Jelly (Doughnuts) in My Belly
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which is well underway, continues through Saturday, Dec. 23. A commemoration of the Maccabees' victory over the Syrians back in 165 B.C., Hanukkah also honors the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the temple that the Maccabean priests had reclaimed.
For cooks, this means carte blanche for fried food. As Nigella Lawson writes in her book, "Feast": "The one important thing you need to know [about Hanukkah] is that it provides a divine ordination to eat deep-fried foods."
To be fair, I'd venture to say that hightailing it to the nearest drive-thru window for an order of fries would not be in keeping with the spirit of Hanukkah (not to mention the trans fat factor).
But done at home, a little bit of fried tenderness every once in a while sounds positively festive and scrumptious. Yesterday morning, I was up to my elbows in doughnut dough and granulated sugar, making a batch of sufganiyot, aka jelly doughnuts.
For a moment, scratch the notion of a Dunkin' variety pastry and think fritters instead. Cute little fried pastries, akin to a beignet, with a smidge of jam, rolled in sugar. Ooh baby. Generally, I am not a compulsive eater, but yesterday the floodgates opened. I couldn't get enough of these things!
What's nice about the recipe below is that you can make it in stages. Sunday night just before bed, I made the dough and allowed it to rise overnight in the fridge. While still in my pajamas yesterday morning, I heated up the oil and rolled out the dough, which is tender and fairly forgiving.
A few notes:
It's really key to heat the oil to 375 degrees and maintaining the temperature. Don't eyeball it; get a thermometer.
Getting the jelly inside doesn't have to be complicated. After the doughnuts have been fried and drained, make a small slit on one side with a paring knife. Use a pastry bag with an "800" series tip or a flavor injector (maybe even a baster) and fill with about 1 teaspoon of your favorite seedless jam (I used plum) and fill the slit with the jammy filling.
Although they are best when still warm, the doughnuts were still doing the job later in the afternoon, and I must say, I have never had such a good day-old doughnut as I did this morning.
Go on, try it for kicks, just once. And if you've got tried-and-true doughnut tricks to share, do so in the comments area below. For a slew of fried pastry variations, check out "The World of Jewish Desserts" by Gil Marks, who dedicates an entire chapter to the subject.
Talk to me for the last time this year, in my grand finale chat of 2006, today at noon.
With help from "Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook" and "The World of Jewish Desserts" by Gil Marks
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (or 2 envelopes)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus sugar for rolling
¾ cup water or milk, warmed to 105-110 degrees
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1 /2 tablespoons unsalted butter (Margarine for Kosher; I may also try soy shortening here)
About 1 quart vegetable oil
About ½ cup seedless jam - plum, apicot, raspberry, blueberry
Sprinkle yeast and 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the warmed water or milk and with a fork, mix to dissolve. Allow to get foamy, at least five minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, make a well in the center with flour. Add yeast mixture, yolks, salt, cinnamon, butter and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. With hands, mix to combine and turn out onto lightly floured work susrface. Knead about 5 minutes, ensuring that butter is integrated, and dough is elastic. Alternatively, use a food processor with dough blade, about 2 minutes.
Put dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic and place in refrigerator, allowing it to rise overnight.
Dust work surface with flour. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to warm up slightly. With hands, press dough and rotate in circular fashion, until you arrive at 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Cover with a cloth towel and allow dough circles to rise for an additional 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour oil into a heavy-bottomed pot and heat until very hot, about 375 degrees.
With your hand, form dough circles into balls. Gently drop dough into oil, 4 or 5 at a time, using a slotted spoon. When golden brown, turn dough on other side. Doughnuts will cook in under five minutes. Drain on paper towels.
With a paring knife, make a slit on the side of each doughnut. Using a pastry bag fitted with a "800 series" tip, add a teaspoon of jam at a time, and fill slit with jam. Roll doughnut into a bowl of granulated sugar.
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