Every winter, I look forward to reveling in the frenzy of fried food of latkes and jelly donuts called sufganiyot which is Hanukkah in my house. But, after a few fat-splattered days, I’ve had enough. No Hanukkah – which lasts eight nights filled with gelt – but deep-fried. The question is, what else can I serve to celebrate the holidays?
This year I plan to look at the oil part of the story, especially the olive oil that burned for eight days instead of just one, the miracle the holiday commemorates. But in addition to using oil for frying, I’ll be making festive, holiday-worthy sweets.
Olive oil is already traditional in many desserts, adding a slightly salty note to complement the sweetness. Here I played with three classic recipes, mixing olive oil in one, incorporating chocolate in another and leaving the third alone but for an adjustment of the topping.
One thing to keep in mind when using olive oil in desserts is the brand. A boldly herbaceous oil can be so deliciously tangy on crostini, but could be overwhelming in the cake. And neutral “light” olive oil won’t provide enough flavor to justify the price. I recommend finding a mild extra virgin oil with hints of herbs, the good everyday oil that you would sprinkle in a dressing but not use as a finishing oil.
The first dessert I riffed on was a chewy olive oil cake, dusting it with cocoa to make it melt-in-the-mouth and intense. Instead of dissolving the cocoa in hot water, I used Earl Gray tea, which gave it a citrus scent. I also tried red wine, coffee, orange juice, and ginger tea, and they all hit it off. Feel free to experiment to make your own.
Then I replaced the butter with olive oil in my favorite lemon cream recipe. It worked perfectly, resulting in a lighter, shinier curd that was still thick and silky. Use it mounted in a pie crust, as a cake filling, stacked in a Pavlova, or served topped with berries and maybe a little whipped cream.
Finally, I baked a batch of melomakarona, the classic Greek holiday cookies made with olive oil and honey. Most recipes call for nuts as a garnish, but all nuts work and green pistachios add some color.