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AJU Interview with Jake Cohen and Hanukkah Marble-Glazed Shortbread Cookies

On November 15, culinary creator and cookbook author Jake Cohen (“Jew-Ish”) sat down with American Jewish University (AJU) Vice President of Communications Michelle Starkman for a light-hearted and hunger-inducing conversation.
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November 30, 2023
Photo by Matt Taylor-Gross

On November 15, culinary creator and cookbook author Jake Cohen (“Jew-Ish”) sat down with American Jewish University (AJU) Vice President of Communications Michelle Starkman for a light-hearted and hunger-inducing conversation.

“Jake’s style is one of the most creative mashups of cuisines with big flavors,” Starkman said in her introduction. 

More than 600 people registered on AJU’s  open learning platform for this discussion of recipes from Cohen’s newest New York Times best selling cookbook, “I Could Nosh: Classic Jew-ish Recipes Revamped for Every Day.” Cohen also shared some of his backstory, inspiration for Jewish cuisine and a bunch of cooking tips. 

There’s nothing like a good nosh, which Cohen said, “is light-eating” but not necessarily a snack.

A nosh, he explains, is having something in the refrigerator that you can feed to guests at any time, whether or not they are actually hungry.

A nosh, he explains, is having something in the refrigerator that you can feed to guests at any time, whether or not they are actually hungry.

“When I think of a lot of the matriarchs of my family, of my husband’s family, it’s these large batch dishes that they just keep in the fridge and freezer so that they can heat you up a small bowl of something whenever you’re hungry,” Cohen said. “It’s a really broad term, but to me, it’s about the concept of everyday hospitality.”

While “I Could Nosh” is clearly a Jewish cookbook, Starkman and Cohen discussed how he has made food in the Jewish culture really accessible. “Especially being a place like New York or a country like America, where Jewish food has become so intertwined into the fabric of our culinary lexicon, anyone can enjoy it,” he said.  

Cohen spent time talking about his family, book-writing and recipe-creating process and his connection to Israel, as well as what inspires him and his mission to “inspire people to cook and do good for Jews.”

Starkman asked, “What advice would you give all of us?”

There are three things, he explained.

1. Patience is the one ingredient that’s missing in most kitchens. If you are waiting for your challah dough to double in size and it hasn’t doubled in an hour, you have to wait longer. 

“So much of cooking these are visual cues,” he said. “The times are guidelines, but not like law.” 

2. Salt. Most of the time people aren’t seasoning, because they are being too health-conscious. 

“There’s a big difference between going lighter on salt and not seasoning,” Cohen said. 

3. Relax. Cooking is not that deep and not that difficult. 

“People just add so much stress, and they run around their kitchen freaking out about entertaining or this or that,” he said. “It’s all going to be okay.”

Cohen adds, “Have fun with it.”

In cooking, being yourself is the most important ingredient.

For more recipes and inspiration, follow @jakecohen on Instagram and TikTok. 

Learn more about AJU’s events at Open.aju.edu. Watch the full conversation with Jake Cohen on AJU’s YouTube channel.

Jake Cohen’s Hanukkah Marble-Glazed Shortbread Cookies

“These are my response to Christmas cookies, since we can’t let the goyim have all the fun. There’s a larger conversation to be had about the holiday industrial complex and our part in hyping up Hanukkah like it’s Jewish Christmas, which no matter how delicious these cookies are, it’s not. But the story of the Maccabees is very much worth celebrating, allowing conversations about our history in overcoming oppression and in fighting for our right to exist. And as long as we’re talking about our past and how it impacts our present and future, we might as well nosh on some shortbreads shaped like Stars of David, menorahs, and dreidels. The wow factor is in the marbled glaze, which uses an easy technique of lightly swirling in food coloring before coating your cookies. They’re so good, Santa might even drop by while you light the menorah.” – Jake Cohen

Makes: about 2 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling and setting time
Cook Time: 15 minutes

For the Dough
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp kosher salt
21/2 cups (338g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

For the Glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 Tbsp vodka
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Blue food coloring

Directions

1. For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (though this dough can easily be made by hand), cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the motor running, add the egg and mix until incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and almond extracts with the salt and mix to incorporate.

2. Add the flour and baking powder and mix on low until a smooth dough forms. Transfer the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Chill for 1 hour.

3. After 30 minutes of chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

4. Remove the top sheet of parchment from the dough and cut out cookies using 21/2-inch Hanukkah cookie cutters. Carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared sheet pans, spacing them 1 inch apart from one another. Reroll the scraps between the parchment and repeat, chilling again as needed if the dough becomes too soft.

5. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time, for 13 to 15 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden. Let cool completely on the pans.

6. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, half-and-half, vodka, almond extract and salt until smooth. Drip a few drops of food coloring on top of the glaze, then swirl with the tip of a paring knife for a marbled effect. (For more distinct marbling for all the cookies, divide the glaze between two bowls before swirling in the food coloring.)

7. Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, letting any excess drip off, then place on a wire rack to set for 15 minutes before serving (the vodka will evaporate, leaving a matte finish and no booze!). Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

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