Sufganiyot – Traditional Jewish Doughnuts
Fried Dough. Really, what could be better? It must be the 3 Rivers Festival and 10-year-old memories of eating elephant ears from the Red Barn. There is just something about Carni’ food that tickles the nostalgia button and stimulates the salivary glands. I have such vivid memories of reaching through that sliding window to grasp my hot dough with the background music of the squeaky tilt-a-whirl and screaming kids.
In fact, it was fried dough oozing with chocolate that gave inspiration to the name Vosges Haut-Chocolat. While I was a culinary student in Paris, I longed to dine at the famed Michelin three star restaurant, L’Ambrosie, in the Place des Vosges. Chef Patrick Terrien of Le Cordon Bleu called ahead to have the restaurant staff take special care us- thus I quickly found myself (and my palate) in the adept hands of Bernard Pacaud of L’Ambrosie. It was there that I had my first chocolate experience. This epiphany of chocolate came in the form of a truffle beignet–- a rich, dark chocolate truffle encased in light, fluffy beignet batter and fried golden to turn the molten center into a burst of liquid chocolate upon the sinking in of my teeth. In a bite, it was all at once crisp, soft, hot, rich and gushing, a chocolate moment unparalleled. When I was thinking about what to name my chocolate company, I continued to recall my first true chocolate experience in Le Place des Vosges. So it had to be and Vosges Haut-Chocolat was born.
So, I take you from the Ft. Wayne, Indiana’s 3 Rivers Festival to Paris’ Place des Vosges and now to Jewish doughnuts in Chicago.
Awhile back, I tore this recipe for Sufganiot out of a magazine. They are traditional, Jewish doughnuts usually served at Hanukkah. My husband, a Hebrew man that likes the Grateful Dead and fried food always inspires me to make him happy. So, I often find myself on a quest to master traditional recipes and serve him familiar and meaningful foods. Though I doubt he has ever had a Sufganiot, it was fried and sweet, and seemingly his perfect treat.
Though Sufganiot are usually jam-filled, I unsurprisingly altered the recipe substituting a warm chocolate center, distantly reminiscent of the truffle beignets that changed my life in the Place des Vosges in Paris years ago. I also experimented with an apricot conserve and cocoa nib filling that was delicious but only if you use preserves the likes of June Taylor’s pluot conserve or Harvest Song’s Armenian Apricot preserve.
As shown in the photo, I experimented filling each with a different square of our Exotic Candy Bars and traveling the world through doughnuts we shall go.
3/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
1 envelope active dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for coating
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
peanut oil, for frying plus more for bowl
1/4 cup apricot or blackberry jam or conserve or a Vosges Haut-Chocolat Exotic Candy Bar of your choice
1. In a large metal bowl, stir together warm water and yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt; mix until well combined. Add egg yolks and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour. Mix until combined, then knead dough in bowl until all flour is incorporated. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead a few minutes until smooth. Knead in margarine until incorporated.
Transfer dough to a well-oiled bowl; turn dough several times to coat entirely with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
About 30 minutes before you’re ready to form doughnuts, remove dough from refrigerator to let come to room temperature. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into an 11 inch square about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch cookie cutter (or a glass), cut out about 24 rounds, dipping cutter in flour as needed to prevent sticking. Re-roll scraps and cut out about 16 more rounds.
Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg whites. Brush edge of a dough round with egg white, then mount 1/2 teaspoon jam or chocolate bar pieces in center, or both. Top with another round and press edges to seal. Repeat process with remaining rounds. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; let doughnuts rise until puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat a few inches of oil in a large (4-5 quart) heavy pot until it registers 360 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer or a scrap of dough sizzles upon contact. Working in batches of 4 to 5, carefully slip doughnuts into hot oil. Fry, turning once until golden brown about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain.
Place remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. While doughnuts are still hot, toss them in sugar, turning to coat. Serve immediately.