Hanukkah (or Chanukah) celebrates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days during the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over pagan Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. Legend has it that the victors had only enough oil for one day but, miraculously, it lasted eight days. The Jewish Menorah commemorates this. My father, who held all religious symbols suspect, would often quip as to what kind of oil they were using: was it Progresso olive oil or Goya?
Be it as it may, since oil is the cornerstone of the holiday, fried foods are often served during this time, the most popular being latkas, or potato pancakes. But one of my favorite treats at Hanukkah is sufganiyot, or jelly-filled doughnuts.
Jelly-filled doughnuts has an interesting history. They are variously called Berliners by German and paczki by Poles. No one really knows where or how they originated. Although some trace it to a 1485 cookbook, Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery of the Kitchen), which gives a recipe consisting of jam sandwiched between two rounds of yeast dough bread and deep-fried in lard. Then, sometime later, someone got the idea of injecting jelly into deep-fried doughnuts. In the upper Midwest jelly doughnuts are called "jam busters, and are extremely popular. If you're fan of any kind of doughnut, these suckers are delicious.
2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting baking sheets or surface
1/3 cup butter, softened
5 cups vegetable or canola oil for frying, plus more for coating a bowl
1 (13 1/2 ounce jar) strawberry jelly, fruit jelly or jam
Powdered sugar (as much as needed)
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand for about 5 minutes or until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour. mix ingredients until smooth and soft but not sticky. If using a mixer, mix on low speed for a few minutes until a shaggy dough forms. Add butter, increase speed to medium, and mix until dough is smooth.
3. Grease another large bowel with oil. Form the dough into a ball. Place dough in the bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set aside in a warm spot and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
4. Lightly flour a baking sheet or surface (a large wooden square block is perfect for this). Turn the dough onto the floured surface and, using a rolling pin, roll out until about 1/2-inch thick. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible (should have 25 or more). Place on a lightly floured sheet or surface, spacing them apart. Again, loosely cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 20-30 minutes.
5. Heat oil in a deep fryer, large skillet or large pot to 350 degrees F. Using a flat spatula, carefully slide the dough rounds into hot oil and, working in batches to avoid overcrowding, fry until they rise to the surface, then turn over and fry until puffy and golden brown (2-3 minutes). Drain on paper towels.
6. When doughnuts have cooled, using a paring knife, cut a small slit in the side of the doughnut and fill this center with jelly (about 1 tablespoon), using a pastry injector, syringe, piping bag, or small spoon. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
Yield: 25 or more jelly doughnuts.
Caption: courtesy of petemonico.com