Sweetness and lights

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 December, 2011, 12:00am

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When I was growing up in multicultural California, my grammar school teachers taught us how various religious holidays were celebrated. For the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, we learned about dreidels and the lighting of the menorah, as well as songs that really annoy my Jewish husband when I sing them ('I had a little dreidel, I made it out of clay ...'). Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the 'miracle of the oil', in which a day's worth of holy oil burned for eight days, allowing enough time to purify more. It is traditional to eat fried foods during Hanukkah.

Sufganiyot (fried jam doughnuts, pictured)

This recipe is based on one I found on the eGullet website, by a poster named Pam R. Although the proportions were wrong (I had to almost double the amount of flour), I liked the technique of making the dough in the food processor.

I use home-made jam to fill the doughnuts, rather than jelly (which is clear and pulpless), but it needs to be pur?ed, or the fruit will clog the piping tube.

It is important to fry the doughnuts at the correct temperature; if the oil is too hot, they will burn on the outside before the interior is fully cooked, but if it is too cool, the doughnuts will be greasy.

450 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus more for rolling the dough

50 grams granulated sugar, plus more for dredging

14 grams instant yeast

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

30ml cooking oil, plus more for frying

240ml lukewarm water (32 degrees Celsius)

Jelly or jam of choice

Lightly oil a mixing bowl and set it aside.

Put the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Whisk the egg and egg yolk with the oil and water. With the food processor running, pour the liquid ingredients through the feed tube. The ingredients should form into a tight ball of dough. If it is sticky, add a little more flour; if dry, drizzle in a little water. Process for about 90 seconds, then put the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to form a smooth ball then place it in the oiled bowl. Turn the ball over so the oiled side is on top, then cover the bowl with cling-film. Let it rise until doubled in volume (about two hours, depending on the room temperature).

Punch the dough with your fist to deflate it. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough so that it is about 8mm thick. Cut out circles with a 4cm-5cm plain round cutter that has been dipped in flour. Put the circles on a baking paper-lined pan, leaving a little space between them. Let them rise until they are slightly puffy.

Pour cooking oil to a depth of 2.5cm in a skillet and heat to 180 degrees. Place a few dough circles into the hot oil - do not crowd the pan. Fry until pale golden on one side then turn them over and fry the other side until done (about two minutes in total). Drain them briefly on paper towels then dredge in granulated sugar (the sugar sticks better when the doughnuts are hot). When all the doughnuts are fried and sugared, poke a hole in the side of each one (I use the thick end of a chopstick) and move it back and forth within the doughnut, to create a small cavity.

Use a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain tip to pipe jelly or pur?ed jam into the doughnuts, then serve them warm.

Latkes

Whenever I make latkes (which is quite frequently), I count on serving about 1?medium-large potatoes per person, then add a couple more, just to make sure there are enough. I have never had leftovers: people keep eating them until the plate is empty.

Choose starchy potatoes, such as the rough-skinned type called 'russet' or 'Idaho'. You can use other types, as long as they are high in starch. I use this variety because it's large; peeling and shredding small potatoes is a tedious task.

I double-fry latkes: the initial frying cooks the potato and onion, while the second frying, at a higher temperature, browns the exterior. This has the added advantage of being able to partly cook the latkes in advance, so they can be fried a second time just before dinner is served and are sizzling hot.

1 medium-sized onion, peeled

750 grams starchy potatoes, peeled

1 large egg

Potato flour (also called potato starch), as needed

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Oil, for frying

Sour cream and/or apple sauce, for serving

Shred the onion and potatoes using the medium-sized shredding blade of the processor. Put the ingredients into a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Put the shredded potato and onion into a mixing bowl, stir in the egg and season with salt and pepper. Mix in a spoonful of potato flour. The consistency is right when the liquid at the bottom of the bowl is cloudy; if needed, add more potato flour. You need to stir the ingredients frequently as you make the latkes, so that the potato flour is evenly distributed.

Pour oil to a depth of about 1cm in a skillet and heat to 180 degrees. Scoop up some of the mixture with a large spoon, use a second spoon to squeeze out much (but not all) of the moisture, then place the latke in the oil. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Fry for a few minutes, turning once, then remove the latkes from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Heat the oil to 190 degrees then fry the latkes a second time to brown them (about 30 to 45 seconds in total). Drain on paper towels then serve with sour cream or apple sauce.

Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

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