Chanukah has arrived! The Festival of Lights is observed by Jews all over the world. The holiday not only celebrates the miracle of one tiny jar of temple oil lasting eight days, but also the determination of our ancestors to fight for their independence from the Greek Empire. It is the ultimate manifestation of the partnership between mankind and the miraculous. As a result, it resonates deeply with modern Israelis, many of whom see the reconstitution of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel as a modern day miracle in the same vein as the story of the Maccabees.
As with all Jewish holidays, Chanukah traditions are packed full of symbolism. We play with Sevivonim, or Dreidels, a call back to the game that Jewish children played to hide their Torah study from nearby Greek soldiers. We light a Chaukiah, a menorah with eight branches, adding another candle each night to remind us that each day, we should strive to bring a little more light to the world. Most importantly, we eat foods fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of the oil.
While Jelly Doughnuts and Latkes, in Hebrew Sufganiyot and Levivot, respectively, are still the artery-cloggers of choice for most, I prefer Sfinge, a light, fritter-like Moroccan fried-dough that is both delicious, easy to make, and reminds me of my Moroccan heritage!
Shout out to Christine Benlafquih over at theSpruceEats.com for this recipe which has been my go-to for the last few years!
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (divided)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Optional: Granulated sugar or powdered sugar
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and set aside to proof for 10 or 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour with the salt and 1 cup warm water. Add the yeast mixture and stir vigorously with your hand or a heavy wooden spoon until smooth. The dough should be too sticky to knead or shape, almost like a thick batter.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and leave the dough to rise for 3 to 4 hours, until double or triple in bulk.
- In a wide, deep pot, heat 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil over medium heat until hot.
- Set out a bowl of water. Dip your hands in the water, then pull off a piece of dough about the size of a small plum. Use your fingers to make a hole in the ball of dough, stretch the hole wide to make a ring, and place the dough in the hot oil.
- Repeat with additional portions of dough, until you’ve added as many sfenj as will fit comfortably in your pot; do not overcrowd. Wet your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking as you work with it.
- Fry the sfenj until golden brown, turning once or twice. Remove the cooked sfenj to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- Repeat shaping and frying until you’ve used up all the dough.
- If desired, finish the hot sfenj by dipping in granulated sugar or by dusting with powdered sugar.
- Serve the sfenj hot or warm; they lose their texture and appeal when cold. Sfenj will not stay fresh very long at room temperature; it’s best to freeze leftover sfenj and then reheat in the oven when needed.
This recipe should yield between 8-10 sfinge, although one year I managed to get 15.
Sfinge is a great way to introduce a new tradition into your Chanukah celebration and is sure to spread a little extra light at any Chanukah party, especially when it’s topped with powdered sugar!
Chag Chanukah Sameach!