Sfenj, Moroccan Doughnuts
They were our Sunday Morning treat. And not just on Chanukkah, but year round. For these Delicious Sfenj and many other Chanukkah Treats, and for very useful tips on Frying, please go on my blog post Latkas International: Frying Tips and Recipes.
Fact: We never made Sfenj at home
I feel slightly, but not too, guilty confessing very few people I grew up with in my native Morocco made them at home. We preferred the infinitely more fun weekly ritual of standing on the endless line at the nearest shuk to get a couple of “bracelets” of Sfenj: dozens of piping hot doughnuts strung on a seemingly mile-long palm leaf ribbon neatly tied at the ends.
Running out to buy Sfenj:
That’s one errand we kids used to fight to get recruited for. Not only because we met all our buddies on the line, but because we could munch on a Sfenj or two on our way home (quality control a must, right?). We kept it going when we got home where we got them snatched off the palm ring one by one, and enjoyed them with huge pots of fresh mint tea.
But the lovable Sfenj guy is nowhere to be found in many parts of the world, and they are a huge favorite, and indeed quite easy to make. Feather-light, with no sugar other than the little pinch that helps the yeast rise, and the occasional added sugar sprinkle, Sfenj are my favorite doughnuts of all, and, with Latkas, they are my favorite Chanukkah treat of all.
Don’t get daunted by the instruction about placing the skewer right in the center, and turning it around and around, just three to four seconds total, to form the trademark doughnut hole; trust me, nothing to it! And it’s part of the whole sfenj folklore. But if you are still intimidated, go ahead and shape the hole with your fingers, end of story.
Yields about 2 dozen
- 1 ½ tablespoons dry yeast
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cups flour, all purpose, whole wheat pastry or whole-grain spelt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Enough oil to fill a heavy deep heavy stainless steel pot about 3 inches
- A metal skewer
Mix the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl or measuring cup. Let the mixture rest about 5 minutes. In the bowl of your dough maker, pour in the yeast mixture and add the flour and the salt. Knead about 3 minutes, till the dough is smooth. It will be looser than bread dough: do not be tempted to add more flour. If you are kneading the dough by hand, knead it for about 15 minutes. Let the dough rest, covered with a towel, in a warm draft-free place for about 1 ½ hours.
Heat the oil, and when very hot, set the flame on medium-high. Smear a little oil on your hands and form a small ball with the dough. Flatten the ball with your hands and throw it in the oil. Immediately insert the skewer in the center of the ball and form a hole about 1 inch. Or simply form the whole with your fingers before throwing the sfenj in the oil. Repeat with the rest of the dough, in batches, without crowding, allowing space for the sfenj to grow. The doughnuts will swell and when ready, will turn golden brown and come up to the surface of the oil. Transfer the sfenj to a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Serve the Sfenj hot.
Sprinkle with sugar. Or not.