While you may know Hanukkah as the festival of lights, it’s really the festival of oil. I won’t get into the full story, but basically, a band of Jews fought in 168 BCE to rededicate a temple desecrated by the Greeks. While victorious, they only had enough oil to light the eternal light of the temple (a flame that is supposed to burn 24/7) for one day. The miracle was that the oil lasted for an incredible eight days.
Today, we celebrate by ingesting as much oil as we possibly can as tribute to this holy story. That means a spread of latkes galore and the king of all holiday doughnuts: sufganiyot.
I grew up with a mother who fried up the most delectable latkes, but rarely ventured into the world of pastries, let alone yeasted doughs. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the magic of this Hanukkah sweet: a fluffy doughnut filled with bright fruit jelly and showered in powdered sugar.
As the official latke-fryer in the family now, I’ve added the doughnuts to the Hanukkah menu, adding the perfect sweet end to the fried feast. In this recipe, an orange-scented brioche dough is fried until airy and golden before getting filled up with the jelly of your choosing.
If this is your first venture into the realm of frying doughnuts, no need to fear: It’s as straightforward as it is delicious. The most important takeaway is to obey the proof. Remember that everyone’s kitchen is different, with a different temperature. This means that every dough may take a slightly different amount of time to proof (or rise).
What you want to be keeping an eye on is the dough itself. For the first proof, you’re looking for the dough to double in size. For the next two proofs, you’re looking for it to puff up, but not to the degree of doubling.
Once you’ve mastered the dough, it’s time to give the filling some love. While you can make your own, I’m all about a good shortcut. It’s totally kosher to pick up a high-quality jelly or smooth jam to fill these golden beauties. My only advice is to invest in a squeeze bottle with a pointed nozzle for easy filling.
So crack out your menorah and dreidel, because these sufganiyot are to fry for.
Sufganiyot (Hanukkah Jelly Doughnuts)
Yield: about 12 sufganiyot
1 cup whole milk, warmed to 115 degrees Fahrenheit
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk, beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups fruit jelly
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix together the milk, brown sugar and yeast. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, 15 minutes. Add the flour, butter, salt, orange zest and eggs, then mix on medium speed until a smooth dough forms. Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and proof in a warm place for 1 hour.
2. After the first proof, the dough should have doubled in size. Punch it down in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof again for 45 minutes.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 3 1/2-inch ring cutter, punch out doughnuts. Re-roll the scraps as needed to get 12 doughnuts. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and proof for another 30 minutes.
4. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line another sheet pan with a wire rack. Working in batches, fry the doughnuts, flipping once, until golden brown and puffed, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked doughnuts to the prepared baking sheet to drain.
5. As soon as you can handle the fried doughnuts and using a squeeze bottle, insert the tip into the top of each doughnut and fill with your choice of fruit jelly. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve.