Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Hanukkah treats for your holiday table

It’s Hanukkah, and so many of the festivities spread out over eight days are centered around food.

Many traditional dishes, like sufganiyot and latkes, are cooked in oil to celebrate the Maccabees’ menorah miraculously burning for eight days, when there was only enough oil to last one.

We spoke about a few recipes for your holiday table on the Calgary Eyeopener this week. No matter how you’re celebrating, they are all delicious.

Bonnie and Anna’s Challah

Iconic Canadian food writer Bonnie Stern and her daughter, Anna Rupert, shared their family’s challah recipe in their new book, Don’t Worry, Just Cook.

It’s a wonderful and easy recipe, and you can turn a batch into two loaves of challah or one challah and two babka-challah, which they fill with garlic butter, herbs and cheese.

I’ve rewritten it slightly here, according to how I followed their recipe. Measurements are the same.

A cooked challah bread sits on a tray.
To get the golden color on the challah, use some egg wash, which is made up of some egg, water and a pinch of salt. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


  • 5½ – 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs (plus a third, if you like, for a wash)
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • ½ cup canola or other vegetable oil, plus a bit extra for the bowl
  • Sesame seed or flaky salt

Put five cups flour into a large bowl, or 5½ cups if you’re using a stand mixer. Whisk in the sugar, salt and yeast.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the water and oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir by hand or use the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer to mix until you have a sticky dough.

Add ¼ cup flour at a time until the dough is too stiff to stir by hand and tacky; continue to knead until it’s smooth and elastic. It will still be fairly tacky, but will smooth out as it sits.

Drizzle a bit of oil into your mixing bowl and turn the ball of dough all around in it to coat.

Cover and let rise for 1½ to 2 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, cut the dough in half or thirds to make two or three challahs, or one challah and two babka-challahs (explained below).

For each challah, divide your piece of dough into three or four pieces, roll each into a long-ish rope, transfer them together to a parchment-lined sheet, pinch one end together and braid, tucking the other end under when you’re finished (there are plenty of online videos if you need visuals, and Bonnie has some great ones on her Instagram page).

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30-60 minutes. Halfway through this rise, preheat the oven to 350 F.

To make an egg wash (which gives challah its glossy finish), crack an egg into a small dish, add about half an eggshell full of water (Bonnie also adds a pinch of salt) and beat with a fork.

An uncooked loaf of challah sits on a piece of parchment paper.
The challah is shaped into a braid before it’s cooked. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Brush all over the challah. For a darker glaze, wait 10 minutes and brush again. Sprinkle with sesame seed or flaky salt, or leave it plain.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or longer for larger breads (shorter for smaller breads). If it’s browning too quickly, reduce the oven temperature to 325 F and cover the loaf loosely with foil.

It’s ready when it’s deep golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 185 F and 195 F when inserted into the loaf.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Savory Babka-Challah with Garlic and Rosemary

The same challah dough makes an amazing babka-challah, which can be filled with chocolate, cinnamon or any number of fillings.

In Don’t Worry, Just Cook, Bonnie and Anna fill theirs with garlicky, herby butter and aged cheese. It’s so amazing.

Their recipe calls for one clove of garlic, but I mistakenly added one to the first batch of butter, and I believe you can’t have too much garlic.

A loaf of babka-challah sits on a plate, with one slice cut off.
Babka-challah is similar to challah, but the bread is filled with sweet or savory filling. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


  • ½ recipe challah dough (above)
  • ½ cup + 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1½ cups grated aged cheddar or other sharp cheese (optional)

Line two 8×4-inch loaf pans, or one 8- or 9-inch square pan, with parchment and set aside.

Roll the dough out to a rectangle that’s approximately 12-18 inches or larger. If the dough is hard to roll, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and try again.

LISTEN | Julie Van Rosendaal describes the delicious food found on some Hanukkah tables:

7:49Julie van Rosendaal on Hanukkah treats

Our food guide Julie van Rosendaal brings in some traditional Hanukkah treats.

With the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the edge of the countertop in front of you, spread ½ cup room temperature butter (stir a finely crushed clove of garlic into it first if you like) over two-thirds of the dough — across the top and down toward you—leaving the third section of dough closest to you unbuttered.

Fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Bring the unbuttered third up over the middle, and the buttered top third down over that. The dough should now be about 12×6 inches.

Turn the dough so that the lengthwise opening is perpendicular to the edge of the countertop in front of you, on the right.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to a few hours — or leave it on the countertop of you have a chilly kitchen, like I did; you just don’t want it to rise too much.

Babka-challah dough sits on a counter, with a seraded knife nearby.
There are several steps to roll out and put your babka-challah together. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Roll the dough out again with the lengthwise open end to the right (as it was before) and roll it out to approximately the same size, 12×18 inches. If the dough is sticking or any butter is exposed, sprinkle with a bit of flour.

Combine the 1/3 cup butter with a crushed clove of garlic, the rosemary (I didn’t have much and 1 scant tbsp was fine and subtle, but their recipe calls for 2 tbsp), parsley (if you have some) and salt and spread over the dough.

Sprinkle with cheese, if you like.

Roll up tightly lengthwise so you have one long 18-inch roll. Cut the roll in half so you have two 9-inch long rolls. Cut each in half lengthwise (I use a sharp serrated knife for this) so you can see the filling peeking out.

Working with one part at a time, crisscross the two halved logs in the middle, cut sides up, and wind them together from the middle intersection out.

Place, cut side up, in the lined pan.

Repeat with the second section, placing in another pan or beside the first in an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 30-60 minutes or longer, until almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the tops of the babkas with beaten egg and, if you like, sprinkle with flaky salt and little sprigs of rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil (I just did the egg wash).

Bake for 30-35 minutes or longer, until deep golden and an instant-read thermometer registers between 185 F and 195 F when inserted into a bready part of the loaf.

Cool for about 20 minutes in the pan(s).

Makes: Two challah-babkas.


Loukoumades (loo koo maa dayz) are light, airy fritters made with a very wet, yeast-raised dough that gets bubbly on the countertop over several hours.

After it sits all day or overnight, you can drop the dough by the spoonful, or use dampened fingers to pinch off pieces, into hot oil and cook until golden. Then drizzle in warm honey or syrup.

Loukoumades sit on a plate on a kitchen counter.
For a sweeter option, try these loukoumades, which are fried dough balls drizzled in honey or syrup. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp instant or quick-rising yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Canola or other neutral oil, for frying
  • Honey or golden syrup, for drizzling (warmed if necessary)

In a medium-large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until well combined. The dough will be wet and shaggy.

Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and leave on the countertop for 12-18 hours.

When you’re ready to cook them, heat an inch or two of oil in a heavy, shallow pot until a bit of the batter sizzles when dropped in. If you have a thermometer, aim for 350-375 F.

Drop small spoonfuls (or use dampened hands to pinch off small pieces) and cook in the hot oil for a few minutes, turning as needed, until golden all over.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Drizzle with honey or golden syrup, warmed if needed to make it pourable.

Makes: About two dozen loukoumades.

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

Although latkes are traditionally made with russet or Yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes make a tasty version.

They’re delicious spiked with a bit of curry powder and served with plain yogurt or sour cream, but they’re just as delicious plain.

Fried sweet potato latkes, orange in colour, sit on a plate.
Sweet potato latkes can be made with just a few ingredients, including egg, flour and curry powder. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


  • 1 medium sweet potato (peeled or not)
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander (optional)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • canola oil, for cooking

Grate the sweet potato with the coarse side of a box grater onto a paper towel, then transfer to a bowl.

Add the cilantro, egg, flour, curry powder, salt and pepper until well combined.

Set a skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and drop a heaping spoonful of the sweet potato mixture into the hot skillet and press down to flatten evenly.

Cook, turning as needed, for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden on both sides and cooked through.

Cook as many as you can accommodate in the pan without crowding them too much, adding additional oil as needed.

Makes: 8-12 latkes.

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