Chanukah is the holiday of lights, miracles, and donuts! Every year, for Chanukah, I make the classic jelly donuts – “sufganiyot” in Hebrew – but this year, I decided to go back to my roots. For the first time in my life I made Moroccan Donuts, or “sfinj.” Sfinj are traditional Moroccan donuts.
I was a bit nervous because my mother never made them, so I assumed that they are hard to make (when I told her that I made them and it was easy she said she never liked them or any fried pastry, that’s why she never made them). The dough is made with fresh yeast and is pretty easy to make, but it is very soft and sticky, so you must work quickly.
Honestly, I enjoyed the process, it was therapeutic.
The great thing and the bad thing about these yummy pastries is that they’re fluffy and light, much lighter and fluffier than traditional sufganiyot.
AND the best part: they are vegan!
Before you start, you should know that the dough needs one and half or two hours to rise. Also, I urge you to make sure that the frying pan is placed on a rear burner and that the small kids are not in the kitchen.
Optional: my husband came up with the brilliant idea to coat them with cinnamon mixed with sugar, which made them taste like churros. My neighbor suggested to drizzle them with maple or agave syrup. You can also simply eat them with jam. God they’re so good.
moroccan donuts – sfinj
- 7½ cups 1 kg unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1.8 oz. 50 g fresh baker’s yeast or 4 teaspoons dry active yeast
- ⅔ cups coconut sugar - or cane sugar
- 3⅓ cups 800 ml. lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup canola oil in a small bowl – for dipping hands while working with the dough
- Canola oil for deep frying
- For dipping or coating: plant-based caramel - maple syrup, agave or honey
- Put the flour in an extra large bowl (the dough will rise and double its size), add the yeast. If you're using baker's fresh yeast then crumble it with your hands into the bowl. Add sugar and salt, and mix the ingredients with your hand. Pour the water in and stir with your hand for 5 - 10 minutes. The dough should be very soft and sticky so don’t be tempted to add flour!
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it somewhere fairly warm – just over room temperature – but not too warm, e.g., don’t leave it near a radiator! Wait until it doubles in size – about 1 ½ - 2 hours.
- When the dough is finally proofed, give it a quick stir with a wooden spoon dipped in oil for 1 minute, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rest until it doubles in size – about 30 minutes.
- Put enough oil for deep frying in a wide deep skillet (about 3" deep) and turn the heat on medium high. (To check if the oil is at the right temperature, put a small piece of carrot in the pan. You should see bubbles. If there are no bubbles around the carrot, then the oil is not hot enough. If the carrot turns brown in less than 15 seconds, then the oil is too hot.)
- When you're ready to fry, dip your hands in oil, then grab a handful-size dough with one hand, pull it up, and, with the other hand, pinch off the piece. Hold the dough with two hands, and punch a hole in the middle of it with your fingers. (It sounds complicated but it's really easy and fun). Stretch the dough a bit to create a ring, then gently place it in the pan. Fill the pan with as many rings as you can fit. Make sure you have enough space to flip them.
- Cook until the bottom of the sfinj is golden brown, then flip them with a stainless steel slotted spoon – about 2 minutes each side.
- While the sfinj are frying, place a paper towel on a large flat plate. When the sfinj are done on both sides, remove them from the pan and place on the paper towel, and start frying your second batch.
- While you wait for the second batch to cook, drizzle or coat the ones that are done with the caramel sauce, maple syrup or honey. They are best when fresh and warm but still let them cool for a few minutes before you take a bite.