For the first time ever, this year Channukkah and Thanksgiving will fall on the same day, November 28th; actually, to be precise, the first full day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving day). The last time this happened was in 1888, and it will not happen again for another 77,798 years, until 79811. The cause for this freakish overlap is that Thanksgiving happens to be oddly late this year, and Channukkah is absurdly early. Thus, the questionable portmanteau of Thanksgivukkah is born.
I’m pretty excited about this weird celebration: I’ve always loved the spirit of Thanksgiving and wished we had something like it here in Italy, where this particular holiday is only celebrated by American expats; now I have an official excuse to join the celebrations!
Family get-togethers, good food, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade… isn’t it incredibly exciting? Plus, there’s no need to feel guilty if you’re Jewish and celebrating, like for instance on Christmas, because this holiday is for everyone and every American is involved in this, no matter their ethnic background, culture or religion.
The primary focus is enjoying each others company, while sharing a magnificent meal with a grateful and thankful heart.
Perhaps I like it so much because it commemorates how newcomers were first welcomed to America, a tradition of inclusiveness that is particularly dear to the Jewish people, who have often been immigrants to foreign countries.
But how might Jews and gentiles celebrate this “twin” holiday? Well, I thought about it and came up with a recipe that I think brings together the best of both worlds: a delicious pumpkin challah!
I’ve used, with minor tweaking, a pumpkin challah recipe by Tori from the blog “The Shiksa in the Kitchen”.
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm water divided
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp salt
- cinnamon or other spices if you like
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
- 7-9 cups all-purpose baking flour
- Pour ½ cup of the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl, add 2 packets of active dry yeast and 1 tbsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve and wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy.
- Once your yeast has activated, add remaining ½ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the rest of the sugar, egg, egg yolk, honey, vegetable oil, salt and spices, and use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together. Whisk in the brown sugar and pumpkin puree to form a thick liquid.
- Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies—only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.”
- Grease a bowl with oil and push the dough into it, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel.
- Place the bowl of dough somewhere warm to make the dough rise for 1 hour. Take the dough bowl out and punch it down several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.
- Take the dough out of the oven and flour a smooth surface like a cutting board, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Now your dough is ready to braid. If you plan to separate and bless the challah, do it prior to braiding.
- After you’ve braided your challah loaves, place them on two separate cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and brush them with egg wash.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, meantime let the braids rise 30 to 45 minutes longer.
- The challah will need to bake for about 30 minutes total. Turning the tray during the baking time helps your challah brown evenly.
- Once the challah is browned to your liking, take the challah out of the oven. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.