A Hanukkah Tradition Fresh From The Oven

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - November 24, 2010
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Carl Ackerman is passionate about making both private and public education better in the United States. He is director of the Clarence T.C. Ching PUEO program (Partnerships in Unlimited Educational Opportunities), a unique educational partnership that offers educational opportunities to both Punahou and public school students. PUEO was created to identify students in neighboring public schools with high academic potential, but with low economic opportunity - and to raise their aspirations and their preparation to enter and complete college. PUEO was 10 years in the making and very much a part of Punahou president Jim Scott’s vision that Punahou is a private school with a public purpose.

Ackerman’s love and appreciation of the gift of education began at an early age. His mother was a teacher, as is his sister. He says that his father and uncle’s educational story served as his inspiration for the vision of the program; both were orphans, taken under the wing of a private school in Boston.

Ackerman grew up in Santa Monica and Malibu and is trained as a Russian historian. He received his Ph.D. in European history from the University of California at Berkeley, and taught in Soviet schools. He joined Punahou School in 1992 as a history teacher.

Ackerman’s greatest hope is that PUEO is sustained and made a permanent part of the DOE and Punahou. For more information on PUEO, visit punahou.edu/pueo.

Ackerman often describes himself as a “nice Jewish boy” who loves melt-in-your mouth challah bread. His daughter Laura provides this favorite family recipe for MidWeek readers to enjoy.

Challah is a special braided bread eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and holidays. It is usually non-dairy, and contains no butter or milk.

Hanukkah begins next week. The holiday’s roots date back to 168 B.C., when the Syrian-Greek King Antiochus plundered and defiled the holiest site of the Jewish people, the Temple in Jerusalem. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, guerrilla warriors led by the priest Mattathias and his five sons vowed never to submit. They called themselves the Maccabees, and were victorious, liberating Jerusalem three years later. Once the battle was over, the Maccabees rid the temple of idols and lighted the golden menorah with a little purified olive oil they found, apparently enough to burn for just one day. But then, according to tradition, a miracle happened: The oil lasted for eight days - exactly the time it took to press fresh oil.


* 1 tablespoon yeast
* 1/2 cup warm (almost hot) water
* pinch sugar
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup oil
* 2 cups hot/warm water
* 1/2 tablespoon salt
* 7-8 cups flour

In one bowl stir yeast and sugar into warm/hot water and let yeast sit and foam. In a separate bowl, beat eggs together. In an electric mixer bowl (or just the bowl you want to make the dough in), mix together sugar, oil and hot/warm water. Mix the yeast and then the eggs into the big mixer bowl. Make sure that you add the salt on top of the first addition of flour. Stir in the flour gradually, starting with large portions and decreasing gradually so that you don’t add too much at the end. Use the dough hook on your mixer, or a spoon then your hands if you don’t have a mixer, breaking up chunks as they appear.

You’ve added enough flour when the dough is only slightly sticky to the touch. Let dough sit for five minutes. Knead (with dough hook or hands) for six to 10 minutes. Now you can roll the strands (see cinnamon option below) and either braid or twist your strands together. To make the round loaves, just twist two strands of equal length together and then wrap into a spiral shape, tucking in the ends.

Beat one egg and mix with a bit of water. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the loaf with the mixture. For best results, let it “dry” between multiple coats.

After it has been put in final form and egg-washed, let it rise. Time varies depending on temperature: overnight in the fridge or a couple of hours in a warm place. Basically just let them get big. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown. A good way to check is to flip the loaf over and open the loaf in the middle of the bottom - it is done if it doesn’t look “doughy” on the inside.

For Cinnamon Sugar:

Mix cinnamon with some sugar - about the same ratio as you would use for cinnamon toast. Embed a thin layer of the mixture in the strand, pinch it closed, flatten it down again and embed another layer, close and roll to make it proper strand size again. This flavor does well with vegan dough too. (To make vegan, dough just leave out the eggs. You don’t need to add anything in their place.)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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