By Adeena Sussman
Eating fried foods is one of the distinct pleasures of Hanukkah, and the tradition behind it is well-known. According to legend, after the temple was ransacked by Antiochus' troops, a small vial of undefiled oil miraculously lasted for 8 days, until more oil could be found.
While most of us are familiar with the Ashkenazi sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes), the Sephardic kitchen boasts several delicious fritter and doughnut recipes that are a welcome addition to the Hanukkah repertoire. Not only are bimuelos (a Ladino derivation of the Spanish buneolos, meaning fritters) delicious, they are one of the foods emblematic of Marranos. Many people who have discovered their Sephardic Jewish roots recall eating fried foods, including bunuelos, around the holiday season, but with no connection to Hanukkah.
Share these fritters with family and friends. While they can be served at room temperature a few hours after serving, they’re best fresh from the fryer, drizzled with orange-scented honey.
Makes 25-30 doughnuts
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water, divided
juice of 1 large orange, strained of pulp (about 1/3 cup), divided
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 cup honey
Combine flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt in a large bowl. Reserve. Pour 1/2 cup water into a large bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over water and wait until mixture become foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour mixture, remaining water, 3 tablespoons orange juice, orange zest, and 2 tablespoons oil to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine, about 30 seconds.
Using your hands, knead dough in bowl until smooth, adding 1 tablespoon of additional flour at a time to reduce stickiness, for about 1-2 minutes. Remove dough and place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest until dough has doubled in volume, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Heat about 4 inches of oil in a large, tall pot to about 350-360°F (very hot but not smoking, or when a pea-sized piece of dough turns brown immediately when dropped into oil). Lightly oil hands, form dough into walnut-sized balls, and drop into oil in batches. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Place honey and remaining orange juice in a small saucepan and simmer 3-4 minutes until warm. Drizzle honey over doughnuts and serve.
Adapted from The World of Jewish Desserts by Gil Marks, © 2000 Simon & Schuster.
Adeena Sussman is a food writer and chef based in New York. She writes the bimonthly food column Season to Taste for Hadassah magazine, and her work appears regularly on Epicurious.com, and in publications including Time Out New York, The Forward, the San Jose Mercury News, and Sunset magazine. Visit her at adeenasussman.com.