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November 19, 2013

You won't see it again, so make it a Thanksgivukkah to remember

NEW YORK — For years I have experienced the thrill of updating traditional Jewish desserts for a modern audience. Now it seems everyone I know is in on the game - because of Thanksgivukkah.

That's the mashup coined to capture next week's convergence of Thanksgiving Day and the first full day of Hanukkah. The dual holiday will not occur for at least another 75,000 years, so I appreciate all the fuss. My respect goes to the 9-year-old boy who created the Menurkey, a turkey-shaped menorah that is selling like latkes.

However, turkey-and-gravy-stuffed doughnuts or a Manischewitz-brined bird just won't do for me.

Although the array of combo culinary experiments sounds fun, I did not want to mess with the Thanksgiving desserts my children and guests expect every year. If I do not serve my dairy-free pumpkin and mocha pecan pies, no amount of Hanukkah gelt will compensate for the loss. I have served only sweet potato latkes in the past and faced a dining-room rebellion of Maccabean proportions.

In order to honor both traditions, I vowed to tread carefully. Jewish baking is often about dough and fillings, which can accommodate Thanksgiving flavors quite nicely. If you have a favorite rugelach dough recipe (or my dairy-free one in The Post's Recipe Finder database), fill it with cranberry preserves and dried cranberries. Thus far, I've done pumpkin churros and apple doughnuts, and I am working on a strudel with apples and sweet potatoes.

My best effort so far is the one I'm sharing with you: Thanksgiving Babka, a rich, sweet yeast bread with ribbons of cranberry sauce baked into the twists of dough. It's not overly sweet; feel free to double the recipe and serve half during the main meal.

Whatever you do, make sure Thanksgivukkah does not overtake your cooking and baking enthusiasm for the rest of the Jewish Festival of Lights, which continues through Dec. 5.

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