Chanukah may be a minor festival, but the concepts it embodies are major. Jews, that stiff-necked people, were living under the control of Seleucide Greeks. While the conquerors were generally tolerant of other religions, provided the conquered people accepted the ostensibly superior culture, the Jews – for the most part – refused to bend, to compromise, to accept “progress.” They stuck to their beliefs, even when threatened with death. What prompted these people to follow an invisible God, a God they were proscribed from making statutes of, a God who placed so many positive and negative commandments upon them?
For generations, the Jews were witnesses to the Almighty’s open and not so open miracles, they had no need of wood, stone or metal statutes to feel His presence. His presence surrounded them constantly! Their ragtag army, now fought the world’s mightiest power and won. Was that not enough of a miracle? Yet we do not celebrate Chanukah as a merely nationalistic day of independence. No, we celebrate instead the rekindling of the Temple Menorah, the rebirth of our faith.
We celebrate the fact that the Temple in Jerusalem had been purified of foreign idolatrous contamination. We celebrate the fact that just as it seemed that we would have to wait eight days for new consecrated olive oil to be prepared, miraculously a small flask just enough for one day’s kindling was found and yet it lasted a full eight days. The Greeks had combed through the Temple to loot its treasures, to take away anything that could be used by the stubborn Jews to worship that God, and yet throughout the years this small flask had gone unnoticed until truly committed Jews found it. Was it merely that they looked harder, or was that itself a miracle?
As a result of olive oil’s power in restoring us a nation, His nation, we traditionally eat fried foods on Chanukah, here is a recipe for traditional “Sufganyot,” jelly filled donuts:
(Adapted from Perfect Jewish, page 241)
Makes 24 doughnuts
- 1 tablespoon easy-blend dry yeast
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for rolling
- 1 1/4 cup warm milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons very soft margarine or vegetable oil (for a dairy version you may use sour cream)
- vegetable oil for frying
- plum, apricot, red currants or black currant jelly
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Stir the yeast, flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a standard electric, mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the center. Add the milk, egg, yolk, and margarine (or sour cream for dairy sufganyot). Beat on low speed for 2 minutes, or until combined. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and leaves the side of the bowl. Cover with a dish towel and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until doubled in volume.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly to deflate adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Divide the dough in half and roll out each piece to 3/4″ thick.
- Working with one dough half at a time, using a 2″ cutter, stamp out as many rounds as pssible. Knead the scraps together, reroll and stamp out more rounds, you should form at lease 24. Cover with the dish towel and leave for 20 minutes, or until puffed and slightly risen.
- Heat at least 3″ of oil in a deep-fat fryer, wok or large pan to 375 F. or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Working in batches, fry the doughnits, covered for 3 – 4 minutes, or until golden. Turn and fry on the other side for 3 minutes or until well colored. Using a skimmer, or slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Fit a small pastry bag, with a 1/2″ plain tip, and fill with jelly. Put the sugar into a bowl. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, make a small slit in the side of each, insert the tip into the center, and squeeze about 1 teaspoon of jelly. Drop each filled doughnut into the sugar and turn to coat completely. Transfer to a wire rack.
Enjoy, gentle reader, Enjoy!
Chag Chanukah same’ach!!