pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

hanukkah treats. that aren't fried.

i like to think of myself as a reasonable person. and a reasonable eater. but over the course of the last two weeks i have eaten approximately 17 jelly donuts (sufganiyot) and 139 chocolate gelt coins. the gelt coins weren't even that good. half of them were milk chocolate, which were fine, and the other half were dairy-free and tasted far more like the little foil wrappers they came in than like chocolate. but i ate them anyway. because that's what happens to reasonable people like me around hanukkah. i work at a jewish community center and school. i have been surrounded by hanukkah for a long, long time. there has been no escape.

i used to find jelly donuts unspeakably disgusting. why ruin perfectly delicious fried dough by stuffing it with jelly instead of with something sensible like custard or chocolate? i never even understood why jelly donuts in particular are traditional hanukkah fare. first of all, it was olive oil that miraculously lit the eternal flame above the ark of the torah in the destroyed temple in jerusalem for eight nights when everyone thought the oil would only last for one. i'm pretty sure no one ever fries jelly donuts in olive oil because that's just not a very good idea. i lived in jerusalem for two years and jelly donuts were everywhere around hanukkah. literally everywhere. it seemed like they were stacked in every bakery window, being sold on every street corner even. and still i resisted. because... well... blech. as i saw it, there were two kinds of people in the world. boston creme people and jelly donut people. i was proud to stand with creme.

and then something happened. and i don't remember how or why. but last year, unquestionably against my will, i was coerced into trying a raspberry jelly donut from trois pommes patisserie, this perfectly adorable bakery down the street from me in brooklyn. and everything changed. you see, these delightful confections are filled with the exact right proportion of delicious raspberry jelly that's entirely reminiscent of the jewel-like fruit, then fried to doughy, crispy perfection before being heavily coated in powdered sugar. they are completely delicious. completely. delicious. and now i'm a jelly donut convert.

and i'm not afraid to say it.

i love jelly donuts! they are delicious!!!!

but now the trouble is, i already ate my fill. it's the second day of hanukkah and i don't even want to look at them anymore.

latkes don't really do it for me. i'll eat one here and there, but unless they're made by my mom, whose latkes taste the way latkes are supposed to taste (smothered in applesauce and sour cream), i pretty much avoid them. so that's my situation this year. and that's why i decided to make lemon olive oil cookies to bring to a friend's hanukkah party tonight. perfectly festive, fresh, and without a hint of jelly or fried anything! in fact, these cookies don't even have a hint of butter and they still manage to taste great.
ingredients for cookies:
2 cups flour
1 1/2cup sugar*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of two lemons*
juice of 2 lemons
*1/2 cup sugar and remaining zest are used to make lemon sugar
to make the cookies:
1. preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. combine the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
2. combine the olive oil, vanilla, 5 teaspoons of the lemon zest, and lemon juice in a smaller bowl.
3. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine with a fork. the batter will feel like wet sand. shape into tablespoon size balls, then make the lemon sugar.
4. combine the remaining zest with 1/2 cup sugar and stir until the consistency is like dry sand. the oils from the zest will get released and flavor the sugar. this will store well in an airtight container in your pantry.
5. roll each cookie ball in the lemon sugar and place evenly on cookie sheets lined with a silpat or parchment paper. bake for 12-14 minutes, or until cookies start to brown slightly on top. when they've cooled you can sprinkle them with some extra lemon sugar to taste.

i hope these light, lemony cookies will be a nice bright note for reasonable people who, like me, can't stomach another jelly donut or even a piece of chocolate gelt!

and to those who celebrate, i hope you have a wonderful, happy hanukkah and that your homes are filled with light and love!


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