Pascale’s Kitchen: Hanukkah treats

All year long, we can be careful about what we eat, but when Hanukkah rolls around, it’s time to put any thoughts of dieting aside and enjoy all the treats that are cooked in oil.

 Fried apple fritters (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Fried apple fritters
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

The aroma of fried doughnuts can be detected all around Israel from November and throughout the holiday of Hanukkah. Everywhere you go around the country, there seems to be another bakery that is offering a plethora of sufganiyot with creative and eclectic colored icing, toppings and fillings. 

It’s impossible for anyone to not be aware that the Festival of Lights – the holiday in which we eat fried food – is just around the corner. Hanukkah treats can be deep-fried or fried in a pan; the only important thing is that it is cooked using lots of oil. 

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This year, as in all previous years, I put aside any thoughts about counting calories. All year long, we can be careful about what we eat, but when Hanukkah rolls around, it’s time to put any thoughts of dieting aside and enjoy all the treats that are cooked in oil. It doesn’t matter if you’re preparing sweet or savory dishes – they are all cooked in copious amounts of oil and come out crispy and delicious. Sweet fried foods can be sprinkled with powdered sugar or dipped in fragrant syrup. 

This week, I bring you three recipes for sweet Hanukkah treats. The first recipe is for fried apple fritters, known as frittelle in Italian. To make the fritters, you dip slices of apple in tempura batter, then place them in oil to fry them. They are best eaten while they’re still hot. 

The second recipe is for Chebakia, which are Moroccan flower cookies that are prepared in a very unique fashion. Chebakia are sometimes made by taking strips of dough and weaving them together to form heart or flower shapes. The strips can be cut flat or jagged with a dough cutter. The recipe I’ve brought here utilizes a special metal tool with a flower design on the end. What you do is dip the flower end of the stick into the batter, and then into the hot oil, and after a few seconds, releasing the dough from the metal into the oil. The flower tool can be purchased in specialty baking stores. 

 Zalabiya (donuts) (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Zalabiya (donuts) (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

The third recipe is for zalabiya, which are doughnuts that are dipped in syrup after they’ve finished cooking. These are popular Hanukkah treats that hail from Yemenite, Egyptian and Lebanese cuisine.

One of the reasons I love these doughnuts is that you can make them as small as you like, and they are so light and fluffy. You don’t need to worry about making sure they all have the same shape. In fact, that’s part of why I love making zalabiya.

These doughnuts can be topped with powdered sugar or dipped in fragrant syrup made with rosewater. You can also add sesame seeds or colorful candies sprinkled on top. 

I hope you enjoy trying one (or all) of the recipes below. I would love for you to take pictures of your creations and send them to me; or send me links to your Instagram or Facebook accounts so I can enjoy seeing all the creative doughnuts and cookies you made. I promise to tag you and the special Hanukkah treats you’ve made. 

FRIED APPLE FRITTERS

Makes 15 pieces. 

  • 2-3 apples (can also use pears, bananas or other fruit)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 140 gr. (1 cup) white flour, sifted
  • 2 large eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 80 gr. (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 200 gr. (1 cup) milk or water
  • 5 gr. (½ packet) baking powder

Topping:

  • ½ cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For deep-frying:

  • Oil

Peel the apples and cut out the cores. Slice apples into 1-cm.-thick rings. Transfer the apple rings to a bowl, then pour lemon juice on top of them and let sit for 1 hour. 

In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients together. Let the bowl rest for 30 minutes. 

Drain the apple rings, then dip them in the egg mixture. 

Pour oil into a pan for deep-frying and heat. 

Fry the apple slices in the hot oil until they turn golden brown. Remove the apple pieces and place them on paper towels. 

Dip the apple pieces in the cinnamon mixture, or sprinkle the cinnamon mixture on top of them, and serve immediately. Alternatively, you can serve with sour cream.

Level of difficulty: EasyTime: 90 minutes, including time to let batter riseStatus: Parve (or dairy if using milk)

 Chebakia (Moroccan flower cookies) (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Chebakia (Moroccan flower cookies) (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

CHEBAKIA (MOROCCAN FLOWER COOKIES)

Makes 50 cookies.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 drops vanilla
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar

Optional additions:

  • Lemon zest, strip of lemon peel, cinnamon stick or 2 drops of rose or citrus water

For deep-frying:

  • Oil

Mix the water, egg and vanilla together in a bowl. Gradually add the flour and salt while mixing. Mix until smooth.

Pour oil into a pan for deep-frying and heat. Take the metal rod with a flower shape at the end of it, and dip it in the hot oil, then take it out and wipe off the oil. 

Next, gently submerge the stick in the egg mixture so that most of the flower is covered with the mixture, but not all of it. This is important because if the metal flower is completely covered with mixture, you will not be able to disengage the cookie from the metal once it has cooked. 

Submerge the flower end of the stick into the hot oil for a few seconds. Gently swirl the stick so that the cookie detaches from the metal stick. If it doesn’t separate, you can use a skewer stick or the end of a sharp knife to gently push the cookie off the metal flower so that it can float freely in the oil. Make sure not to leave the cookie on the stick more than a few seconds once you’ve submerged it in the oil because then it will become too difficult to separate it from the metal. 

Make the rest of the cookies in the same fashion. 

To prepare the syrup: Add the water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla sugar to a medium-sized pot. Cook over medium heat for 25-30 minutes until the syrup becomes rubbery. Add any of the optional additions and cook for another 1-2 minutes over low heat. 

Dip the Chebakia flowers in the syrup, then place them on a tray to cool.

Level of difficulty: MediumTime: 1 hourStatus: Parve

ZALABIYA (DOUGHNUTS)

Makes 20-25 doughnuts.

  • 3 1/3 cups flower, sifted
  • 2¼ cups lukewarm water
  • 15 gr. fresh yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar 

Syrup:

  • 2 cups (400 gr.) sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. rosewater or cinnamon
  • For deep-frying:
  • Oil

Dissolve the yeast in a ¼ cup of lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Mix and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes until it has finished fermenting. 

Pour the yeast mixture into a large bowl, then add the rest of the water, while mixing rapidly with a whisk. Gradually add the sifted flour while mixing rapidly. Knead the dough well. Cover the bowl and place it in a warm place for 90 minutes. 

Knead the dough again, then let it rise for another 30 minutes. Knead the dough twice more, letting it rise in between sessions, until the dough is light and airy. 

To prepare the syrup: Pour the water into a small pot, then add the sugar and lemon juice and cook for 25 minutes. Add the rosewater and cook for another 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool down. 

Fill a large pot with oil so that it’s at least 7 centimeters high, and heat. Knead the dough once more, then use a wet teaspoon to take a bit of dough and drop it into the hot oil. Alternatively, you can drizzle the dough into the oil so that it forms a snake shape. Let the dough pieces fry until they turn golden brown. Then, turn them over to cook the other side. 

Remove the doughnuts and place them on paper towels. Next, while they’re still hot, dip the doughnuts in the cold syrup and then remove them immediately. The doughnuts can be served hot or cold. 

Level of difficulty: EasyTime: 2.5 hours, including time to let batter riseStatus: Parve

Translated by Hannah Hochner. 

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