Pascale's Kitchen: One dough, three dishes

In honor of Hanukkah, each kitchen boasts its own special delicacy, with frying being common among all.

 (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Shabbat is on its way and in its honor we light candles. This Friday we will also light a second Hanukkah candle, illuminating us in a great light.
In honor of Hanukkah, each kitchen boasts its own special delicacy, with frying being common among all. Whether it is deep or shallow oil, the main thing is to have oil.
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here>>
Throughout my years of work as a researcher, preserver and documenter of my grandma’s recipes, I have discovered that the holidays are an important and special place in every kitchen, and you can find especially delicious treasures in every holiday. This is how I learned that in all the communities of Israel, salty and sweet fried delicacies are prepared in honor of Hanukkah.
Over the years I have made countless types of fried sweet doughs from kitchens of different ethnicities. While constantly searching for the connections between the kitchens of the Jewish community, I found there are three sweets different from each other in name, shape and texture, and when I carefully examined their recipes, I found that the doughs are based on the same ingredients.
And yet, what is different? What gives them the different texture? The answer is quite simple.
The three doughs all use flour, water, yeast and sugar. There are no eggs in the dough, which makes the fried cookie popular with vegans as well. The difference, and what affects the texture of these fried cookies beyond their shape, is the relationship between their ingredients. That means if one has more water than another, we get large bubbles when piping and excessive airiness.
In the second recipe, the amount of flour is large enough to give a slightly thick, dense and yet flexible texture, which allows the creation of a cake shape that bubbles when fried in oil.
The third has an intermediate texture, which means it is on the line between the two doughs, which allows it to be thrown into the frying pan without creating a defined shape or, as I call it, freestyle.
I have chosen to bring you the three recipes so that you can prepare them yourself by making small changes.
Do as I did, make a large amount of dough according to the recipe version for making the sfenj/airy dumplings. From some of the dough make sfenj. Add a little water to the remaining dough and make from the dough the zalabia/lokma/dumplings in syrup. From the remaining dough add a little more water so that you get a dough that is easy to pipe and make the spirals/zangula. This is how one dough makes three different cookies, from different cuisines, including North Africa, Yemen, Greece, Iraq, Kurdistan, Egypt and Lebanon.
I have attached the three exact recipes for making each of the fried pastries. I suggest you prepare all three of them throughout the days of Hanukkah, and by the eighth candle you will find that I am right that it is enough to make one dough and, by playing with the liquids, make several pastries from the kitchens of the Jewish communities. I invite you to try and enjoy fried delicacies for Hanukkah – in another guise. Come with me on an indulgent, delicious and surprising culinary trip.
SFENJ – AIRY DUMPLINGS
Sfenj are airy fried dumplings, typical of North African cuisine (Morocco, Libya, Algiers and Tunisia), that are irresistible. They are usually prepared in the early morning, and their wonderful aroma, carried in the air, makes us forget our fears about the calories and frying oil.
It is a sticky dough, and in order to work with it, it is advisable to occasionally wet your palms and thus stretch and shape it with the hands. The taste of the dumplings is especially wonderful when served immediately upon preparation, and they are warm and soft in the mouth. You can season them with sugar and honey, but they are wonderful as they are.
Makes 25-30 dumplings.
1 kg. flour, sifted
1 50-gr. bag Shimrit yeast
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3½ cups water
Oil to deep fry
Add the flour to a deep bowl. Make a well in the center and place the yeast in it. Sprinkle the sugar and salt around the well. Pour the water in while kneading until you get a liquidy and sticky dough.
Cover with a towel or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough doubles in volume. Knead again while removing the air from the dough, cover and allow to rise for another hour.
Heat oil in a saucepan for deep-frying. Take a handful (2-3 full Tbsp.) of the dough with wet or oiled hands and stretch the dough with your palms in all directions. Put in the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander or paper towels. Dip the sponge in the sugar or sprinkle it on top. Serve hot, next to a saucer of sugar, and whoever wants to can add more.
Difficulty level: Medium/hard

Time: 2.5-3 hours

Status: Parve

SPIRALS/ZANGULA
These are fried pastries dipped in syrup, typical of the cuisine of Iraq, Kurdistan and Lebanon. There is no doubt that making zangula requires skill, but it is definitely doable.
The thin dough is usually poured into a professional icing bag with a thin round tip, but the simple home solution is to use a 4A hard plastic bag, or a squeeze bottle like an empty ketchup container.
In the pictures you will see how to pipe in a spiral and precise way, and if you do not succeed you can always prepare zangula by freestyle piping, as in the pictures. The main thing is the frying and the sweetening.
Makes 20-25 spirals.
15 gr. yeast
2¼ cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
3¼ cups flour, sifted
Frying oil
Syrup:
1½ cups water
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. cinnamon or rosewater
Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup water and add a tablespoon of sugar. Stir and put in a warm place for about 15 minutes, until risen.
Transfer the batter to a bowl and add 2 cups of water, whisking quickly. Gradually add the flour and continue to whisk quickly, until the batter is uniform and thick. Cover the bowl and keep it in a warm place for about an hour and a half.
Thoroughly whisk the batter again and leave in a warm place for another half hour. Repeat this step two more times, until an airy and delicate texture is obtained.
To make the syrup, place the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small pot, mix and bring to a boil over a medium flame. Lower the flame and cook for about 25 minutes. Add the cinnamon (or rosewater) to the pot and cook for another five minutes on a low flame. Let chill.
Forming and frying the pastries: Pour oil at least 7 cm. high into a large pot and heat.
Whisk the batter again, take a ladle from it and transfer to a piping bag or squeeze bottle. Pipe the batter into the shape of a spiral coil, and fry in oil until golden on both sides.
Remove the pastries and place on paper towels. Dip the pastries, while still hot, into the cold syrup and remove immediately. Serve hot or cold.
Difficulty level: Medium/Hard

Time: About 3.5 hours (including rising, forming, frying and coating in syrup)

Status: Parve

ZALABIA/LOKMA – DUMPLINGS IN SYRUP
Zalabia are dumplings typical of Yemeni, Egyptian and Lebanese cuisine. They are known in Greek cuisine as lokma.
They do not require special skill in shaping. With a spoon, throw them straight into the oil, or form a small, uneven ball in your palm.
Some are satisfied with just fiddling with a little powdered sugar, some make sugar syrup spiced with orange blossom water or rosewater, and some sprinkle them with sesame seeds or colored candies.
Either way, everyone aims for the same puffy and juicy dumplings whose every bite is a celebration.
Makes 20-25 dumplings.
3 1/3 cups flour, sifted
2¼ cups lukewarm water
15 gr. fresh yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
Frying oil
Syrup:
2 cups sugar (400 gr.)
1½ cups water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. rosewater or ground cinnamon
Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of the lukewarm water and add the sugar. Stir and place in a warm place for 10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly.
Transfer the yeast mixture to a bowl and add the rest of the water, stirring quickly with a whisk.
Gradually add the sifted flour and stir quickly until a thick mixture is obtained. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half.
Stir well once more and let rise for half an hour. Repeat the act of kneading the dough and rising two more times, thus obtaining an airy and delicate texture.
Prepare the syrup: Pour the water into a small pot. Add the sugar and lemon juice and cook for about 25 minutes. Add the rosewater and cook for another five minutes. Let cool.
Fill a wide pot with oil at least 7 cm. high. Beat the dough once more. Take the dough with a wet spoon and pour into the hot oil, or pipe the dough into rolls. Fry the dough until golden brown on all sides of the dough.
Remove the zalabia from the oil and place on paper towels. Dip the pastries into the cold syrup while they’re very hot and remove immediately. The pastries can be served hot or cold.
Difficulty level: Easy/medium

Time: About 2 hours (including rising, frying and coating in syrup)

Status: Parve

Translated by Tzvi Joffre.