I'd never really given much thought to why apple cake was synonymous with Jewish desserts until reading the intro to this Polish Hanukkah Apple Cake from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous by Joan Nathan. As it turns out, the Jewish part comes from the fact that the cake is parve (made without dairy) and therefore acceptable in a meal served for the main course.
'Kugels Quiches and Couscous' on Serious Eats
Up until recently my repertoire of Hanukkah edibles consisted of potato latkes (obviously), jelly-filled doughnuts, and little bags of chocolate coins a.k.a. Hanukkah gelt. But while perusing Joan Nathan's Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous I came across a less familiar Hanukkah treat, Hutzel Wecken, a dense, fruit studded bread from the Alsace region of France.
The lemon and orange zest permeates the meat with bright citrus, the cider vinegar and white wine add a slightly sour note, and the ginger lends the tiniest kick. And like any brisket recipe worth its salt, it comes out of the oven exactly two and a half hours later fork-tender, ready to be sliced, sauced, and served with the sweet carrots that have been cooking in the braising liquid.
Since I was on the prowl for Hanukkah recipes in Joan Nathan's Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous, a good latke was the first order of business. Nathan has three different potato pancake preparations in the book, but for me, these Brandade Potato Latkes truly capture the spirit of a French-accented Hanukkah celebration. The recipe combines brandade, a whipped cod spread popular in the South of France with a mashed potato latke.