For the first time in this century, Thanksgiving and the first day of Channukkah will fall on the same day this year, on November 28th. The last time this happened was in 1888, and it will not happen again for over seventy thousand years. The cause for this special overlap is that Thanksgiving happens to be oddly late this year, and Channukkah is unusually early. For this unique junction of events, Americans have already made up an adorable portmanteau: Thanksgivukkah. How cute is that?
I’m pretty excited about this weird celebration: I’ve always loved the spirit of Thanksgiving and wished we had something like it in Italy, where this holiday is only celebrated by American expats; now I have an official reason 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 it, no matter their background, culture, or religion.
The primary focus is on enjoying each other’s company while sharing a magnificent meal with a grateful 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 of packages active dry yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 5 tbsp white sugar
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp sunflower or peanut oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
- 7-9 cups bread flour
- Pour ½ cup of the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl, add 2 packets of active dry yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve, and wait 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy.2 of packages active dry yeast, 1 cup lukewarm water, 5 tbsp white sugar
- Add the remaining ½ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the rest of the white sugar, egg, egg yolk, honey, vegetable oil, salt, and spices, and stir. Pour in the brown sugar and pumpkin puree to form a thick liquid.1 egg + 1 egg yolk, 1/4 cup honey, 2 tbsp sunflower or peanut oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon (optional), 1 pinch nutmeg, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
- Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a spoon. Continue to add flour and knead the dough with your hands until it’s smooth, elastic, and not sticky. The amount of flour listed is meant mostly for guidance but trust your senses.7-9 cups bread flour
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour, then punch it down, fold in thirds like an envelope, and let rise another hour under the towel.
- On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into rolls and then braid the rolls into loaves.
- After you’ve braided your challah loaves, place them on two separate oven trays lined with parchment paper and brush them with egg wash.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and let the braids rise for the time it takes the oven to get to temperature.
- Bake the challah for about 30 minutes, or until the dough at the bottom of the loaf appears fully cooked.
- Let challah cool on a wire cooling rack before serving. Challah freezes very well. It should be thawed for two hours on the counter, and reheated briefly for a few minutes in a hot oven before serving.
Have you missed Thanksgivukkah? Don’t worry! This recipe would be fabulous for any fall celebration – I might bring it back next year for either Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot! When you notice that the season of “pumpkin spice” everything has begun at Starbucks and in every other store nationwide, that’s your sign to bake the pumpkin challah!