Have you totally stuffed yourself on my latke recipe from earlier this week and do you now find yourself absolutely addicted to fried Jewish foods and desperate for a new fix? Well fear not, for I am here to sate your thirst. Today's offering: Sufganiyot, or for the uninitiated: donuts. This is another Chanukah food which is why it's gloriously fried.
Donuts are a miracle of their own. Honestly, if the Macabees had found enough donuts to last eight days, rather than enough menorah oil, Chanukah would be a much bigger deal than it is today. Donuts are that good and I am apparently that sacrilegious. Unfortunately, they didn't find donuts but very fortunately, we still celebrate the holiday by eating donuts. And even more fortunately than that, this is a recipe you can make again and again all year long because donuts taste good on all 365 days of the year.
But as good as donuts are, they are also very intimidating. Frying things in oil, in general, is a stressful concept to those that have never done it before. Fear not, for I will walk you through this ordeal and you can end up on the other side happier, because you are full of donuts, and less intimidated, because you realize frying isn't so bad.
So what are the keys to frying safely?
1) Own a deep fryer and then you don't really have to worry about anything else. Other than of course, operating your deep fryer correctly.
if you don't have one though, these are the other keys
2) Have a candy/oil thermometer so that you know what temperature your oil is rather than guessing. Under heated oil will ruin your food and make it a soggy disaster. Over heated oil will also ruin your food and can lead to burns, smokey kitchens and more. If you don't have a thermometer and don't want to get one, trust me - I get it. I'm on a budget and I try to only own essential kitchen items. What you can do instead is just put a small amount of whatever your frying into the oil to see if it's cooking properly and then adjust temperature based on that test fry.
3) Reliable heat source - meaning a stove top that heats consistently so you don't worry that your oil will go from hot to cold back to hot at a moments notice.
4) Choose the right oil to fry in. What you want is something that has a high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil burns and starts to smoke, making your kitchen air smokey and unsafe and improperly cooking your food. You also want an oil that imparts a neutral flavor. So olive oil, strong flavor and low smoke point, is a definite no-no for frying. Peanut, sunflower & vegetable oil are good ones to try out. You can of course break the flavor-free oil rule and fry with something like chicken schmaltz if you're actually trying to impart a flavor. People like to do this with latkes, for example.
5) A proper pan that's safe to fry in. I recommend cast-iron pants as stainless steel and related pans tend to be harder to wash after your done frying and cast iron does a really good job of managing the temperature. It's safest to use a pan with tall sides so that the sides of the pot rise at least a few inches above the top of the oil. This will reduce the risk of oil splashing and burning you or making your stove top gross.
6) Paper towels - you gotta make sure food is dry before you put it in the oil. If it has any water on it whatsoever, the water will immediately boil when it touches the oil and it will cause the oil to splutter and can burn you. You should also have paper towels or a drying rack on hand for your fried food so that as soon as you take it out of the oil, you can let it drip dry or dry on a paper towel so it doesn't get soggy.
7) The right tools for the job. Ideally this would be tongs and a frying spoon. If you don't have a frying spoon, I find that a slotted spatula or a slotted spoon works pretty well too. You'll reduce the risk of getting burned if you use the right tools and you'll also reduce the risk of burning your food if you have tools that can grab it out of the oil quickly.
8) No distractions. Frying is a fast business, don't try to multi-task while you fry. Things can overcook quickly if you're not watching them.
OK! So with that all said, let's make some dang donuts already!
1/2 cup room temperature milk
2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup (scant) sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup (scant) greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
seedless raspberry jam and/or (always go for the and!) Chocolate Pastry Cream recipe below
1) In a glass liquid measuring cup (I like to do this, rather than a small bowl, as it makes it easier to pour later), combine milk, yeast and a pinch of your sugar. It's important that the milk is room temperature or even a little warmer so that the yeast can be activated. Let sit until frothy, should take about 10 minutes depending on the temperature of your milk and your kitchen.
2) Either in a bowl with a strong whisk or in an electric mixer with paddle attachment, combine eggs, yolks, sour cream, salt, remaining sugar, vanilla extract and yeasty-milk mixture. Gradually add flour and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. If it doesn't stop being sticky after 5 minutes of mixing, you can add up to 1/4 cup of additional flour.
3) Leave to rise on the counter for 2 hours or place in the refrigerator ideally overnight but for at least 4 hours. A fridge rise will be more effective but if your stuck for time, rising on the counter works well. It's what I did for these images.
4) Place dough onto a well floured counter or cutting board and roll out until it's about 1/2 inch thick (just under the width of a pinky nail is the size reference that I use). If you're super fancy and own a 2-inch circular cookie cutter, use that to cut donuts out and re-roll the scraps and cut out again until you're out of dough. If you're like me and don't own fancy extra kitchen products, you can either use a small glass to cut the dough out or you can just use a knife and cut it into tiny (2" x 2") squares that you later pinch the ends into a circle. Don't worry about the square to pinched circle conversion, it will fry up as a sphere just fine.
5) Fill a cast-iron pot with at least 2" of vegetable or peanut oil and heat until it reaches a consistent temperature of 365*F. If you don't have the thermometer, use small bits of test dough and the oil is ready when the dough turns brown in 30 seconds.
6) Fry donuts for about 30 seconds (or until medium brown) on each side. I recommend using kitchen tongs to insert, flip and remove your donuts safely. Place finished donuts on paper towels or a drying rack. I prefer the drying rack option because it 1) doesn't waste paper towels and 2) I think it dries them better.
7) While still warm (ie: within 1 minute of taking out of oil), toss the donuts individually in a bowl of sugar so it coats them. Sugar will not stick to the donuts if the donuts are not warm! You've been warned.
8) Once sugared donuts have cooled, you can fill them with either the jam or the chocolate pastry cream (recipe below). I recommend doing both, filling half your donuts with one and half with the other. I tried a mix and it did not work well for me. Chocolate flavor was too overpowering for you to really enjoy the jam which tastes too good to be ignored. To fill - put filling in a pastry bag with a large star tip attached (you can use round if you don't have a star tip, but then you can't put a little flourish on the end). You can either poke a hole with a small knife and then jam your filling bag in, or you can be impatient like I am and just jam your filling bag in. (You can see in the pics in the slideshow that I don't actually use a filling bag for this kind of thing, I use a plastic container with a frosting tip on top. I do this to save on plastic waste, as the container is reusable. I only use pastry bags for things that require fine motor control like making flowers.) Fill your donuts until the filling starts to come out and then immediately stop or it will overflow with jam or cream and look messy.
9) Eat it up and enjoy with friends!
Chocolate Pastry Cream Filling*
1) Whisk together cocoa powder, cornstarch, egg yolks, milk, salt and sugar in a pan and then place over medium low heat. Stir constantly to prevent burning the mixture.
2) Once mixture thickens (basically, once it starts to bubble and nearly boil - do not let it get to a boil), remove from heat and continue whisking as it thickens.
3) Stir in butter, chocolate and vanilla extract until the butter and chocolate melt and the mixture is fully homogenized (that's a science term meaning totally uniform aka combined).
4) Chill until cool, for me this was about an hour. Then transfer to pastry bag for donut filling fun times!
* This chocolate pastry cream recipe was taken, with love, from the inimitable Joy The Baker