Thursday, December 15, 2011

Israeli Treats: Crembo, Sufganiot, and lots of chocolate

Think you have a hard time staying away from some office Christmas cookies?  The Israeli junk food season begins in October!  In Israel "the holidays" generally refers to the "High Holidays" (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah).  As soon as they are over around the end of October, the Chanuka goodies go on the shelf.

While the fall holidays come with their fair share of non-stop feasting, winter is full of sweets.  Unlike most mass produced candies which are available year round, these Israeli treats have a season. As the autumn pomegranates, dates, peaches, and plums go out of season, oranges, persimmons, and jelly donuts come in!

... When the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over [the Greeks], they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil... enough to light the menorah for a single day.

A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days.

On the following year, they established these [eight days] as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving to G-d.

On Tuesday evening, December 20, we will light the first Chanuka candle and celebrate the miracle of the oil.  It's not enough to just light candles to celebrate the miracles of the festival of lights, we must internalize the message with, you guessed it, FOOD!  Foods fried in oil like potato pancakes ("latkes" in yiddish and "levitot" in Hebrew) and jelly donuts or "sufganiot" are traditionally eaten.  But Sufganiot go on sale in every bakery on every street as soon as the High Holidays come to a close.  Try just picking up some milk and pita bread with these delicious treats smiling back at you!

An Israeli treat that has nothing to do with Chanuka is "Crembo."  I don't know why Crembo can't be eaten in the summer.  It is not a warm food and has no seasonal ingredients, but it's tradition.  When the winter rain comes, so does Crembo!  Crembo is a dome of creamy marshmallow meringue sitting on top of a round biscuit cookie and covered with a thin shell of dairy-free chocolate.  The fluffy creme comes in vanilla and mocha flavors.  (Strauss brand mocha is my favorite.)  There is even a song in the kids chant when it rains the first few times: Give me Crembo.  If there's not enough, give me gum. (It rhymes in Hebrew.)  Strauss exports Crembo to kosher grocery stores in the U.S.  For some history of "Krembos" check out Wikipedia - Krembo.

I was recently introduced to, "etzbaot" (literally fingers).  The package looks like a regular bar of chocolate, but inside are eight small chocolate bars.  Maybe one for each day of Chanuka.  I have tried two varieties. One has a creamy chocolate center with tiny chocolate dragees (like mini M&Ms) and the other has a soft white center with little explosive candies inside (like "Pop Rocks").  The latter pops in your mouth as you suck it.  Don't worry, it's perfectly safe.  The candies are made with pressurized carbon dioxide - the same stuff in soda.

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  1. "I don't know why Krembo can't be eaten in the summer."
    Krembos are made by ice cream companies since ice cream sales majorly drop during the winter months the ice cream companies were looking for a way to boost sales and came up with selling Krembos but once summer came back around the Krembos melted too fast on the store shelf so they remain a winter treat.
    I recently did a detailed comparison of three Krembos on my blog Isreview so I did some "research" :)

    Thanks for this fun post I enjoyed reading it.



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