Sufganiot Express

Sufganiot in Hebrew means doughnuts, and they are the Israeli food most connected with Chanukah (in addition to potato latkes). But they are a different kind of doughnuts than the ones you find in the U.S. The original recipe actually comes from Central Europe, probably Germany. They look like the jelly doughnuts you see at DD, but they taste soooo much better. I was planning on posting my amazing sufganiot recipe ahead of Chanukah, so that you guys can actually enjoy it during Chanukah, but I didn’t get to it. I promise I’ll have it up here next year.

In the meantime, I’m posting a different sufganiot recipe, which is very quick and easy to make, hence the name ‘Sufganiot Express’. In fact, these sufganiot are very similar to Italian zeppole. They have a free- form shape and we don’t fill them with jelly, but sprinkle them with powdered sugar (and serve some jelly on the side, just in case). We love these sufganiot just as much as we love the original ones, and since they are quicker to make, we tend to make them more often during Chanukah.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
4 tbs sugar
2 eggs
8 oz buttermilk
8 oz plain yogurt
1 tbs brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
Oil for deep frying

Preparation:
In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder and sugar. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix the buttermilk, yogurt, eggs, brandy and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, stirring them well using a whisk, until you get a smooth batter.

Fill a pot with about 8 inches deep oil and heat on high heat. To check if the oil is hot enough, through in the pot a small piece of carrot. If the oil bubbles around the carrot, it is ready. Lower the heat to medium-high.

Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, scoop some batter and very carefully slide it into the oil. Fry the doughnuts for about 2 minutes on each side. The doughnuts usually turn on their own, and it is ok. Just make sure they are cooked long enough.

Remove from the oil and place on a plate covered with paper towel.

Tip – You may want to check the first batch by cutting open one or two doughnuts, to make sure they are not raw in the middle. If so, cook the doughnuts longer on a slightly lower heat.

Plate the doughnuts on a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Alternatively, you may mix some sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and roll the doughnuts to cover them completely.

Looking for some more Chanukah yummies? Check out my Zucchini Mint Latkes and Chickpea Sambousek.

Enjoy, and Happy Chanukah to those who celebrate!

Chickpea Sambousek

Once I heard an acquaintance lament that while Christmas is always associated with pleasant aromas of wintery woods and spices, Chanukah always smells like frying oil, which takes away from the charm of the holiday. Well, I agree to a certain point. Every year during Chanukah, every Jewish home you enter smells of oil. But I love it! During the year, you will hardly find me frying anything because the smell of the fried oil reaches every corner of the house, no matter what we do to prevent it from spreading, and I hate going to sleep in a bedroom that smells like a restaurant kitchen. During Chanukah, though, it’s different. First, the association of the smell with the holiday brings warm memories from my childhood and adolescence. Second, we usually fry sweet things, so the house actually smells sweet. And I try to fry everything as early as possible during the day, so by the time we entertain and later on go to bed, the house actually smells good.

I love many of the fried foods we make for Chanukah and I’ll share a few recipes in my blog. The following is not one of the foods we usually make on Chanukah, but I thought that since it is fried and delicious, it could actually be a nice addition to the holiday repertoire.

Originally a delicacy served in Iraq by Iraqi Jews during the holiday of Purim, chickpea sambousek made it to Israel with the Iraqi Jewish immigrants and became a hit. Other Arab cultures have their own version of sambousek, usually filled with meat or cheese, but the chickpea sambousek is my favorite. In Israel, you’ll find it sold in every open market all year round. The dough is a little different than the dough given here and is usually deep fried. The dough in my recipe includes yeast which makes the dough less crispy and more bread like. The recipe was given to my mother many years ago by a friend who immigrated from Iraq to Israel, and this has been our home version sambousek ever since. My mom is considered ‘the queen of sambousek’ in our family, and in every family gathering this is what she is assigned to bring. So it’s only natural that I chose to show underneath pictures of my mommy making the sambousek :).

Ingredients:
Dough:
3 1/2 cups (500g) flour
1tbs dried active yeast
1 tbs salt
1 ¼ cups water

Filling:
4 tbs oil
1 14oz can chickpeas, drained
1 large onion, diced
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
Salt
Black pepper

Oil for frying

Preparation:
Place all the dough ingredients in a mixer bowl, and using the hook attachment knead into a pliable dough. Move the dough to a slightly greased bowl and proof, covered, until the dough doubles in size.

In the meantime, heat 4 tbs oil in a large pan and saute the diced onion until golden.

Add the drained chickpeas. Using a potato masher, slightly mash the chickpeas. Alternatively, you can pulse the chickpeas 2-3 times in the food processor, until coarsely chopped, before adding to the pan.

Add the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Cook the chickpea mixture on medium heat, for about 15 minutes, stirring it occasionally to combine all the flavors. Set aside to cool.

The filling can be made in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

Divide the dough into small pieces, the size of ping pong balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball to a 5 inch circle, using a rolling pin.

Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the circle, fold the dough in half and pinch-close the edges. Set the sambousek aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat the process until you run out of filling or dough. If you have leftover dough, you can fill it with other things like cheese, meat, potatoes, tuna, etc, or just fry it as is. It’s delicious!! Any leftover filling would be immediately gone in my house. We would just eat it with a spoon straight from the pan…

In a large pan, heat the frying oil (about ½ inch deep) on high heat. Once the oil is hot, place some of the sambouseks in and fry for 30 seconds (or up to a minute), until the dough lightly browns. Turn the sambouseks over and fry  for 30 more seconds. Do not over fry the dough or it will get tough and chewy. Remove to a plate or a bowl covered in paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

The sambousek is best served warm. You may serve it as part of a buffet or as an appetizer. You can also freeze it and warm in the microwave before serving.

Zucchini Mint Latkes

Chanukah – the Jewish holiday of lights (and oil) is two days away. I heard a woman lament the other day that Christmas smells so good and cozy, with all the spices and the pines, and all we Jews get is the smell of oil around the house, because of all the frying we do around Chanukah. To me, though, the smell of fried Israeli jelly donuts (soufganiot) brings back pleasant memories of passing many fun hours with my mom in the kitchen, helping her to prepare soufganiot and levivot (latkes) for the evening.

In our house, the soufganiot are a much bigger deal than the latkes, but because I don’t think I will get to make them this year, I chose to represent Chanukah with a latke recipe. The recipe, invented in my kitchen, is different than the usual potato latkes that are so familiar in American Jewish cuisine. This recipe captures the freshness and flavors of the Mediterranean. The combination of zucchini and mint is well known in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, and I’m sure there are other versions of this recipe floating around the Internet.

The secret in the recipe is the mint. Don’t try to skimp on it. If anything, go the other way – the more, the better.

When grating the zucchini, don’t discard of the zucchini ends (the bottom end of the zucchini). Check out my recipe Zucchini Ends in Garlic to learn what you can do with them.

Ingredients:

5 large zucchini (about 2lb)
2 cups chopped mint leaves
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup flour
salt, pepper
½- 1 cup oil for frying

Preparation:

Grate the zucchini using a food processor or a grater. Place the grated zucchini in a colander. Take a handful of grated zucchini and using the palms of your hands squeeze well to extract all the liquid.

Place the squeezed zucchini in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

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Cover the bottom of a large pan with oil and heat.

Using your hands, make patties out of the zucchini mix and place in the preheated oil. Alternatively, use a spoon to spoon the zucchini mix into the pan and flatten it lightly.

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Fry for 1-2 minutes until edges are golden brown, then flip and fry the other side.

Remove from the pan and place on a tray covered with paper towel to absorb extra fat.

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Serve warm or at room temperature together with Tzatziki, or Greek yogurt mixed with minced garlic.

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Happy Chanukah!