When you've had enough potato latkes and want a savory holiday appetizer, you might like to prepare these beignets soufflÃ©s When it comes to Hanukka foods, it's all about the oil. Serving potato latkes to celebrate Hanukka has nothing to do with the spuds; after all, these popular Peruvian natives weren't around in the land of Israel at the time of the Hanukka miracle. Thus any fried foods make good Hanukka treats. When you've had enough potato latkes and want a savory holiday appetizer, you might like to prepare beignets soufflÃ©s. The term beignet refers to a host of fried foods, from pastry squares to batter-dipped vegetables and fruit to doughnuts. Beignets soufflÃ©s are the kind made from cream puff dough. Don't let the French term deter you from making these enticing appetizers; just call them "Hanukka puffs." These fritters are faster to prepare than latkes and much simpler than sufganiyot. Their dough is the easiest kind of dough to prepare. It's made of a cooked dough of flour, water and oil (or butter), with eggs added. The eggs in the dough cause the fritters to puff in the hot oil. To make the dough, you need a saucepan, a wooden spoon and only a few minutes of your time. Once you have it ready, you can flavor it to your taste. Classic French additions are grated Parmesan or diced Gruyere (Swiss-type) cheese, chopped almonds or other nuts or a small amount of chopped anchovies. Escoffier, author of the chefs' manual Le Guide Culinaire, also recommended chopped herring or sardines. Diced smoked meats are another common addition. Favorite spices in the European kitchen are freshly grated nutmeg, paprika and mustard. Vegetables are also used to vary the flavor of these savory appetizer puffs. Cooked mushrooms of all kinds are a good choice. I also like butter-fried onions, cooked celery, roasted sweet peppers, pitted olives or a bit of chopped hot pepper. Some chefs even add the outrageously pricey truffles. Of course, you can combine the vegetables with smoked meat or cheese. These "Hanukka puffs" make terrific hors d'oeuvre to serve with wine. They are not customarily served with a dipping sauce but if you really want one, choose a smooth tomato sauce seasoned with a touch of cayenne or, if your friends and family like spicy flavors, stir in a little red s'hug. Before frying the Hanukka puffs, review the rules for safe, successful frying: â€¢ Do not fill the pan more than half full of oil. â€¢ Be very careful not to allow any liquid to get into the oil because it will splatter violently. â€¢ Hold ingredients near the surface of the oil and slide them in gently. Do not drop ingredients from a height because they will splash hot oil. â€¢ Food added to the oil brings down its temperature. To avoid lowering the temperature too much, fry the food in batches. â€¢ Do not crowd the pan because the oil can bubble up to the top and even overflow. â€¢ Regulate the heat if necessary to keep the oil at the specified temperature. â€¢ Give your full attention to the frying; do not leave in the middle to do something else. â€¢ Do not move the deep fryer when the fat in it is hot. â€¢ Remove fried foods with a slotted spoon. Drain them thoroughly on paper towels before serving so they won't be greasy. CHEESE PUFFS Flavor these puffs with sharp Cheddar cheese, Gruyere (Swiss) or Parmesan. The Parmesan should be finely grated; the other cheeses can be coarsely grated or finely diced. For a different flavor, add finely diced Brie. 1â„2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 1â„2 cup water 1â„4 tsp. salt 1 â„4 cup (60 gr.) unsalted butter, cut in pieces 2 eggs 1â„3 cup shredded sharp cheddar or Swiss cheese Pinch of dry mustard or freshly grated nutmeg Pinch of cayenne pepper at least 6 cups vegetable oil (for deep-frying) Preheat oven to 135ÂºC for keeping puffs warm. Line ovenproof trays with two layers of paper towels. Sift flour onto a piece of waxed paper. Heat water, salt, and butter in a medium saucepan until butter melts. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add flour immediately and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth. Set pan over low heat and beat mixture with spoon for about 30 seconds. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes. Add 1 egg to mixture and beat it in thoroughly. Beat in second egg. Stir in cheese, mustard, and cayenne pepper. Beat until well blended. Heat oil in a deep fryer or deep heavy saucepan to about 188ÂºC to 190ÂºC on a frying thermometer. If a thermometer is not available, test by adding a drop of cheese mixture to oil; when oil is hot enough, it should sizzle around the drop. Using a teaspoon, take about 1 heaping teaspoon of mixture and push it into hot oil using a second teaspoon, giving mixture a rounded shape. Add about 6 more teaspoons of mixture in same way. Do not crowd the pan; the fritters need room to puff. Fry mixture, turning rounds over occasionally, for 4 minutes or until they are puffed and golden brown on all sides. Remove them to prepared trays. Put them in oven with the door slightly open while frying remaining mixture. Serve as soon as possible. Makes 6 servings. MUSHROOM PUFFS These puffs are flavored with diced cooked mushrooms and their cooking liquid. Choose oil or butter, according to whether you want these for a dairy or meat meal. If you like, flavor these with sauteed garlic, following the variation. 250 gr. mushrooms 1â„4 tsp. salt, plus a pinch for cooking the mushrooms 1â„2 cup water 1â„2 tsp. dried thyme 1â„2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 1â„4 cup (60 gr.) unsalted butter, cut in pieces, or 1â„4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil 2 eggs Pinch of cayenne pepper at least 6 cups vegetable oil (for deep-frying) Chop the mushrooms and combine them in a saucepan with 1â„2 cup water, thyme and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Remove the mushrooms and measure the liquid. You will need 1â„2 cup to make the dough. Heat the measured liquid, 1â„4 teaspoon salt, and butter in a medium saucepan until butter melts. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add flour immediately and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth. Set pan over low heat and beat mixture with spoon for about 30 seconds. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes. Add 1 egg to mixture and beat it in thoroughly. Beat in second egg. Stir in the mushrooms and cayenne pepper. Beat until well blended. Shape and fry as above. Variation: Mushroom-Garlic Puffs: Cook the mushrooms as above and reserve. Heat 1 tablespoon butter or oil in a small skillet or saucepan. Add 2 chopped garlic cloves and sautÃ© over low heat for 30 seconds or until fragrant but not brown. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of the mushroom cooking liquid. When making the dough, use only 3 tablespoons butter or oil. Use the garlic mixture as part of the 1â„2 cup liquid needed. Makes 6 servings. Faye Levy is the author of Classic Cooking Techniques.