Do you know why many Jews eat latkes at Chanukah? The story of Chanukah is a story of a Jewish community rebelling a couple thousand years ago against their Greek persecutors. The story culminates with a miracle. After Greek soldiers defiled the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and ruined all of the olive oil that was supposed to be used to keep a flame lit in perpetuity, one tiny little can, which should have been enough oil to last just one day, lasted the eight days that it took Jewish messengers to procure some more.
Latkes are just potato cakes fried in oil, and food-as-symbolism is the best kind of symbolism, right?
So the deal is this: to be a good Jew this season I should eat some fried food. (That is part of what you get out of the story, yes?) And if you want to honor your Jewish friends’ heritage, you should eat some, too. Latkes are the most popular fry-it-at-Chanukah tradition in America, but Israeli tradition has taken another tactic: donuts.
This Chanukah, let me introduce you to sufganiyot, also known as Israel’s traditional Chanukah food. It’s time to fry some donuts. You’ve never made your own donuts? That needs to change. Now.
SUFGANIYOT (Israeli donuts)
6 tablespoons warm water
1 packet (2 ½ teaspoons) quick-rise yeast
¼ cup sugar
1 cup yogurt (I use vanilla / you could use plain or lemon, though / don’t use lowfat)
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Vegetable oil spray
About 3 cups peanut or vegetable oil for frying (I add in a little olive oil to nod to the story / but don’t use extra virgin olive oil — it tastes too olivey)
1 ½ cup powdered sugar (optional for glaze)
1/4 cup milk (optional for glaze)
Strawberry or raspberry jam (or Nutella, if you want to be nontraditional but delicious about things / hey, hazelnuts grow all over Israel)
Mix your water, yeast, and sugar and let them sit together for about 10 minutes. Add yogurt, egg, salt, and 2 cups flour. Work this into a nice ball with some kneading (or the pastry hook on your stand mixer (I won’t tell) (but I do this by hand)) and let it rest for a couple hours in a warm place or overnight in your fridge.
If the dough was in your fridge, bring it back out and let it come to room temperature. Give it a nice knead again, and then break it into one-inch balls. Spread them on a baking sheet or cutting board and let them rise another 30 minutes.
In a saucepan, bring your oil to a boil. Do you have a candy thermometer? You’re fancy. (I have one and I love it!) If you do, your oil should be at 375°. If you don’t, look for the oil to be doing that shimmery roll across the bottom of the saucepan. Drop in a small bit of dough as a test – it should fry in about 30 seconds.
Fry your sufganiyot in batches, about 30 seconds, flip, and another 30 seconds for the other side. Let them cool on a baking rack over towels so that they can drip off their excess oil.
Do you like your donuts glazed? Mix the powdered sugar and milk together over low heat. Roll your sufganiyot in the glaze and return them to the baking rack.
Traditional sufganiyot are jelly-filled. Grab a pastry bag or a turkey baster or a plastic zippy bag with a corner snipped off. Poke a little hole in the side of each donut and pipe in some jelly. Or if you’re feeling casual, skip the piping and just artfully place a small drop of jelly on the top of each donut. Pretty!
Now go eat. And Happy Chanukah!