup cold water), and I didn’t realize I had to cut the button and melted it instead. It’s possible that made with original ingredients, they might have puffed up more and turned out differently.
The recipe also calls for Cardamom, which I didn’t have, so I used Cinnamon and Cloves. Lastly, I made them 1/4 to 1/2 inches wide instead of 1/2 to 3/4 inch, which resulted in more pastry balls, but I like having more small kinds of dessert.
3 cups cold water
3 cups sugar – I used white
7-10 whole cardamom pods or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom – if you don’t have cardamom, use a combination of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg and ground cloves, I used 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and cloves each. You can also use a cinnamon stick and some whole cloves, but you should always grate nutmeg.
1 1/2 cup to 2 cups of all purpose white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter or margarine – DON’T use melted butter (like I did), you’re going to cut it in
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cold milk
A lot of vegetable oil for frying
First, prepare the syrup so it has time to cool. Put the water, sugar and cardamom (or whatever you’re using) and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring only until the sugar is dissolved.
Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered and undisturbed, for 10 minutes. Turn off and remove from heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the pastry balls. Mix together the flour and baking soda. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine meal.
Stir in just enough of the milk so that the dough is slightly tacky but comes away from the sides of the bowl. It should be easily handled without sticking to your fingers. If it becomes too wet, add a bit of extra flour. If it is too dry, add more milk. The exact amount depends on the humidity.
Form the dough into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-diameter (1 1/4 to 2 cm) balls. I made them slightly smaller and got upwards of 60, you have enough syrup for a lot of balls so don’t worry.
Put enough oil into a large saucepan or wok so that it is about 1 1/2 inches (3 3/4 cm) deep. Heat the oil until it is hot, about 350 F° (175 C°). If you don’t have a thermometer, you want the oil to be hot, but not smoking. The pastry balls should give off many little bubbles when dropped in.
Gently drop several of the balls into the oil, but do not crowd them; they will quickly puff to almost twice their original size. Fry the balls, rotating them frequently with a slotted spoon (not plastic, metal is best), for 5-7 minutes (2-5 if they’re smaller), or until they are browned. (Don’t worry if they are a little unevenly colored.)
Use a slotted spoon to remove the balls from oil and drain them briefly on paper towels (or on the rack that attaches to some woks). Immediately drop the balls into the syrup and let them soak; do not remove them.
Continue until all balls have been fried and added to the syrup. Let the balls soak in the syrup for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature; then refrigerate them in the syrup (I put them in the fridge sooner, it was late). They will further increase in size as they soak.
If using cardamom pods or other whole spices, remove before serving. To serve the gulab jamun, put a few balls in a small bowl with a little syrup. Usually served cold or at room temperature, you can also heat slightly before serving.
If storing for more than a day, transfer balls and syrup to a covered, liquid-tight container. Can be stored in fridge for up to 2 months.