Publicists say it’s a good thing when people follow your every move. So when Hubby and I decided to make aliya, I knew that this move would capture the attention of a great many people.
Shortly after we made the decision, I thought to create a reality documentary series that would record every phase of our experience. I was shocked it hadn’t been done before. From that moment on, I was writing and directing videos in my head.
The saga of uprooting our family with five young kids and moving from a New York City suburb (with oodles of grass to mow) to Ramat Beit Shemesh (a city built of stone too far from Highway 1) this past summer turned into a series of short web episodes called Joy of Aliyah, available on my website (www.JoyofKosher.com) and will be screened as a film at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival on December 13.
People ask me, “What are the biggest challenges of aliya?” Well, our timing was perfect. We were just wading into Israeli life when the Pillar of Defense rose. Oddly enough, the conflict didn’t faze us. All the reporters who interviewed me about aliya made sure to caution that we were moving to a war zone. In fact, during previous Israeli wars, I always had the inkling that I belonged with my people, with the Jews in Israel, rather than sitting it out securely in New York.
So now we’re here, and living here feels so purposeful that the dangers are just part of the landscape.
We brought our kids to this holiest of lands and will be celebrating our first Hanukka in Israel and our son’s third birthday on the fifth night. Any parent of a (Hanukka) baby knows there is no greater gift. As we hope this light-filled holiday in the Holy Land will connect our children to our heritage in so many ways, often the kids just want to be connected and comforted by the familiar – the flavors and foods of the past both traditional to the holiday and traditional to our family. My oldest has already asked for my famous donuts this Hanukka, and she shall receive.
For my inaugural column this Hanukka, I am going slightly off my “diet” and sharing a few of my favorite takes on the universal fried sweet treat traditional to the holiday, the sufganiya. Okay, so I threw in a baked doughnut (have to watch the calories somewhere) and two versions of zeppole, the famous Italian fried sweet, because, as you will soon learn, there are no boundaries to my inspiration both in the kitchen and out.
You could say that now that our Joy of Aliyah series is over, the adventure has ended. But I will use this Joy of Kosher cooking column to share with you my experiences here in my new home, both triumphant and trivial, and will always top it off with a few incredible recipes to remind us that life is always sweeter when there is something good to eat.
BAKED DOUGHNUT HOLES (ZEPPOLE) Makes 2 dozen
Zeppole are small fried Italian doughnut balls made from cream puff dough. Try these little puffs of doughnut heaven for a new spin on your traditional Hanukka donuts.
✔ Canola oil, for frying
✔ 3⁄4 cup farmer’s cheese
✔ 1⁄4 cup milk
✔ 2 eggs, beaten
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
✔ 1 cup flour
✔ 2 Tbsp. sugar
✔ 2 tsp. baking powder
✔ 1 pinch salt
✔ 1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Fill a large pot halfway with canola oil.
Heat over medium-high heat until oil reaches 190º. To test the oil without using a deep fry thermometer, dip a wooden chopstick into the oil and wait until the oil starts bubbling steadily around the chopstick.
At 190º, oil around the chopstick will bubble very vigorously.
In a medium bowl, combine farmer’s cheese with milk, and whisk together until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in reserved wet ingredients. Place the saucepan over low heat, and mix gently until combined. The batter will be sticky.
Using a spoon, scoop the batter and drop into the hot oil, a few at a time. You can use a second spoon to help scoop out the batter neatly. Do not overcrowd the pot.
Zeppole will turn themselves over as they fry. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until the zeppole are lightly golden.
Drain on paper towels. Dust heavily with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm.Recipe by Chavi Sperber, as published in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine APPLE ZEPPOLE Makes 12 servings
✔ 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
✔ 1⁄2 cup water
✔ 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
✔ 1 cup all-purpose flour
✔ 4 large eggs
✔ 1 Granny Smith apple (about 1 cup), peeled and diced
✔ Vegetable oil for frying
✔ 1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar
✔ 1⁄2 cup seedless raspberry jam
✔ 1 Tbsp. orange juice
In a medium saucepan, heat butter, water, sugar, cinnamon and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour. Return to low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Continue to cook for 1 minute.
Transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at low speed with a paddle attachment for 1 minute or until cooled slightly. Add eggs one at a time. Add apple, and mix until just combined.
In a heavy medium-sized pan, heat oil to 190º on a candy or deep fry thermometer. Using a spoon, carefully drop batter into hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Repeat with remaining dough and dust with powdered sugar.
In a small bowl, whisk together jam and orange juice and serve with zeppole.
Recipe by Jamie Geller, as published on JoyofKosher.com
CHOCOLATE GLAZED BAKED DONUTS Makes 1 dozen donuts
Try these delicious baked donuts for an almost guilt-free Hanukka alternative.
Each doughnut contains only 1 tsp. of oil. When measuring the flour, use a spoon. Do not pack the flour down into the measuring cup.
✔ 1⁄2 cup + 11⁄2 Tbsp. milk or parve alternative (coconut or soy milk), divided ✔ 1⁄2 cup vanilla yogurt or parve alternative
✔ 1⁄4 cup canola oil
✔ 2 eggs, lightly beaten
✔ 3 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
✔ 7⁄8 cup sugar
✔ 2 cups flour
✔ 2 tsp. baking powder
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 1 pinch nutmeg
✔ 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
✔ 1 Tbsp. cocoa
✔ Colored sprinkles
✔ 2 doughnut pans
Preheat the oven to 160º. Very lightly grease 2 nonstick donut pans. Do not over-grease.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1⁄2 cup milk, yogurt, oil, eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla.
Add sugar, and whisk until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into the liquids, and stir until just combined.
Do not over mix, or donuts will have a bit of a tough texture. Use a pastry bag or small spoon to neatly fill each doughnut cup in the prepared pans about 3⁄4 full, making sure the center rise is kept clean.
Bake uncovered for 12 minutes until donuts spring back when touched. Allow donuts to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the pans.
In the meantime, prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and cocoa. Stirring continually, slowly add remaining 1 tsp. vanilla and remaining 11⁄2 Tbsp. milk to make a smooth, pourable glaze.
Working quickly while glaze is still wet, dip one side of each donut into the glaze. If the glaze turns thick, you may need to use a mini rubber spatula or your fingers to gently help the glaze cover the donut neatly.
Arrange the donuts on a clean baking sheet to dry, and then quickly sprinkle with colored sprinkles. Allow glaze to set.
Serve once donuts have completely cooled.Recipe by Chavi Sperber, as published in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine
Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller is the No. 1 kosher food and recipe website, featuring more than 5,700 recipes from Geller, kosher chefs, food bloggers and community members. The companion print magazine is published bimonthly and is revolutionizing the way people think about kosher food. Find more from Jamie at JoyofKosher.com.