One of the highlights of Hanukkah, a largely secular celebration for Jews, is that one gets to eat naughty things that are fried to a golden crisp, like latkes (modified hash browns, really), and often, after the frying, also stuffed with jam and covered in sugar, like doughnuts/donuts, known as sufganiyot in Hebrew. Well, those are the long-lived traditions and I’m going to stick by them.
Having said that, potatoes are a relatively recent introduction into latkes, which traditionally were made of cheese.
In Hanukkahs past, in countries past, it’s been enjoyable incorporating a bit of the local flavors into these traditional treats. Like making cilantro and chilli latkes in Singapore, sweet potato and maple latkes in Toronto, and in London, where anything goes, really – cumin and thai basil latkes.
Donuts are a firm institution in north America. I’m convinced of this because, today, for the second time in a week, I saw two police cars parked outside Dunkin’ Donuts (so we know where those jokes come from, or perhaps there are just lots of dodgy goings-on at DD), Homer Simpson is often seen munching on one, and the Americans have their own abbreviated spelling for it, probably so they can get on with the job of eating it.
And why not. There’s something very inviting about biting into a fresh, moist and warm donut, slightly crunchy on the outside, and letting all that sugar and jam dribble down your chin.. mmm.
This year’s experiment is to make donuts with apple cider, the traditional way as a bread (with yeast), rather than the very fetching and fragile confections one may be familiar with from autumn trips to local farms – which are basically fried cakes that use baking soda. The yeast donuts will absorb less oil, and be truer to a dough-nut, rather than a cake-nut with a hole in it.
I use small biscuit cutters for the little donut balls, which are about 3/4 inch high, and 2-inch round cutters for the donut Os.
- yeast, 2 packets
- plain flour, 2 1/2 cups (more for dusting work surface)
- cinnamon, 1 tbsp
- apple cider, 1 1/2 cups, reduced to 3/4 cups by simmering and cool
- sugar, 4 tbsp
- egg yolks, large, 2
- melted butter, 3 tbsp
- vegetable oil, as needed, for frying
- strawberry jam, for filling
- icing piping thingy, or meat baster, for stuffing the jam
- large mouth and appetite, for eating
- In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and 2 tbsp sugar over the just-warm cider, whisk gentyl with a fork and leave for 5 minutes till frothy
- In a large bowl, sieve flour with cinnamon
- Make a well in the center of the flour and break the two eggs into it, add 2 tbsp sugar, a pinch of salt and the yeast mixture
- Knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes, or in a food processor fitted with a dough hook
- Shape into a ball in an oiled bowl and leave to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in a warm spot
- Pour veg oil into a deep pan and heat up to about 375F
- Dust work surface with flour and pat the dough down onto it, rolling it out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/3 inch
- Cut out shapes with a donut or cookie cutter
- Fry, very carefully, in the oil, lowering the donuts into it on a slotted spoon to prevent splattering
- They brown quickly, so watch till they turn golden on one side, and flip to the other
- Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to soak up the grease
- Roll them while warm in coarse sugar
- If you like, pipe jam into them, or inject jam with new meat baster
- Serve warm
- They also freeze well. Before eating, defrost donuts a few hours and warm them in a moderate oven (330F) for about 10 minutes