By June Hersh
Have you ever noticed that Jewish holidays are never on time, they are always late as in 2016 when Rosh Hashanah began in October or early like in 2013 when Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving. Well, this year, Hanukkah is making a pretty early appearance as it falls on Sunday at sundown just three days after Thanksgiving. You might still have out of town relatives devouring cranberry pumpkin muffins or dark meat turkey waiting to be layered on fresh rye bread, but no matter what your plans are, we know it will somehow involve food.
So today we present two recipes from Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival. They are both unexpected delights from the book as one represents the Latin American culture that infused the cooking of survivor Berta Kiesler Vaisman and the other features honey drenched donuts from Greek survivor Luna Cohen. They are each a nod to the holidays that almost converge this year. I hope you enjoy them for their connection to a timeless recipe and an inspiring story that appears in the book (available from the Museum’s online shop).
Few desserts have as rich a history as these small, sweet bites that are free-formed doughnuts. As early as the first Olympics, "honey tokens" were given to the victorious Olympians. Throughout Greece, loukoumades are sold at street fairs, pastry shops and served in Sephardic households as a celebratory treat anytime and especially at Hanukkah. Luna's recipe is pure and simple, with just the right ingredients to create these puffy delights. If you can find Greek honey, which is darker than most, it makes a wonderful finish to the dish.
Yields: 40 to 50 "doughnuts", about 10 to 12 servings; Start to Finish: Under 2 hours
For the dough:
1 package (¼-ounce) or 2¼ teaspoons active
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm water
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
Oil for deep frying
Golden Greek honey, confectioner's sugar,
ground nuts or ground cinnamon (optional)
To prepare the dough you will need a large bowl, as the dough will rise to more than double its size. Dissolve the yeast, sugar and 1 cup of warm water (water temperature should be between 105 to 115 degrees). Allow the yeast to bubble for 5 to 10 minutes. (If it does not. either your water was not the correct temperature, or your yeast was not fresh. Discard and start again, as the dough will not rise or puff up properly). Stir in 3 cups of flour and the remaining 1 cup of warm water. Mix until the dough is a cross between a very thick batter and sticky dough. It will resemble thick oatmeal, and when you tug on the dough, it will resist and pull back. You can add up to 1 more cup of flour to achieve this consistency. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it double in size, about 1 to 1 ½hours. The dough is ready when it has doubled and its craggy bumps resemble the surface of the moon.
In a saucepan or deep fryer, heat 3 to 4 inches of vegetable oil to about 375 degrees (if you have a thermometer to test the oil temperature, it is helpful). It is important to maintain that temperature to prevent the doughnuts from absorbing the oil. Have a bowl of warm water, 2 tablespoons, and a plate with a paper towel ready. Dip the spoons in the warm water. Scoop out some dough onto one spoon and use the second spoon to push it into the hot oil. If the dough does not sizzle and immediately float and become golden brown, your oil is not hot enough. Begin dropping the dough into the oil, being careful not to let water from the spoons drip into the pot. Do not overcrowd the pot, it lowers the temperature and the doughnuts will be greasy. The dough should quickly puff up and float to the top. They will become golden brown and many will turn themselves over; nudge those that don't. so all sides become golden. When they are done, remove them with tongs, shake off the excess oil back into the pot and drain on the waiting paper towel. Continue frying until all the doughnuts are cooked. Drizzle honey over the fried dough and have plenty of napkins standing by! You can also sprinkle them with confectioner's sugar, roll them in chopped nuts or cinnamon. They are best when eaten right away.
While black bread or challah was the natural choice in Berta's native Romania, as an immigrant in Venezuela, Berta learned the regional specialties of her new home. Venezuelan cooking leans heavily on Caribbean influences as evidenced in her creamy and subtle corn bread, with a grainy texture and smooth filling.
Yields: 9 squares, Start to Finish: Under I ¼ hours
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ground yellow corn meal
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces) small-curd cottage cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 x8 ·inch baking dish. Combine all the ingredients, except the cottage cheese, and mix by hand with a wooden spoon. Pour half of the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread a layer of cottage cheese, and then top with the remaining batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until the bread is firm and lightly brown.
Enjoy your holidays and we look forward to sharing new recipes with you to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. Until then you can find me @junehersh on Instagram and Facebook.
June Hersh is a food writer, speaker and cookbook author. She welcomes your feedback at Eatwelldogood18@gmail.com.