For eight days Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews worldwide will celebrate the miracle of Chanukah with “oil’. They will light the Menorah and fry foods with it but how did a doughnut become part of the Chanukah tradition?
By: Chef Margie Arosh
The Israeli word ‘Sufgania’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Sufgan’, meaning "puffed and fried and is the most popular Chanukah doughnut today. These doughnuts were originally introduced to Israel by the Sephardic immigrant community and are called ‘Schvinge’ in Arabic and ‘Binuellos’ in Spanish. As wheat was plentiful in the Mediterranean region fried honey treats were often made for made for celebrations.
Culinary historians have traced the origin of ‘Bimuelos’ (Spanish doughnuts) to the Marrano Jews of Spain. The Inquisitors spies thought they could uncover Jews by watching what they ate — or didn't eat. During Chanukah one of the suspected foods was Bimuelos, their distinctive odour when fried helped the Inquisitors' spies sniff out the homes of secret Jews.
Historically Ashkenazi Jews celebrated Chanukah with ‘Latkes’ as potatoes were plentiful in Russia and Poland. Both cultures used what was available to them, fried it up, and served it on Chanukah and both cultures came up with ways to enhance the appearance and taste of their dishes; sour cream and applesauce for the latkes; jam and sugar for the doughnuts.
Today we all can enjoy the best of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic worlds in celebrating this joyous holiday.
Sufganiyot – Israeli Doughnuts
· 1 package dry yeast
· 4 tablespoons sugar
· ¾ cup lukewarm milk or warm water
· 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
· pinch of salt
· 2 large eggs
· 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter or margarine softened
· apricot or strawberry preserves
· powdered sugar
· canola oil for deep-frying
Mix together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the warm water or milk. Let sit to make sure it bubbles. Sift the flour and mix it with the remaining sugar, salt, eggs and the yeast mixture.
Knead the dough until it forms a ball. Add the butter or margarine. Knead some more, until it is well absorbed, about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and soft and bounces back when poked with a finger. Add more flour as necessary. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a just warmed oven to rise until doubled, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours or let rise overnight in the refrigerator.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut out the dough into 20 rounds with a juice glass, or any round object about 2 inches in diameter. Cover the rounds with plastic wrap and let rise for another 15 minutes.
Heat 2 inches of canola oil over medium- high heat to 375°. Drop the doughnuts carefully into the hot oil, about 5 at a time. Turn to brown on both sides, about 40 seconds. Reduce the heat while frying if they brown too quickly. Drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, using a syringe inject with your favorite jam and dust with powdered sugar.
Yield: 20 Doughnuts
“Bimuelos” – Moroccan Doughnuts
· 2 packages dry yeast
· 2 tablespoons sugar
· 2 -3 cups warm water (add as necessary for a sticky dough)
· 4 cups flour
· ¼ teaspoon salt
· Canola Oil For Deep -Frying
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in a cup of warm water and allow to stand 10-15 minutes or until it froths. Place flour and salt in a large bowl and add yeast mixture. Gradually add more water and beat vigorously for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic yet quite sticky, almost batter like. Add water as necessary. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for at up to 3 hours or double to triple in size.
While heating an inch or more of vegetable oil in a wide heavy pot, begin preparing the doughnuts. Dip your hands in water, and pull off a piece of dough about the size of a small plum. Use your fingers to make a hole in the ball of dough, stretch the hole wide to make a ring, and place the dough in the hot oil. Be very careful not to drip any water into oil. Repeat with the remaining dough, wetting your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking as you work with it. (You may also wet your hands with oil).
Fry the bimuelos until lightly golden, turning once. Remove and drain excess oil on a plate lined with paper towels. Make the fritters in batches. Toss with sugar and enjoy!
Yield: 30 small doughnuts