I grew up Jewish. During Chanukah we ate dinner, lit the menorah, and I received a gift. This went on for eight nights. Never have I heard about serving doughnuts during this time until I was an adult. I still don’t know what the correlation is between jelly doughnuts and Chanukah. Why jelly and not Boston creme or chocolate or any other flavor?
Here is a recipe from Zabar’s, one of my favorite New York City establishments. Because I don’t particularly like jelly doughnuts, I have not made this recipe and can’t vouch for how they taste. If any of you decide to try this recipe feel free to share your comments on how they turn out. And if you know how the relationship between jelly doughnuts and Chanukah started, please share.
1/2 cup warm water
5 teaspoons dry yeast
1/3 cup plus a pinch of granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk or water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted vegetable shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/4 – 5 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups jam or jelly of your choice, at room temperature (optional)
Granulated or confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Allow the mixture to stand for a couple of minutes to allow the yeast to swell or dissolve. Stir in the remaining sugar, the milk, vanilla, eggs, oil, salt, and most of the flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 5 to 8 minutes, by hand or with a dough hook, adding more flour as needed to form a firmer dough that is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, place the bowl in a plastic bag, and seal. (If not using right away, you can refrigerate the dough at this point.) Let the dough rise for about 1 hour. Gently deflate it. (If the dough is coming out of the fridge, allow it to warm up for about 40 minutes before proceeding.)
Pinch off pieces of dough and form them into small balls, a little larger than a golf ball. Alternatively, roll the dough out to about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 21/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out rounds.
Cover the doughnuts with a clean tea towel and let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Heat about 4 inches of oil in a deep fryer or a heavy Dutch oven to about 385°F. (see Note).
Add the doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, to the hot oil and fry until the undersides are deep brown. Turn over once and finish frying the other side. The total frying time will be no more than 11/2 to 3 minutes. Lift the doughnuts out with a slotted spoon and drain them well on paper towels.
To fill, make a small opening and spoon in jam or jelly or shake the doughnuts lightly in a paper bag with regular or confectioners’ sugar.
NOTE: To test oil temperature, it is a good idea to try frying one doughnut to start with. Once the doughnut seems done, take it out and cut it open to see if the inside is cooked. Then proceed with the rest. Try to fry at a temperature at which the oil bubbles but is not so hot that you brown the doughnut before the center is cooked.