The 7th of December marks the first day of Hanukkah – an event which takes place from the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. For its eight day duration, Jewish people will celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BC, thanks to the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire.
The item most commonly associated with the holiday is the menorah, a nine-pronged candle holder. Its signifcance comes from after the forces of Antiochus IV were driven from the Temple, when the Jews had repaired and cleaned it. They rededicated the Temple to God by lighting an oil lamp – however, they had only one day’s worth of consecrated olive oil to last them the eight days it would take to press and bless more. Miraculously, the lamp stayed lit for the full eight days.
Today, Jews celebrate Hanukkaah by lighting one candle of the menorah for each day – the ninth candle, often central and raised above the others, may be used to light the others. The lit candles ought to burn for half an hour at least, after dark – many will leave work early in order to be hone to light the candles at nightfall. Three brachah (blessings) are spoken, and once the candle is lit the Ma’oz Tzur is sung, a prayer which deals with divine salvation and documents four major examples of the persecution of Jewish people throughout history. There may be other prayers or psalms.
As Hanukkah is not the same as the Sabbat, no one is restricted from work or play, and it is not permitted to fast or eulogize. In the evenings, families may play with dreidels or eat oil-based foods to commemorate the importance of the long-lasting oil. Gifts are common as well, ranging from Hannukah Gelt (a gift of money) to more commercial presents, especially in the Western world where it can be seen as an opportunity to celebrate a holiday around the same time as Christmas. This has made Hanukkah popular even with secular Jews.
As well as eating oil-based foods, dairy is popular. As part of the reclaiming of Jerusalem, Judith assassinated the enemy leader Holofernes by feeding him cheese until he was thirsty, providing him with wine and then cutting off his head while he was in a drunken stupor. Having lost their leader, the Assyrians dispersed.
Sufganiyot (Jam Doughnuts)
- 2 tbsps active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- ¼ cup +1 tsp of sugar
- 2 ½ cups plain flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsps unsalted butter at room temperature
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tsps salt
- 3 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup raspberry jam
Combine yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl and set aside for ten minutes to get foamy
Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add eggs, the yeast mixture, ¼ cup of sugar, butter, nutmeg and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix it together until you form a sticky dough.
On a well-floured work surface, knead the dough until it’s smooth, soft and slightly springy. Place it in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap before setting to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
On the floured work surface, roll the dough out until it’s around ¼ ich thick and use a 2 ½ inch round cutter. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for fifteen minutes.
Heat your oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat, until it reaches 370F. Using a slotted spoon, slip four of the rounds into the oil and fry until golden (about 40 seconds) before turning them over and frying for another 40 seconds. Take them out with the slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Roll them in sugar while still warm
To get in the jam, fill a pastry bag with jam and use a wooden skewer to make a hole in the side of the doughnut. Fit the tip of the pastry bag into the hole and pipe around 2 teaspoons into each one.
You will need:
- 1 cup ricotta
- ¾ cup flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and process for about 45 seconds, scraping the sides when necessary until a thick batter is formed.
Heat a non-stick skillet over a medium heat and, using a spoon to scoop 1-2 tablespoons of the batter, pour it onto the skillet in the size and shape of a pancake. Then spread it out into a thin circle – don’t worry too much about getting the shape perfect!
Cook for about three minutes on each side until golden brown and check they’re cooked all the way through.
Serve immediately, plain or with honey, jam, sour cream, yoghurt, maple syrup or agave nectar.