Guest Post by Ciaran from Momfluential
Latkes (aka potato pancakes) may be the first food that comes to mind when people say Hanukkah, but these are not the only Hanukkah delicacy out there. The tradition is to eat foods fried in oil and these can be savory or sweet, as long as they are fried. Pretty much anything goes (deep fried Hanukkah Snickers anyone?) though certain foods are more traditional. In Israel it’s more common to eat “Sufganiyot” (aka donuts) for Hanukkah. It’s a popular holiday treat in my house as well.
We start our donuts in the early afternoon by dissolving 2 tablespoons of yeast and one teaspoon of sugar in a half cup of warm water. After 15 minutes it gets nice and bubbly. This frothing of the yeast delights my children and is a great chance for me to bore them with a little science lesson.
While waiting for the yeast mixture to blossom, place 2.5 cups of flour and 2 tsp salt in a large bowl and sprinkle with a little bit of allspice. Just a little pinch please. When you are ready to proceed to the next step, make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the yeast mixture, two tablespoons of room temp butter, 1/3 c sugar, and 2 large eggs.
Now it’s time to stir and stir to integrate the wet stuff. Keep going until the ingredients form a sticky ball. I like to use a wooden spoon to stir because it makes me feel more old fashioned and homemaker-y. Also because the dough sticks less.
After stirring, comes the kneading. We knead and knead until the dough forms a smooth and bouncy ball. When I say bouncy, I don’t mean on the floor. Please, do not throw your dough on the floor to test it. This will not end well! Poke it with your finger. If the hole “bounces” back you are good. It takes about ten minutes of kneading. This is a perfect time to recruit a little helper and pour yourself a cup of tea. Kids are so kneady!
Time for a rest (or a second rest, if you just had some tea). Put the kneaded ball of dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and leave it alone to rise for two and a half hours. The dough doubles in size, much to the delight of little helpers. Just a few more steps till you get to enjoy the donuts!
After the dough has risen, it’s time to roll it out. I rolled out our dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured plastic pastry mat I “inherited” from my childhood home. It’s not fancy but I love it! This Tupperware mat was a staple for pastry in our house when I was growing up. I used my great grandmother’s wooden rolling pin to do the rolling. It’s over a hundred years old and still works magically. My mother used to tell me stories about her grandma’s homemade donuts. The type of donuts my great grandmother (who was Hungarian) made were very similar to Sufganiyot, which are rumored to be an Ashkenazic Jewish recipe brought over from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
After the dough is rolled, use a glass or biscuit/cookie cutter to cut out the donuts. I used my grandmother’s 2 inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the donuts. I honestly love using these vintage treasures, especially when making holiday treats with my own daughters. It makes me feel like five generations of family are all cooking together.
Once again the dough needs to rise, for about 15 minutes. Don’t pour any tea this time! Get yourself all ready to fry.
Note: You may want to put on a video for your younger helpers or assign them to another adult for the time being.
While the donuts rise, heat 4 cups of oil in a large deep frying pan, over med/high heat. If you have an electric frying pan, now is the time to use it! I use dough scraps to test when the oil is the right temperature to begin frying. Mostly this is because I don’t own a fry thermometer. Which is possibly foolish. I’d recommend that you use a frying thermometer for greater accuracy. The ideal frying temperature is 370 degrees, for the record, You’ll definitely need to have a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to slip the dough into the oil and get the donuts out. No splashing, please!
Frying happens very fast. The Sufganiyot puff up into little balls after about 30 seconds in the oil. Wait about a minute and roll them over with your slotted spoon. It takes about a minute of frying on each side to get them nice and golden brown. Maybe slightly less when you get going. Keep an eye on the donuts and keep removing & adding more to the pan till they are all done. As you remove them, place the donuts on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. They’ll go on a serving plate when completed. I like to use the special Hanukkah plate my daughter made in preschool – isn’t it cute?
The last step is sugaring and filling the Sufganiyot. You can roll a warm donut in granulated sugar, or sprinkle it with powdered sugar.
To fill the donuts, cut a small slit and use a tiny spoon (baby spoons are ideal) to put some jelly inside. I like to use cherry jelly but raspberry and strawberry are also tasty inside these. Feel free to experiment with other fillings, they are less traditional but still yummy! It’s also perfectly ok to leave the donuts unfilled.
Note: If you don’t want to cut a slit in the donut you can also use an injection baster to fill your donuts. It gives you a cleaner finish. Make sure to use a jelly or filling that is seedless and chunk-less if you use the injection baster.
These donuts really are delicious, and though they take a few hours to fully complete, they are not difficult to make. Hanukkah may be 8 days long, but it’s a miracle if these donuts last more than one night around here!
Ciaran is a mom, the designer behind Francie Pants, and a writer living in Southern California. She lacks an Elf on the Shelf and wonders if a Latke on the Ledge will make her kids behave. She’s a fan of any holiday that celebrates fried food and is compiling a list of future “classics” to try for Hanukkah, although it will be hard to beat these donuts.