Tag Archives: Chanukah

The Truth About Chanukah and Pomegranate Sugar-Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts.

ready to eat 3 625 sqI recently discovered that the “Miracle of Chanukah” story, is just a legend. You know the one I’m taking about, where Judah and his merry band of Maccabees go into the destroyed temple and  discover just enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day. But somehow, miracle of miracles, the oil lasted for eight days and the flames of the menorah burned for eight nights. When I discovered that the long lasting oil is not really at the root of the Chanukah commemoration, I felt gutted. Kind of reminiscent of coming home for winter break in first year university to discover that I was the last one in the family to find out that our dog, Heidi, had died!

“Truth” is a word to be avoided when discussing history and religion. Since the victors of a battle often write the history, the facts of what happened in the past depend very much on whom you ask and when it comes to religion, everyone has a different truth.

Chanukah is the only major Jewish holiday not explicitly mentioned in the Torah (Judaism’s written law), since the events that inspired the holiday occurred after it was written. The Rabbis wrote about Chanukah in the Talmud (Jewish oral law and tradition), but that was written over 600 years after the Maccabees revolt. Their version of Chanukah differs markedly from The Books of Maccabees written in the 2nd century B.C.E.

So we have here two versions of the Chanukah story: one from the Book of Maccabees and the other from the Talmud. Both versions agree on the first part of the story. Around 200 B.C.E., Judea (Israel) came under control of the Syrian King, Antiochus III. He was a benevolent fellow and allowed the Jews to continue practicing their religion. Things changed drastically when his son, Antiochus IV, took over.

This evil king outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C.E., his soldiers marched into Jerusalem, exterminated thousands of people and desecrated the holy Second Temple by constructing an altar to Zeus and commanded the Jews to sacrifice a pig upon this alter.

The Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons led a large-scale rebellion against Antiochus and his army. When Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E., his son Judah Maccabee took over. Within two years, the Jews, relying on Guerrilla warfare tactics, defeated the Syrian Greek army and drove them out of Jerusalem.

The Maccabees cleansed the Second Temple, rebuilt the altar, lit its menorah and celebrated the rededication (the word Chanukah means dedication). And thus the eight-day festival of Chanukah was born.  Why eight days? Well, here’s where the story begins to diverge. According to The Book of Maccabee II, while the Maccabees were fighting, they had missed the eight-day holiday of Sukkot, (celebrated in early fall) and so to celebrate the Second Temple rededication, they declared a “better-late-than-never” celebration of Sukkot.

Version 2, as written in the Talmud gives us this spin on the eight-day festival.  Judah Maccabee and his team, who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple, witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames burned for eight nights. This wondrous event inspired the Rabbis to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.

The Rabbis barely mentioned the battle between the Maccabees and the Greeks in the Talmud. The reason for this is unclear. Perhaps they did not want to encourage the celebration of a military battle, or perhaps, as pacifists, they did not want to encourage the Jewish people, who at that time, were living under Roman rule, to be inspired by revolt.

Rabbi Andrew Jacobs, on “Blog Shalom” explains the miracle of Chanukah this way,

“…even without the oil, .Chanukah is still a miraculous story. The Maccabees were a tiny group of Jews who should not have been able to defeat the powerful Greeks.  But they did!  And because of this miracle, Judaism survived and did not become consumed by Greek culture.   This story of miraculous survival repeats itself many times throughout Jewish history.  Despite tremendous powers that have raged against us, nothing has stopped the Jewish people.  This is a miracle.”

Although the miraculous oil story may be just a legend, I refuse to give up food fried in oil on Chanukah! To celebrate my newfound knowledge, I am going to go all out this year and celebrate Chanukah with these decadent Pomegranate Sugar-Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts.ready to eat 2 625 sqThe idea behind these doughnuts comes from the genius mind of Chef Lynn Crawford. However, after discovering that her recipe called for a pound of butter in the doughnut dough, I decided to use her white chocolate filling and pomegranate sugar coating, but looked elsewhere for the actual doughnuts. Anna Olsen‘s recipe used only  a 1/4 pound of butter. So while these doughnuts are not exactly light fare, they are lighter than originally intended by Chef Lynn!

The pomegranate sugar and white chocolate ganache filling can be prepared a day ahead.making pom sugar 1making pom sugar 2

chopping white chocolateganache mixed with whipped creamThese are yeast raised, not cake doughnuts. The dough comes together in about 5 minutes if you have a stand mixer. Thanks to a quarter pound of butter this brioche-like dough has an amazing silky texture.dough with dough hookdough before first risedough after first rise

cutting out doughnutsMy deep fryer, which normally only gets pulled out once a year to make french fries takes all the guess work out of deep frying. You can of course use a deep pot with a candy/oil thermometer to regulate the temperature.frying 1These babies puff up like little pillows. I can not accurately express the joy I experienced watching my own little miracle here in the deep fryer!frying 2Filling the doughnuts with the white chocolate ganache whipped cream is quite simple. A plain piping tip, inserted into the side of the doughnut makes easy work of the job. filling doughnuts 2filling doughnuts 1These doughnuts are really best eaten the same day they are made. I sent 16 of these beauties off with my husband to share with his hockey team after I made them one Sunday afternoon. He said that they were inhaled very quickly and that they actually brought a few of these strong burly hockey players to their knees as they gushed at how good they were.

Click here to print recipe for Pomegranate Sugar Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts.

ready to eat 1

Roasted Applesauce and Latkes


Follow Me on Pinterest

I seem to be a bit out of synch with my Chanukah posts this year. I posted about latkes (with fried eggs and roasted tomatoes) on November 23, almost a full month before the first night of Chanukah. And now, here I am, bringing you latkes with roasted applesauce, on the last night of Chanukah! I meant to bring you this fantastic applesauce recipe a week ago but, I’ve been a bit distracted with this view. so forgive my tardiness!

We are here on a little island, off the coast of Antigua, in the Caribbean. We have rented a house on the ocean for 9 days for a little family holiday. It is so wonderful to have all my children together under the same roof for an extended period of time. It makes me feel contented and complete. My husband’s sister and her family have also come and rented the house 2 doors down from us so all the cousins are together for a mini-family reunion. I say mini, because in addition to a sister, my husband also has 4 brothers. Sadly, they were unable to come down with their families.

There are no cars allowed on the island. The major methods of transportation include bicycles, golf carts and walking. The older kids are loving the golf carts, but my 16-year-old niece is annoyed that she is not allowed to drive the golf carts, as you require a valid driver’s licence and she only has her learner’s permit. She was slightly appeased when she discovered that the legal drinking age on Antigua is 16.

We had a family Chanukah celebration over lunch a few days ago at my sister-in-law’s house. Her kitchen is way better equipped than mine. They had a Cuisinart to grate the potatoes and onions. We just had a box grater! The latke recipe can be found in my Nov 23 post.

The roasted applesauce recipe comes from Food 52. They featured it in their Genius recipes feature. It is the creation of Zuni Cafe owner, Judy Rodgers. I have always made applesauce by just steaming the apples in a pot with a little bit of water and then putting them through a food mill. This takes applesauce to a whole other dimension, by roasting them with a pinch of salt, sugar and butter. Then they are mashed up and finished with a splash of cider vinegar. Genius indeed!

With 17 of us for lunch, there were lots of potatoes to peel and grate. We had 3 frying pans going and within about an hour we had transformed 10 pounds of potatoes into a huge mound of crispy lacy latkes. My sister-in-law has an unusual, and dangerous, method for forming the latkes. She scoops up a small handful of the mixture with her hands, squeezes it to compact the mass and then gently places it in the hot oil! I prefer to use a large spoon, but I have to admit, hers stayed together a bit better than mine. She also had the patience to let them get really brown and crispy.

We had to send my brother-in-law out to forage for sour cream (apparently the way Torontonian’s favour their latkes) and ketchup (an Ottawa thing!). The roasted applesauce was a great unifier, loved by all.

Click here for recipe Roasted Applesauce.

Click here for recipe for Latkes.

Latkes with Fried Eggs and Roasted Tomatoes

I know it’s a little too early to start thinking about potato latkes, since the first night of Chanukah is not until December 20 this year. But I have a good reason for posting about them now. You see, ever since I saw Chuck Hughes  make these on his show, “Chuck’s Day Off”, it’s all I could think about.

Now, before you continue reading any further, I must warn you that I am about to gush big time. So, if public displays of affection make you at all uncomfortable, perhaps you should stop reading this post right now. To be perfectly honest, Chuck’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. You may recall that I posted about Chuck in April, and then again at the beginning of this month. I guess you could say that I’m a bit smitten with him. For the record, I am happily married (not to Chuck!), but celebrity crushes are permitted. I think it’s actually healthy for our marriage.

For those not familiar with Chuck, check out this short video of him on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean.

Chuck cooks on his day off for friends, family and his suppliers as a way of saying thanks. In one episode he made adobo pork shanks, fried rice and pineapple coconut pie for Edgardo and Burt, the father and son team that cleans his restaurant. How could you not love this guy?

He made these latkes for his pots and pans suppliers. He topped them off with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a fried egg. And on the side, he served roasted grape tomatoes and sautéed zucchini. The first time I tried the recipe, I made it exactly as Chuck did, but to be honest, the ricotta and the sautéed zucchini really muddied the flavours of the potato and egg. The roasted tomatoes, however, really brightened up the whole dish. Their acidity balanced the richness of the fried potato and egg.

Chuck’s latke method is more like the Swiss dish “röesti potatoes”, than traditional potato latkes. He parboils the potatoes first, then shreds them and mixed them with onion, chives, eggs, cayenne, salt and pepper. I gave his method a whirl but must admit, I like using grated raw potatoes. I find you get a crispier latke that way.

Grape tomatoes get a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and some thyme.

After 45 minutes in the oven they come out all wrinkled and sweet.  They can be made in advance and sit at room temperature while you make the latkes and fry the eggs.

Click here for my version of Potato Latkes with Roasted Tomatoes.

Doughnuts to Celebrate Chanukah

 

Today is the first night of Chanukah.  When I was growing up, Chanukah meant potato latkes with sour cream and applesauce.  My mother would make them and then complain for days about the smell of oil from frying which lingered in the house for days.

My mother has an incredible sense of smell.  In our family, we joke that she can smell foul odours a day before they actually occur.  My childhood memories are filled with her going from room to room, sniffing and muttering, “What’s that smell?”  One of her least favorite smells was that of food cooked in oil.  She claimed that she could smell the oil for weeks afterwards.  Now I must be honest here and admit that I inherited my father’s sense of smell – that is to say,  his lack of sense of smell.  He had sinus problems and his nose malfunctioned often.

That said, once a year, on Chanukah, we had latkes. My mom’s latkes are fantastic.  They are lacy shreds of potatoes, fried until crisp.  The lingering smell of frying oil was quickly chased away by my mother’s secret blend of cleaning agents, a potent, lethal combination of Joy and Ajax.  Do not try this at home unless you are wearing a gas mask.  I do recall one year, she set up the electric frying pan on the ironing board in the garage, plugged it in with 5 extension cords snaking all the way from the front hall, all so so she could keep the smell out of the house.

When my husband and I first began dating, he took me home to celebrate Chanukah with his family. His family did not shred their potatoes for latkes.  They pulverized them in the Cuisinart so the resulting latkes were thick and creamy, not the thin lacy crispy shredded latkes that I grew up with. And, if you can actually imagine this, they served them with ketchup!!  I almost broke up with him.   After we were married we had our families over for a Chanukah party.  Of course, we could not agree on which kind of latkes to make, so we ended up making both.  The guests were starving by the time the latkes actually appeared at the table so both kinds were gobbled up very quickly.  We have since agreed on a “Compromise Latkes Recipe” that makes us both happy.

 On my last trip to Israel, I discovered that Chanukah there is celebrated with jelly doughnuts  (sufganiyot).   The word, sufganiyot, comes from the Greek word sufgan, meaning “puffed and fried.” In Israel doughnuts, fried in oil, commemorate the miracle of the oil that burned in the temple in Jerusalem for eight days, although the supply appeared to be enough only for a single day.  Most people shy away from making their own doughnuts.  It is usually a fear of frying (too dangerous or too fattening) or a fear of working with yeast, as most traditional doughnut recipes call for yeast.

I have never made doughnuts but not because I fear frying or yeast.  I own a deep fryer, which gets used once or twice a year for French fries.  And I am not afraid of yeast, especially after baking my way through 43 bread recipes in the book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.”  No, I shy away from doughnuts because when I was pregnant with my daughter, I ate too many of them.  I would go for my doctor’s appointment, and then, only after I was weighed, I would stop at Lady Jane Doughnuts for a chocolate doughnut topped with coconut.  Sadly, Lady Jane, is gone, replaced by a Pizza Pizza franchise.  And curiously,  to this day, my daughter, who is now 19 years old,  does not like doughnuts.

But, a lot of years have passed since I overindulged on doughnuts and with Chanukah coming up; I decided it was the perfect time to enjoy them again.  And, I was fairly certain that my husband would not top his doughnut with ketchup.

As doughnuts are best served fresh from the fryer, I wanted an easy recipe for entertaining which did not require too much fussing or time. While doughnuts are traditionally made with yeast, I have uncovered a wonderful recipe which relies solely on baking powder and baking soda for leavening.  No rising necessary.  The dough mixes up quickly and the donuts can be formed and set aside for frying up to 2 hours in advance.  Then all you have to do when guests arrive is fry the doughnuts and serve them fresh and hot! These are old-fashioned doughnuts; crunchy on the outside and tender yet sturdy on the inside.  The addition of buttermilk to the batter helps to create this wonderful texture.

When I started researching doughnut making, every recipe I read, used oil for frying the doughnuts in.  However, Cook’s Illustrated, did a head to head taste off between Crisco and peanut oil and found that the doughnuts fried in Crisco absorbed much less fat than the ones cooked in oil.  The Crisco fried ones also held up better, staying fresh longer than the ones fried in oil.  So although Crisco was not used at the time of the rededication of the second temple, I am recommending it anyways, for superior doughnuts.

Just a little aside here.  If you are planning to use a countertop deep fryer, melt the shortening first in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.  Do not put the entire block of shortening right into the deep fryer.  You will damage the heating coils,  short out your fryer and lots of smoke will fill your kitchen.  Not that I know anything about that.  You will notice in the video below, I just used my Le Creuset porcelain enameled cast iron pot on the stove.  My countertop deep fryer was broken missing.

Yo print the recipe for these doughnuts, click here.

The batter comes together very quickly.  Buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, flour, baking powder, baking soda,  nutmeg, salt.

It makes a very sticky batter.  Flour the counter and your rolling-pin well.

There are special doughnut cutters but I just improvised with a glass and piping tip.  It worked quite well.

A candy thermometer is essential if you plan to deep fry on the stove.  They are readily available, and, if you are going to invest in one, I recommend this one,  by Wilton. It has a foot at the bottom to prevent the thermometer bulb from touching the bottom of the pot.  You want to avoid this as you will get a false reading.

Since I am not a jelly doughnut kind of girl, I just gave my doughnuts a quick bath of sugar and cinnamon.  My husband devoured several (without ketchup, for the record).