Happy Chanukah! You might be surprised after my last post, when I confessed to enjoying so much about Christmas, that I am acknowledging the Jewish Festival of Lights -- which is exactly why I am writing about it. You see, I feel like I need to clarify something: I am not ashamed of my religion. I don't wish I were anything but what and who I am. It is just that I suffer from a bad and incurable case of Christmas Tradition Envy.
But I am having a post-tree decorating twinge of Jewish guilt. I know Catholics claim they are the group to inspire the most guilt but frankly, from what I hear, it's a toss-up. So, in the spirit of embracing my inner Jewess I decided to embark on a project I have resisted for years -- making sufganiyot, aka Chanukah donuts. Like latkes, these are symbolic because they are fried in oil, representing the miracle of the Temple of Jerusalem; after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks they found there was only enough oil to light the eternal flame for one day. Yet, miraculously, the flame burned for 8 days. Hence the eight Chanukah candles etc. (I really hope Wikipedia, I mean I, got all that right.)
But I have my reasons for staying clear of doughnut making. My hair is like a sponge. If there is an aroma anywhere, you can be sure my porous locks will emit that stench long after I have left the space where the smell was produced. For this reason I avoid certain restaurants. Half the time I go out for sushi, my hair will still reek of shrimp tempura hours later. And you can forget a burger joint. That heady scent of sizzling, flame broiled beef is actually coming from my head... the next day. And so it is that I have never tackled sufganiyot. As always, it's all about the hair.
But, as I said, I was feeling guilty and despite the wise words my father has tried fruitlessly to drill into my head, "Guilt is a profitless emotion," and "No one can make you feel guilty. You are making you feel guilty," in this instance it was a successful motivator.
The key here was 1) allowing enough time for the project, 2) mapping out my physical plan for the various steps, 3) opening the windows as wide as possible although it was 30 degrees outside, and 4) tying a greasy-smell protective bandana around my hair.
Do not be scared to make these. I was, and not just because of smelly hair. Yeast is intimidating, as is a large pot of burning hot oil. But these sweet jammy treats were surprisingly doable and truly delicious. No need to save them just for Chanukah. A warm doughnut is a warm doughnut no matter what day it is. Except for Passover of course. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll save that lesson until April.
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Jewish Girl Guilt Sufganiyot
From Martha Stewart Living, Dec-Jan 1997/1998
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, 1/4 cup sugar, butter, nutmeg, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms.
On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft, and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a #4 tip or a pastry syringe or turkey baster with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each doughnut. Fit the pastry tip/syringe/baster into a hole and pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.
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