Last night at sunset marked the start of Hanukkah. This year the eight night Festival of Lights, Hanukah, is from December 6th to December 14th. I know you are not here to learn the history or facts about Hanukkah, but rather to find recipes and creative ways to celebrate Hanukkah, so I will get right to it.
Foods cooked in oil are traditionally eaten during Hanukkah and serve as a symbol of the legend of the jar of sacred lamp oil burning in the Temple for eight nights rather than the expected one. In Israel, pastry shops specialize in creating delicious and creative sufganiyot, Israeli jelly doughnuts which bear a strong resemblance to the Viennese confections called krapfen. It is most likely that the recipe was brought to Israel by Austrian Jews who immigrated in the mid-20th century. Being, like latkes, fried in oil, the doughnuts were a perfect fit for Hanukkah’s culinary symbolism of fried foods that commemorate the Biblical miracle of a small amount of sacred lamp oil that lasted eight days. They were soon adopted by the young country as a holiday favorite.
Below is a traditional sufganiyot recipe adapted from Chowhound. As we move through the 8 days of Hanukkah, check back later this week for slightly healthier homemade gourmet donuts that will also beautifully compliment the celebration.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the baking sheet and rolling out the dough
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup warm whole milk (105°F to 115°F)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), at room temperature
6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) vegetable or canola oil, for frying, plus more for coating the bowl
2/3 cup smooth jam or jelly (any flavor you prefer, traditionally red fruit jelly)
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Place the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Add the yolks and milk and mix, using the hook attachment, on medium-low speed until dough forms, about 1 minute. Add the butter, increase the speed to medium high, and mix until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Form the dough into a ball, place in the bowl, and turn to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly flour a baking sheet; set aside. Punch down the dough, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out as many dough rounds as possible and place on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Gather the dough scraps into a ball and roll out again, stamping rounds until you have 30 total on the baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until puffy and about 1/2 inch thick, about 30 minutes.
Place the vegetable or canola oil in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350°F on a candy/fat thermometer. Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with paper towels and place a wire rack over the paper towels; set aside. Place the jam or jelly in a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip; set aside.
Using a flat spatula (don’t use your hands—this will deflate the donuts), carefully transfer the dough rounds, one at a time, into the oil. You should be able to fit about 6 at a time, leaving at least 1 inch of space in between and keeping the oil temperature at 350°F. Fry until the bottoms are golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Carefully flip with a fork and fry until the second side is golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes more. (If air bubbles appear in the donuts, pierce with the tip of a paring knife.) Remove with a slotted spoon to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds.
When the donuts are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to puncture the side of each to form a pocket in the center. Place the tip of the piping bag into the pocket and pipe about 1 teaspoon of jam or jelly inside. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Best when eaten warm all plumped up with your favorite jam and a wintry sprinkle of powdered sugar.