Happy Hanukkah everyone!
This year, I started celebrating the night before the first night of the holiday. I didn’t light any candles, but I could have said a shehecheyanu — the blessing traditionally recited on the first night of Hanukkah, other holidays, and special occasions. This was a special occasion alright. Because I fried.
Yesterday, a friend sent me from Israel a recipe for sufganiyot. Excited to try a batch that very night, I left work a little early to pick up what I needed. A bag of flour. A bag of sugar. A dozen eggs. Yeast. And two gallons of oil.
That’s right. Two gallons.
And then I rushed home to mix and knead the dough so it would have enough time to rise in time for dessert.
An hour later, my friend Ilana came over. She claimed she could smell the sweet rising dough from her apartment a few blocks away.
We checked the dough to see if it had doubled. We looked at each other and shrugged. Neither of us had ever made sufganiyot before. We decided the dough wasn’t quite ready and covered it back up with a damp towel.
I poured wine and heated up soup as we settled in to watch a few recent Top Chef episodes. We’re a few weeks behind, so please don’t ruin the surprise and tell us what happens. If you can restrain yourselves, then I’ll be sure to share with you really really soon the recipe for the mushroom soup that we ate.
One glass of wine and half a Top Chef in, I checked the dough and we were ready to roll. Literally.
I sprinkled flour on the counter, grabbed a rolling pin and set to work. The soft elastic dough gave way, fanning out across the granite. Ilana grabbed a glass from the cabinet and cut circles out of the dough. I gathered the scraps and re-rolled them, and Ilana cut out the rest.
I floured a pair of cookie sheets and we gently lifted the rounds from the counter and slid them on to the sheets to rise again.
An hour later, the flat rounds had become nice and plump, with a slight jiggle when I reached out to touch their smooth skin.
The oil started to bubble in my new cocotte (thanks, mom and dad!) placed over the biggest burner on my stove. Ilana dropped the first dough scrap into the pool. In a flood of bubbles, it browned up fast. Too fast. We lowered the heat. The second and third scraps quickly browned too. We lowered the heat again. And then lowered in another scrap. It floated on the oil, staying pale and wan. We turned up the heat. With the fifth scrap came a flurry of teeny tiny bubbles and slow trickle of larger ones. The triangular scrap puffed up even more, turning golden and then coffee-with-a-touch-of-milk brown.
A quick taste and we knew we were ready for the real deal.
I scooched the first doughnut towards the edge of the cookie sheet, helping it along the way with a spatula, and slid it into the oil. A quick bob in the oil and then a float, it turned golden to brown and was ready to be flipped. A few more minutes and it landed on the paper towel-lined countertop. Several more batches and we had an army of plump beauties lined up at attention.
Armed with a new turkey baster, I pierced the side of one of the sufganiyot, gently nudged the tip into the center and slowly squeezed the bulb, drawing the tip backwards to the edge, leaving a trail of jam behind.
We tore open this first sufganiyah and, between mouthfuls, filled the rest.
The final touch – I showered them with powdered sugar.
As we plucked up the sufganiyot, they left their chubby little outlines behind.
These doughnuts are traditionally filled with bright reddish-pink jelly though in Israel they come in all flavors. I used raspberry jam. Next time I’ll try dulce de leche. Using a drinking glass to cut the dough, we were able to make about a dozen doughnuts (but only eight made it to the office with me this morning).
- 2 packets dry yeast (or 2 T)
- 3/4 C warm water (body temperature — I take it from the tap)
- 1 C whole milk (you can use water instead if you’d like to keep the sufganiyot non-dairy)
- 3/4 C sugar
- 6 T shortening or margarine (Crisco works great here)
- 1 t salt
- 2 eggs
- 5 C flour (or more)
- 1 gallon (or more) vegetable oil (vegetable or peanut oil is best; canola oil works ok too)
- confectioner’s sugar
Proof. Mix yeast with warm water and a pinch of sugar. After about 5 minutes, it will foam up.
Heat. Warm milk in a pan over low heat until it reaches body temperature.
Mix. In a large bowl, mix sugar, shortening, and salt until creamy (I used my barely-functional waiting-for-the-new-one-to-arrive mixer on low speed and it hobbled along, so you could probably do just as well the old-fashioned way). Add eggs and mix. Add yeast mixture and milk and continue to mix. Add 2 cups of the flour. Beat in the remaining flour a half-cup at a time until the dough is very elastic and no longer sticks to the bowl. I had to add a total of 6 cups.
Knead. Knead dough for 5-10 minutes. I started kneading in my mixer and then finished up the last few minutes by hand on a floured counter.
Rise. Put dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk – at least an hour. I heat my oven to the lowest temperature possible (170ºF) and then turn it off and leave the covered bowl inside to rise.
Knead. Once dough has doubled, knead it again briefly.
Roll. Roll the dough out on a floured counter until it is about 1/2 thick.
Cut. Using a drinking glass to cut the dough into rounds. Re-roll the scraps and cut the rest of the rounds. These (the rounds from the re-rolled dough) will need to rise a little bit longer than the others. Keep the remaining scraps to test the oil.
Rise again. Place the rounds on a well-floured cookie sheet (ideally the kind without edges) so the dough is easier to slide right off into the oil. Let rise again until double, at least another hour. The rounds will get nice and round.
Heat. Fill a really wide pot with high sides with oil and heat over low to medium heat. Remember those scraps left over? Gently slide one into the oil. If one side browns in 1-2 minutes, the oil is too hot. If it takes more than 5 minutes, the oil is not hot enough. You’ll probably need to test and adjust the temperature a few times. The oil is perfect when you it forms a lot of teeny tiny rolling bubbles around the dropped dough. I checked the oil temperature with a meat thermometer – it was 310ºF. I’m not sure how accurate using a meat thermometer is; most recipes call for the oil to be 350ºF.
Fry! Once you’ve got the oil at the right temperature, lower the cookie sheet close to the surface of the oil and scootch your first roly-poly round into the oil. Tiny bubbles should surround the doughnut. When the first side puffs up and reaches a nice brown (a bit darker than “golden”), flip it over. It took us about 3-4 minutes per side. And we made about 3-4 per batch.
Drain. Cover your counter or a few plates with several layers with paper towels. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sufganiyot from the oil onto the paper towels and drain off excess oil.
Fill. Load a turkey baster with whatever filling you want to use. Poke it into the side of a doughnut as far as it will go. Slowly and steadily squeeze the filling into the sufganiyah while gently pulling back to the edge of the doughnut.
Dust. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top of the sufganiyot.
Eat. The sufganiyot are best fresh, but they will last about 24 hours if well wrapped.