An afternoon cookie party is a festive, carefree way to entertain during Chanukah. Although latkes are crunchy and delicious, a cookie menu affords the host or hostess the freedom to enjoy the party — avoiding sizzle and spatter in the kitchen.
I like serving cookies connected to Jewish history. Children enjoy cookies shaped like dreidels and menorahs. Chanukah cookie cutters can be purchased at Judaica and synagogue gift shops, and on Amazon.com.
I sprinkle blue sugar on dreidel cookies, a custom popular with children in Israel. Menorah-shaped cookies shine when decorated with yellow sugar.
Originally called vanilla kipferl, crescent cookies began in Budapest during the Middle Ages, when Jewish bakers saved the city from invaders and were rewarded with permission to bake a pastry in the shape of the Ottoman flag’s crescent. Their popularity spread throughout Austria-Hungary. My recipe comes from my husband’s mother, who brought it to America from Vienna.
By the 13th century, Sicily was famous for its almond macaroons. This chewy pastry was adopted by Italian Jews, who cherished these flourless treats during Passover. Eventually, macaroons spread across Europe. Eastern European Jews brought them to America, where coconut replaced almonds.
Chanukah Cookies | Pareve
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies (2 dozen dreidel cookies and 2 dozen menorah cookies)
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 drops of blue food coloring
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 drops of yellow food coloring
Place the sugar in a jar. Add five drops of blue food coloring. Close the jar and shake vigorously several dozen times until the blue color is evenly mixed through the sugar. Repeat using a second jar with another half-cup of sugar and five drops of yellow food coloring. Reserve.
Dreidel and Menorah Cookie Dough
Utensils: dreidel and menorah cookie cutters; four baking sheets; and four sheets of parchment paper
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup (1 stick) margarine
- 2 tablespoons amaretto
- 1½ cups flour, plus flour for dusting the counter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 egg whites, beaten with a fork
In a large bowl, use an electric beater to mix the egg, margarine and amaretto until blended. The mixture should look crumbly. Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into the bowl and blend well. Form the dough into two equal-sized balls. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover the four baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a clean kitchen counter and a rolling pin with flour.
Roll the first ball of dough about ⅛-inch thick. Using the dreidel-shaped cookie cutter, mold as many dreidels as possible. Place the dreidels on one of the cookie sheets and brush lightly with egg whites. Sprinkle on the blue sugar. Pick up the dough scraps and form them into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few minutes.
Continue making cookies and using the scraps until all of the first roll of dough is consumed. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges brown. Gently remove the cookies when cool.
Follow the Dreidel Cookies instructions except sprinkle on the yellow sugar.
Crescent Cookies | Dairy
Yield: 80 crescent cookies
Make between 3 days and 6 months in advance
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups of sugar
Cut a vanilla bean into several pieces. Mix it with sugar. Store it in an airtight container.
Equipment: 4 cookie sheets and 4 pieces of parchment paper
- 1½ cups blanched, slivered almonds
- 1¼ cups flour
- ¾ stick sweet butter at room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup vanilla sugar
Place the parchment paper on the cookie sheets. Reserve. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Set up a food processor with the sharp metal blade. Place the almonds in the food processor bowl and grind until fine, like sand. In a large mixing bowl, place the almonds, flour, butter, egg yolks and ⅓ cup vanilla sugar. Beat until a thick dough forms.
Taking ½ teaspoon of dough in your hands, roll it into a ball. Over the bowl, use your palms to roll the ball into a rope, as if playing with Play-Doh. The ends may fall into the bowl. Bend the rope into a crescent. With your fingertips, blunt the ends. If cracks form in the rope, roll the dough again. Cracks and pointy tips cause broken cookies.
Continue making crescents, using all the dough. Place the crescents on prepared cookie sheets, 20 to a sheet.
Bake two cookie sheets at a time for 15-20 minutes until the crescents are turning golden. Remove them from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Pour the remaining vanilla sugar onto a dinner plate. While warm, gently roll the crescents in the vanilla sugar. Move the crescents to the platters to fully cool. The crescents can be served immediately, stored at room temperature in airtight containers or frozen.
Chocolate Decadence Macaroons | Pareve
Yield: 2 dozen macaroons
- 1 (12-ounce) bag of semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup sugar
- 8 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut flakes
- 24 walnut halves
Equipment: two cookie sheets and two pieces of parchment paper
Cover the two cookie sheets with a sheet of parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Fill the bottom of a double boiler with an inch or two of water. Place the bowl part of the double boiler over its bottom. Pour the chocolate chips into the bowl. Cover with its lid. (If you don’t own a double boiler, place a heatproof bowl over a pot of water and use aluminum foil for a lid.)
Place the double boiler or its substitute over a medium flame until the water comes to a gentle boil. Stir occasionally until the chocolate completely melts. Separate the bowl portion from the boiling water. Keep the lid on while the chocolate cools to warm.
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the sugar, coconut and melted chocolate, mixing well. Form the dough into balls the size of walnuts.
Place the dough balls on the prepared cookie sheets, 12 to a sheet. Slightly flatten balls with the back of a teaspoon. Place a walnut half in the center of each ball, pressing down lightly but enough so the walnut stays put.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool the macaroons slightly for a few minutes before moving them to a platter to cool completely. Serve immediately, store them in airtight containers or freeze.
As popular as these cookies are at Chanukah, they are terrific for Passover and 1,000 times tastier than any store-bought macaroons.