One Person’s Pudding …

Say Chanukah, think latkes. Maybe "latkes" evokes memories of bubbe grating potatoes and the enticing aroma of golden potato fritters sizzling in the skillet. But in recent times, we've introduced dozens of "designer" latkes. Some may be laced with diced fruits or vegetables, spiked with brandy or perhaps topped with herbed goat cheese.

No time to cook up a new recipe or grate, mix and fry for the traditional potato pancake? You'll find at least one or two of these updated versions in the delicatessen or take-out section of most supermarkets, ready to be zapped in the microwave. Or you can pick up frozen triangular or round latkes to warm up in the oven.

Feeling creative? Brush with walnut oil before heating, top hot crisp latkes with salsa instead of sour cream, spread potato latkes with preserves, or stack and dredge with confectioners' sugar for a tempting dessert.

Frying foods in oil symbolizes the cleansing and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by the Syrians more than 2,000 years ago. But there's another longstanding custom.

Eating dairy foods can be traced to the story of Judith written in the Apocrypha (about sixth century B.C.) The beautiful young widow had no trouble feeding salty cheeses to the enemy general Holofernes.

To satisfy his thirst, she followed the cheese with large quantities of wine, which sent him into a deep sleep. He was then beheaded by Judith, leading the way to a Jewish victory. It's alleged that her bravery inspired Judah Maccabee and his followers.

The following recipes are heavy on dairy ingredients – as symbolic for Chanukah as foods fried in oil. The Steamed Pudding recipe is a lighter version of the rich "plum" pudding that's a Chanukah tradition for British Jews ("dessert" in Britain is called "pudding"). It's usually served with a light custard sauce to pour over top.

A similar recipe is found in The Jewish Manual, published in England in 1846 and edited by "a Lady," the pen name of Lady Judith Montefiore. Bread-and-Butter Pudding was a favorite of thrifty cooks because they could transform day-old bread into a cinnamon-scented, custardy pudding that simply begs for second helpings.

Chanukah Steamed Pudding

4 Tbsps. unsalted butter, softened
4 Tbsps. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup, plus 2 Tbsps., all-purpose flour
2 Tbsps. dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. grated orange rind
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup diced candied citrus peel or chopped glace cherries (optional)

Spray a 11/2 quart heat-proof bowl with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat together the butter and sugar until well-blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a little of the flour. Stir in the corn syrup, remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange rind.

Fold in the raisins, and the citrus peel or cherries, if using. Transfer to prepared bowl. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Place in a large pot with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the bowl.

Cover and cook for 11/4 hours, checking the water level often. Add more boiling water as needed. Unmold.

Serve warm with custard sauce, softly whipped cream or melted vanilla ice-cream.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 215; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 33 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 95 mg; sodium, 67 mg.

Bread-and-Butter Pudding

10 thin slices brown or white bread
4 Tbsps. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup currants
3 Tbsps. sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
21/4 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 11/2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Butter each slice of bread. Remove the crusts and cut each slice into 2 triangles (save the crusts for breadcrumbs or croutons).

Spray a 11/2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Arrange half the bread, buttered-side up, in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the raisins and currants over top.

Cover with remaining bread, buttered side up, pressing down lightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over the bread, pressing down to soak.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until bread is golden and custard is set.

Serve warm with some softly whipped cream.

Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 350; protein, 11 g; carbohydrates, 43 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 246 mg; sodium, 247 mg.

Ma's Glazed Cherry Loaf

In my island home, this was a much-anticipated Chanukah cake. Rich, buttery and golden-crusted, neighbors clamored for a thick wedge, accompanied by hot sweet tea served in china cups.

1/2 cup glace cherries, quartered
2 cup all-purpose flour
13/4 sticks (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
3 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Line the bottom of a loaf pan (81/2×41/2 x21/2-inches) with wax paper. Spray bottom and sides with nonstick cooking spray.

Toss the cherries with 2 tablespoons of the flour. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the butter, sugar and almond extract until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, along with about one-quarter cup of the flour. Mix well between each addition.

Add the baking powder, nutmeg, and remaining flour gradually, mixing well to blend. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the cherries.

Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top with a spoon.

Bake for 1 hour or until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing with a serrated knife.

Makes 15 slices.

Approximate nutrients per slice: calories, 209; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 23 g; fat, 12 g; cholesterol, 71 mg; sodium, 50 mg.

Turkish Mandelbrot

Pistachios, dates and orange flower water, typical Turkish ingredients, introduce exotic flavors to this cake-like cookie. Orange and rose-flower waters are available in specialty stores. Almond extract may be substituted.

3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup, plus 2 Tbsps., sugar
1 Tbsp. orange or rose-flower water
11/2 tsps. baking powder
31/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pistachios
1 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a large cookie sheet with nonstick vegetable spray.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, 1 cup sugar, and the orange or rose-flower water.

Add the baking powder with one-half cup of the flour and stir well. Add remaining flour gradually, beating well after each addition. Stir in the pistachios and dates.

With lightly floured hands, shape dough into 3 rolls, each about 10 inches long and three-quarter inches thick. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over top.

Bake for 18 minutes.

Remove from oven and cut each roll crosswise on a slight angle into slices one-half-inch wide. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes more.

Cool on wire rack.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Approximate nutrients per piece: calories, 178; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 24 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 31 mg.

Baked Rice Pudding

An old-fashioned "comfort" food that soothes and delights. Baking time is long, but preparation takes just a few minutes.

1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Spray a deep, 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Pour rice, sugar, salt, milk and vanilla into dish. Stir to mix.

Dot with the butter.

Cover and bake for 11/2 hours, or until rice has softened. Stir often. Uncover the last half-hour of cooking so that the top browns slightly.

Serve warm or at room temperature with Berry Compote (recipe below) spooned over the top.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 223; protein, 6 g; carbohydrates, 37 g; fat, 6 g; cholesterol, 22 mg; sodium, 274 mg.

Quick Berry Compote

1 cup unsweetened frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen sweetened raspberries
3 Tbsps. strawberry or other preserves
2 Tbsps. orange juice

Place ingredients in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until preserves are melted and fruits are thawed.

Bring to simmer. Stir to mix.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 3 cups.

Approximate nutrients per half-cup: calories, 96; protein, 0 g; carbohydrates, 24 g; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 6 mg.

Chocolate-Peanut Frosted Shortbread

1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup, plus 1 Tbsp., butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups (1.5 oz. each) chocolate peanut-butter cups or 41/2 oz. peanut-butter candy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a rectangular baking pan (about 11x7x2) with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat sugar, 1 cup butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Gradually add the flour, no more than one-quarter cup at a time. Beat well between each addition. Spoon into prepared baking pan, smoothing out to edges with a spoon. Bake for 35 minutes, or until edges are golden.

Cut peanut-butter cups into quarters. Place in a small microwave bowl.

Add the remaining butter. Microwave 15 seconds at medium, or until butter is almost melted and mixture is soft enough to spread. Mix well.

Spread onto hot shortbread. Refrigerate to chill.

Cut into squares.

Note: These may be frozen in a sealed plastic bag or stored in a tight-lidded container in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator.)

Variation: For Peppermint-Frosted Shortbread: Use 1 package (5 oz.) or 18 chocolate-peppermint patties instead of peanut-butter cups. Proceed as for chocolate peanut-butter frosting.

Makes 40 pieces.

Approximate nutrients per piece: calories, 90; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 8 g; fat, 6 g; cholesterol, 13 mg; sodium, 12 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Reach her at:



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