Hanukkah: Doughnuts With a Difference
A few years ago I started thinking about Hanukkah in May. I was at a Greek festival, and I tasted a pastry that struck me as the perfect Hanukkah treat.
At the festive outdoor celebration, I saw a long line of people. Instead of watching the lively dancers in their colorful costumes, they focused their attention on plates of sweet, hot Mediterranean pastries with honey and cinnamon.
What they were awaiting resembled small sufganiyot (Israeli Hanukkah doughnuts)–they were egg-shaped balls of fried pastry. Each portion of the Greek sufganiyot, called loukoumades, had six golden pastry balls moistened with honey-like syrup. Later I walked around the back of the booth and saw how they were made. A machine squirted the batter through many small holes at once, so that tiny bits of dough fell simultaneously into the hot oil. As they fried, a cook turned them over continuously with a slotted spoon so their color would be evenly golden. Next they were removed from the oil, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon, which proved to be delicious complements for the slightly crisp-crusted pastries.
It turns out these treats are popular throughout the eastern Mediterranean. I found similar spherical sweets at a pastry shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. I came across them again on a trip to Istanbul, where they are called lokma. At a doughnut shop there I saw them being freshly made in several different shapes. In addition to balls, there were small and large rings as well as ridged sticks of various sizes. All got a brief bath of syrup as soon as they were cooked.
Obviously, at home people don’t have a machine to make tiny balls of dough. Instead cooks simply use a teaspoon and make their pastries bigger. Like sufganiyot, loukoumades batter is often made with yeast. Some cooks make their pastry balls from a quick batter that puffs from eggs, like cream puff dough. Variations on this theme abound. In Corfu, loukoumades are fritters made with mild, fresh cheese, eggs and flour that are dipped in a sugar-honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon. Some Greek cooks give their pastry puffs a double embellishment–first they dip them in honey-cinnamon-lemon syrup, then roll them in cinnamon, sugar and walnuts.
You can also dress up your Hanukkah latkes by finishing them in loukoumades fashion. Simply drizzle your latkes with honey and sprinkle them with cinnamon and if you like, with walnuts too. If you’re in a rush, you can liven up plain unfilled sufganiyot or cream puffs from a bakery by serving them the same way.
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home (Morrow), 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Wiley) and Jewish Cooking For Dummies (Wiley).
EASY HANUKKAH PASTRY BALLS WITH HONEY AND CINNAMON
Serve these pastry balls sprinkled with honey and cinnamon, or with Turkish lemon syrup (see next recipe). You can make the batter ahead, but for best results fry these pastries a short time before serving so they can be enjoyed while still warm. If you need to reheat them, use an oven or toaster oven at medium-low heat to warm them briefly, not the microwave.
When you’re deep frying, follow these guidelines for safety. Give your full attention to the frying; don't leave in the middle to do something else. Never fill the pan more than half full of oil, and remember that the oil bubbles vigorously when you add the batter. Be especially careful not to crowd the pan, as the oil can bubble up to the top and even overflow and cause a dangerous fire. When adding the batter, don't drop it into the pot from high above the oil because the hot oil might splash.
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons mild or “light” olive oil, vegetable oil or butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 large eggs
grated rind 1 lemon
Oil for deep frying
Honey (for drizzling)
Cinnamon (for sprinkling)
Combine water and salt in a small heavy saucepan. Add oil; if adding butter, cut it in pieces and heat mixture over low heat until butter melts. Bring mixture to a boil and remove from heat. Add flour immediately and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth. Set pan over low heat and beat mixture for about 30 seconds. Let cool for a few minutes.
Add 1 egg and beat it thoroughly into mixture. Beat in second egg until mixture is smooth. In a small bowl beat third egg with a fork. Gradually beat enough of this egg into the dough until dough becomes very shiny and is soft enough so that when some is lifted, it just falls from the spoon. Stir in lemon rind.
Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy saucepan until hot, about 350F, or until it bubbles energetically when a bit of batter is added to it. Dip a teaspoon in the hot fat, scoop up a teaspoon of dough and use another teaspoon to push it into the hot oil. Don’t add more than 5-6 fritters; they need room to puff. After adding the fritters, increase heat slightly. As the puffs fry, turn them over so they fry evenly. Fry the fritters for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Put on a platter or plates. Serve drizzled sprinkle with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Makes about 6 servings.
TURKISH LEMON SYRUP
Instead of serving their pastries with honey and cinnamon, some Turkish and Greek cooks prepare lemon syrup. If you like, you can flavor it with a little grated lemon rind as well as the juice. For honey-lemon syrup, substitute honey for one half or one third of the sugar.
You can spoon a little syrup over each pastry ball or, for a sweeter taste, dip the pastries in the syrup. This syrup is also good with plain soofganiyot, with simple sponge cakes and with fruit.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (optional)
Combine sugar and water in a small, heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and simmer without stirring for 3 minutes or until syrup is clear. Add lemon juice and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon rind. Let cool.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
QUICK HANUKKAH PASTRY PUFFS
In Israel some people call these “cheaters’ sufganiyot.” They are made as quick substitutes for yeast-leavened doughnuts.
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
at least 5 cups oil (for deep frying)
sifted powdered sugar (optional, for sprinkling)
Turkish Lemon Syrup or honey (optional)
Sift flour with baking powder. Combine eggs, sugar, oil, milk, salt, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix to a smooth thick batter.
Heat oil for deep frying to 350F; if a deep-fat thermometer is not available, heat oil until it bubbles gently around a small piece of dough added to it. Drop mixture gently into oil by rounded tablespoons for large ones, or by teaspoons for small; if mixture doesn't easily come off spoon, dip another spoon in the oil and use it to push it off. Do not drop dough from high above oil so it won't make hot oil splatter. Fry 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Pat tops gently with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Serve hot or warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with lemon syrup or with honey.
Makes 4 to 6 servings (8 or 9 large or 16 to 20 small pastries)
POTATO-APPLE LATKES WITH HONEY, CINNAMON AND WALNUTS
For a subtle sweet accent, add grated apples to your latke batter instead of flavoring it with onion. Serve these latkes with honey, cinnamon and walnuts as an alternative to the familiar applesauce and sour cream, or in addition to them.
4 large potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled
1 large apple, peeled and grated
1 large egg
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, to your taste
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
about 1/2 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
Honey (for drizzling)
Ground cinnamon (for sprinkling)
Chopped walnuts (for sprinkling)
Grate potatoes and apple, using grating disc of a food processor or large holes of a grater. Transfer them to a colander. Squeeze mixture to press out as much liquid as possible. Add egg, salt, flour and baking powder.
Heat 1/2 cup oil in a deep heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet. For each pancake, drop about 2 tablespoons of potato mixture into pan. Flatten with back of a spoon so each cake is about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Fry over medium heat about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Turn carefully with 2 pancake turners so oil doesn't splatter. Drain on paper towels. Stir potato mixture before frying each new batch. If all the oil is absorbed, add a little more to pan. Serve hot, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts.
Makes about 15 latkes, 4 to 5 servings.