Happy Chanukah! Tonight we light the eighth candle, the last presents are exchanged and the dreidl will be taken out for its final spin. You might be surprised after my last post that I am acknowledging this Jewish Festival of Lights—which is why I am writing about it. You see, I am not ashamed of my religion. I don’t wish I were Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon or anything else. It is just that I have Christmas tradition envy. I don’t look on wistfully as people flock to church on Sundays. I don’t want to wear an Easter bonnet.
My issues are strictly Christmas related and I really want to make that clear. Are we clear?
However, I am having a post-tree decorating pre-caroling (for which I will be flocking to a church on Sunday) twinge of Jewish guilt. I know Catholics claim they are the group to inspire the most guilt but frankly, from what I hear, it’s a toss-up. So, in the spirit of embracing my inner Jewess I decided to embark on a project I have resisted for years—making Sufganiyot, aka Chanukah donuts. Like latkes, these are symbolic because they are fried in oil representing the miracle of the Temple of Jerusalem; after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks they found there was only enough oil to light the eternal flame for one day. Yet, miraculously, the flame burned for 8 days. Hence the 8 Chanukah candles etc. (I really hope Wikipedia, I mean I, got all that right.)
My hair is like a sponge.
If there is an aroma anywhere you can be sure my porous locks will exude that stench long after I have left the space where the smell was produced. For this reason I avoid certain restaurants. Often, when I go out for sushi my hair will still smell like tempura hours later. And you can forget a burger joint. That heady scent of sizzling, flame broiled beef is actually coming from my head…the next day. And so it is for this reason that I have avoided Sufganiyot. As always, it’s all about the hair.
But, as I said, I was feeling guilty and despite the wise words my father has tried fruitlessly to drill into my head, “Guilt is a profitless emotion,” or “No one can make you feel guilty. You are making you feel guilty,” in this instance it was a good motivator.
The key here was 1) allowing enough time for the project, 2) mapping out my physical plan for the various steps, 3) opening the windows as wide as they could open even though it was 30 degrees outside, really, and 4) tying a greasy-smell protective bandana around my hair! Which worked by the way.
With all systems go ‘it’s time to make the donuts.’ Oh come on. You knew that was going to come in at some point!
Do not be scared to make these. I was, and not just because of smelly hair. Yeast is intimidating, as is a pot of burning hot oil. But these were surprisingly doable and truly delicious. My one comment is regarding the injection of the jelly. It wasn't easy and I think a baster might be more effective. And if you are brave, don't wait for next Chanukah. A warm donut is a warm donut no matter what time of year it is. Except for Passover of course. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. That lesson won't come for three months.
Jewish Guilt Sufganiyot
Martha Stewart Living, Dec/Jan 97-98
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, 1/4 cup sugar, butter, nutmeg, and salt.
Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms.
On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft, and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary).
Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds.
Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 degrees. (An infrared thermometer is a great tool. Purchase one.)
Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn donuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a #4 tip with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each donut. Fit the pastry tip into a hole, pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into donut. Repeat with remaining donuts.
Yield 20 donuts