Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil, and among Israeli Jews, that means sufganiyot: jelly doughnuts.
The word sufganiyot comes from the sword sfog, meaning sponge, and North African Jews brought a long tradition of frying doughnuts with them to Israel. There, they mixed with Eastern European jews who brought their own doughnuts, with jelly. These ponchkes in Yiddish are the Jewish version of the Polish pączki (pronounced "paunch-key". Pączki are Mardi Gras treats, best known in America as the reason there’s a line out of every Polish bakery in Chicago in February.
So, to make sufganiyot, you need to be able to manage yeast and dough. I can’t. I’ve tried several times. Once the water was too cold, and the yeast didn’t bloom. Another time, the water was too hot, and the yeast died a tragic scalding death. A third time, the yeast seemed OK, but I kneaded the dough too much.
But if you have skill with baking, try this recipe, and let me know how light and fluffy they are. This recipe has an orange zest, which adds some zing to the dough, and raspberry or strawberry filling. That’s great, but if you’d rather lemon zest and blueberry, I won’t be mad at you.
Serves 4 at least
- ¼ cup lukewarm milk or water
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
- 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) sour cream or vegetable oil
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) salt
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) vanilla extract
- Freshly grated zest of 1/2 orange
- 1 ⅔ cups flour (400 ml), more as needed
- ½ cup (120 ml) thick raspberry or strawberry jam
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting
- Place milk or water in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar over milk. Set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat remaining sugar with egg and egg yolk. Add sour cream, salt, vanilla extract, orange zest and yeast mixture, and mix well.
- With mixer running, gradually add flour. Mix until dough is soft, smooth and elastic, adding flour if dough seems very sticky, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not add more than an additional 3 tablespoons (45 ml) flour; dough will be somewhat sticky, but will firm up in refrigerator. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
- On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness (1.25 cm). Use a biscuit or a cookie cutter to cut out 2-inch rounds (5 cm), placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll scraps and cut again. Let rise in a warm place 30 minutes.
- In a heavy pot, heat 3 inches of oil (7.5 cm) to 365 degrees F (185 C); when hot enough, a small piece of dough will brown on bottom in 30 seconds. If too hot, doughnuts will brown outside before cooking through.
- Working in batches, fry doughnuts until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels and dust with sugar while still warm. Let oil come back to 365 degrees F (185 C) between batches.
- If you have a pastry bag, fit with a small round tip and spoon jam into bag. When doughnuts are cool enough to handle, use tip of bag (or pointed tip of a serrated knife) to make a hole in bottom of doughnut. Squeeze or use a small spoon to nudge 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of jam into hole. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and serve immediately. Dust again with powdered sugar.
Recipe adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016210-orange-scented-jelly-doughnuts-sufganiyot