Sweet spuds for Hanukka

If you don’t feel like baking or frying, you might like to make Melissa’s potato coconut fudge.

A variety of sweet desserts made with savory potatoes. (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
A variety of sweet desserts made with savory potatoes.
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Our friend Nancy Eisman has come up with the perfect Hanukka treat – ponuts, or potato doughnuts, which could please lovers of both sufganiyot and potato latkes.
We tasted the ponuts at the book party for Melissa’s DYPs: The Perfect Everyday Potato Cookbook by Sharon Hernandez and Chef Ida Rodriguez. DYP is the acronym for Dutch Yellow Potato – a small, thin-skinned variety of potato with yellow waxy flesh, which remains moist when cooked and has a creamy texture and a buttery flavor.
The idea for ponuts came to Eisman, a recipe developer for Melissa’s Produce who blogs at Plant-Based 411, “because I ate so many Spudnuts” at a doughnut shop. These doughnuts, which originated from a German recipe, are made with potato flour.
Eisman found that mashed potatoes made the doughnuts lighter and moister.
Eisman’s favorite way to eat ponuts is hot out of the fryer, dipped in a cinnamon-cocoa-sugar mixture. She demonstrated other ways to embellish them. After dunking each one in thin powdered sugar icing, she dipped it in one or more toppings: shredded coconut, cocoa nibs, chopped macadamia nuts and chopped candied ginger. For a Hanukka party, you could set these or other sprinkles out in dishes and guests could dip the ponuts in the toppings of their choice. (See recipe.)
The ponut dough, said Eisman, can be made quickly; it has no yeast so there is no need to wait for it to rise. Ponuts are easy to shape – just make balls and fry them.
Hernandez and Rodriguez included additional desserts in their potato cookbook. Coming up with a good recipe for potato cheesecake was a challenge, said Hernandez, but the potatoes ended up contributing to the cheesecake’s creamy consistency. (See recipe.)
In the course of testing the potato desserts, said Rodriguez, they found that the easiest way to remove the skins was not by peeling the raw potatoes, but by pushing the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer, so that the skins stayed behind as the potatoes were mashed.
Mashed potatoes gave a moist texture to the chocolate potato cake we sampled, which was flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg and enhanced with chopped hazelnuts. Rodriguez noted that mashed potatoes helped hold together their gluten-free peanut butter cookies, and therefore no flour was needed; the cookies are made of rolled oats, brown sugar, peanut butter and raisins.
When I asked whether the authors had any tips for making potato latkes, Rodriguez said they prefer to shred the potatoes and onions in a food processor with a grater attachment. For those who like sweet toppings on their latkes, the maple applesauce that accompanies Melissa’s potato gnocchi would be a good choice. (See recipe.)
If you don’t feel like baking or frying, you might like to make Melissa’s potato coconut fudge. Just beat 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup shredded coconut and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into ½ cup hot, cooked unseasoned mashed potatoes. Press the mixture into a buttered 10 x 20 cm. (4 x 8 inch) pan, top it with 55 grams (2 ounces) melted semi-sweet chocolate and, after chilling it thoroughly, cut it into squares. It’s one of the easiest sweet treats around.
Faye Levy is the author of Fresh From France: Dessert Sensations.
Ponuts (a.k.a. Potato Doughnuts)
This recipe is from The Perfect Everyday Potato Cookbook. Instead of dipping the fried ponuts in the topping of cocoa, cinnamon and sugar, you can drizzle them with honey and sprinkle them with chopped toasted nuts.
Makes 4 dozen doughnuts
❖ 1 cup cooked mashed potatoes
❖ 1 cup milk
❖ 2 eggs, beaten
❖ 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
❖ ½ cup light brown sugar
❖ ½ cup granulated sugar
❖ ½ tsp. coarse sea salt
❖ 3 Tbsp. melted butter
❖ 2 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
❖ About 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
❖ 1 cup powdered sugar
❖ ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
❖ 1/3 cup ground cinnamon
❖ Vegetable oil for frying
Combine the mashed potatoes, milk and beaten eggs in a bowl. Add the baking powder and stir to combine until foamy.
Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar, and stir to combine thoroughly. Stir in the salt, melted butter and vanilla.
Fold in the flour, 1 cup at a time, adding enough to obtain a dough that is a bit sticky but manageable.
For the topping: In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa and cinnamon until thoroughly mixed.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels for draining the fried doughnuts. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper for holding the doughnuts after they’ve been coated.
Coat your hands with flour and grab enough of the dough (about 1 or 2 tablespoons) to form golf-ball-sized balls. Heat at least 10 cm. (4 inches) oil in a deep pot on medium-high heat until oil sizzles when a bit of dough is dropped in the pot. Raise the heat slightly for frying.
Drop dough balls carefully into the hot oil, and repeat with about 8 dough balls or as many fit without crowding the pot. Use a wooden spoon to make sure the balls are not sticking to bottom of pot. Continue frying for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until the balls are golden brown.
Remove each ponut and put on paper towels for about 20 seconds, then dredge each one in the cinnamon mixture. Repeat with the remaining dough, a batch at a time, until all the ponuts are fried and coated.
Dancing Cheesecake
Melissa’s chefs make the crust for this cheesecake from Oreo cookies, but you can use any cookies you like. If you don’t have a potato ricer, you can peel the cooked potatoes, then mash them until very fine with a potato masher or even a fork; do not puree the potatoes in a food processor since that will make them gluey.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
❖ 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided
❖ 18 Oreo cookies, crushed
❖ 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
❖ Pinch of salt
❖ 450 gr. (1 pound) potatoes, boiled
❖ 680 gr. (1.5 pounds) cream cheese, at room temperature
❖ 1 cup granulated sugar
❖ 1 cup heavy cream
❖ 1 tsp. scraped vanilla bean seeds
❖ 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
For the crust: Brush a 23-cm. (9-inch) springform pan with some of the butter. Combine the crushed cookies with the remaining butter, the sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. (Leave oven on.)
Press the boiled potatoes through a potato ricer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cream cheese, then beat the mixture until fluffy. With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the cream, vanilla bean seeds and nutmeg, and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the springform pan.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the center is set. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Maple Applesauce
This sweet applesauce is good with potato latkes, breakfast pancakes, oatmeal and yogurt.
❖ ½ cup maple syrup
❖ 2 Granny Smith or other tart green apples.
Peel and core the apples and dice them small.
Place them in a small saucepan and add the maple syrup. Bring to a boil while stirring.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the mixture has thickened to your taste. Serve it warm or at room temperature.