Oy Hanukkah, Oh Chanukah…

Every winter brings the same dilemma… how do you spell Hanukkah?! The first spelling above is the spellcheck’s preference, but ask 2 Jews and you’ll get at least two opinions. Ask a Hebrew speaker and, in this case, you’ll get only one:

Despite the miracle which occurred during the rededication of the Temple following its desecration by the ancient Greeks, Hanukkah is really a very minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, which has gotten a leg up in the Diaspora because of its proximity to Christmas and other winter holidays. Here in Israel, however, the holiday centers around family get-togethers, lighting of the candles, singing songs, and, of course, food.

Add to the name confusion the special menorah that is lit during Hanukkah, the Hannukiyah, which has 9 candleholders, 8 for each night of Hanukkah and one separate one for the “Shamash”, the candle which is used to light all the others. Like many religious objects, the Hannukiyah is a folk art object and over time and varied cultures has taken many shapes. Nonetheless, the basic requirements above, 8 holders for candles or oil wicks, plus one for the Shamash, are what unite them all.

And because you can’t have a holiday without food, here are a few classic recipes. For obvious reasons, oil plays a big part in Hanukkah foods. :)

Janna Gur, Israel’s Diva of the Kitchen, Ashkenazi Potato Latkes
King Arthur Flour Easy Does It Latkes
Easy Jewish Recipes Yeast-free Sufganiyot
And here’s a recipe for the yeasty-type of sufganiyot that I shared with one of my mailing lists many years ago. Enjoy!

Hannukah Doughnuts (Sufganiyot)
2 tbsp dry yeast
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
3/4 c lukewarm milk
2 1/2 c flour, sifted
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
25 gm margarine, softened (my guess a little less than 1 oz)
2 tbsp brandy
jam of your choice (IMHO strawberry is best here)
oil for deep-frying
powdered sugar

Method: Dissolve the yeast and 2 tbsp sugar in the lukewarm milk. Place flour on a board and make a well in the centre, add the yeast mixture, egg-yolks, salt, cinnamon and the remaining sugar. Now add the brandy (which keeps the doughnuts oil-free). Knead well. Add the margarine and knead until the dough is elastic. Cover and let rise about 2 hours.

Sprinkle flour on the board. Roll the dough out thin; cut into rounds 5cm (2″) in diameter with a cookie-cutter or glass. Cover and let rise 15 minutes more. Pour 5cm (2″) of oil into a heavy pot and heat to a slightly hotter degree than medium heat. Drop the doughnuts in the oil 4 or 5 at a time, turning when brown. Drain on paper towels.

If you have a kitchen syringe, fill it with strawberry jam and inject about a teaspoonful of jam in each doughnut. If you don’t have a kitchen syringe, using a tiny spoon take some jam and fill the doughnuts through a small slit. Dust with powdered sugar and serve while still warm. This recipe makes about 30-35 doughnuts.

Israelis favor sufganiyot to latkes to celebrate Hanukkah and in case you think donuts are a small change business:

Wishing you a Chag Urim Sameah, Happy Festival of Lights!

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