HANUKKAH, THE EIGHT-DAY Jewish celebration, begins this year at sundown on Dec. 1.
This festive holiday commemorates the reconsecration of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 B.C.
When the Temple was reclaimed victoriously from the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabees, there was just a small amount of oil left behind. According to tradition, the oil kept the lamps burning for a full eight days until more oil could be brought to the Temple.
It's not surprising then that foods prepared with oil are a special part of Hanukkah menus, says Faye Levy, author of the new cookbook "Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook (Warner Books, $29.95).
In Israel, for example, a popular holiday food is fluffy doughnuts filled with jam. These doughnuts are widely available in Israeli stores during Hanukkah, Levy says. These quick pastry puffs are another popular treat, she says. This recipe is from her new book.
Quick Pastry Puffs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water or milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
At least five cups oil for deep frying
Sifted confectioners sugar for sprinkling
Sift flour with baking powder. Mix together eggs, sugar, oil, water or milk, salt, and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix to a smooth, thick batter.
Heat oil to 350 degrees. If a deep-fat thermometer is not available, heat oil until it bubbles gently around a small piece of dough added to it. Slide mixture gently into oil by rounded tablespoons for large ones, or by teaspoons for small. If mixture doesn't easily come off spoon, dip another spoon in the oil and use to push it off. Do not drop dough into oil from high above or it might make hot oil splatter. Fry two to three minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Pat tops gently with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve hot or warm, sprinkled with confectioner's sugar.
Makes about eight large puffs.