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A Klutz’ Guide To Cooking: Hanukkah Sufganiyot

I don’t know about you, but I did not grow up with doughnuts on Hannukah. I grew up with sugar cookies sprinkled with blue sugar and good ol’ latkes—foods that don’t take a culinary degree. So I was pretty anxious about making doughnuts for the first time. But it turns out that while sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are not the simplest item for the cooking impaired to make (there are many steps and devices involved) if you follow the directions, anyone can make ‘em.

I do highly recommend eliciting the help of a friend though—it’ll be more fun. I’m so glad I asked my good friend and wonderful cook, Karen, to help out. Not only did she have a Kitchen Aid mixer we could use (!) but several of the other necessary items including yeast, which I forgot to buy.

My sufganiyot are going to be served at a holiday party where my neighbors are each cooking their culture’s traditional holiday foods. Karen will make delicious Filipino dishes and another neighbor is cooking up her family’s favorite Italian recipes. While I didn’t even know about sufganiyot until a few years ago, I figured it doesn’t get any more traditional than the food of our Israeli counterparts, right?

I followed the recipe, which you can view directly, or follow below. If you want to get crazy, take a look at some of the alternative recipes Chow offers, like Chai Sufganiyot. Good luck and Happy Hannukah!

The hardware:

  • Kitchen Aid (recommended, but hand mixer would work)
  • 2-inch round cookie cutter or glass
  • Candy/fat thermometer (you should be able to find one for about $3 at the supermarket)
  • 12”-18” pastry bag
  • Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot (I made do with a lightweight IKEA pot)

The software:

  • 2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the baking sheet and rolling out the dough
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1 (1/4-oz) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 C warm whole milk (105°F to 115°F)
  • 2 T unsalted butter or marg. (1/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 6 C (1 1/2 quarts) vegetable or canola oil for frying, plus more for coating the bowl
  • 2/3 C smooth jam or jelly
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

The play-by-play:

1. Place the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Add the yolks and milk and mix, using the hook attachment, on medium-low speed until dough forms, about 1 minute. Add the butter, increase the speed to medium high, and mix until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic, about 5 minutes.

2. Coat a large bowl with oil. Form the dough into a ball, place in the bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

(Note: My dough was crazy sticky and not remotely possible to form into a ball. A blob worked just fine. It also didn’t look like it had risen very much, but it was ready after 90 mins.)

3. Lightly flour a baking sheet; set aside. Transfer dough to a lightly (or heavily if dough is sticky) floured work surface, and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. Stamp out as many dough rounds as possible with your cutter or glass and place on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Stamp out rounds until you have about 30 total on the baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until puffy and about 1/2 inch thick, about 30 minutes.

4. Place the vegetable or canola oil in a Dutch oven or large pot and set over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350°F on a candy/fat thermometer. Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with paper towels and place a wire rack over the paper towels. Place the jam or jelly in a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip, or just cut a small hole in the tip of the plastic bag—it’ll work even without a plastic tip.

5. Using a flat spatula (don’t use your hands—this will deflate the doughnuts), carefully transfer the dough rounds, one at a time, into the oil. You should be able to fit about 6 at a time, leaving at least 1 inch of space in between and keeping the oil temperature at 350°F. Fry until the bottoms are golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Carefully flip with a fork and fry until the second side is golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes more. (If air bubbles appear in the doughnuts, pierce with the tip of a paring knife.) Remove with a slotted spoon to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds.

(Note: if your dough rounds are not round, resist the urge to re-mold them before placing in the oil. I did this and it resulted in flat doughnuts.)

6. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife (I used a lollipop stick) to puncture the side of each to form a pocket in the center. Place the tip of the piping bag into the pocket and pipe about 1 teaspoon of jam or jelly inside. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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