Visions of Sufganiyot and Struffoli

The aromas of butter wafting through the house, highlighted with cinnamon, anise, cardamom and toasted nuts signal the holidays are in full swing in my kitchen. How about in yours, what are you baking?

But butter isn’t the only star. There’s also a couple of traditional fried holiday treats that will be gracing tables – Israeli sufganiyot and Italian struffoli. Sufganiyot are berry-filled doughnuts and struffoli are little dough balls in a honey syrup garnished with nonpareils.

When you need a baking break, join us Tuesday when cookbook author and Tucson food culture expert Carolyn Niethammer discusses her latest masterpiece: “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage” and teaches us an incredibly delicious meal using heritage foods perfect for a weeknight or holiday.

It’s cheers to the bubbly on Thursday with Emilie Thomson of Plaza Liquors & Fine Wines. You’ll amp up your skills by creating two craft cocktails – Winter Snowflake and Arizona Cranberry – with sparkling wine dancing in your glass.

Stumped for a gift for the foodie in your life? Flying Aprons Tucson Gift Cards to the rescue or add it to your wish list. 

Happy Hanukkah to friends who’ll start celebrating today, maybe with sufganiyot!

Wishing you joy in the kitchen,








½ cup warm water, 90°-100° F.
2 ¼-ounce packets instant or active dry yeast, 4½ teaspoons
6½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups whole milk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or ¼ cup mild-flavored oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ medium lemon, finely grated zest
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
9 cups canola oil, divided
Cooking spray
1 cup seedless red berry jelly, such as strawberry or raspberry
⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Place the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low speed just until combined, 3-4 turns. Let sit until bubbly, foamy and smells strongly of yeast, 5-7 minutes.
2. Place flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk until combined; set aside.
3. Add milk, melted butter or oil, vanilla and zest to the yeast and mix on medium speed until fully combined.
4. Add eggs and mix on low speed until fully combined, about 1 minute.
5. Add flour mixture on low speed, 1-1½ cups at a time, increasing speed to medium and mixing until fully combined before adding more of the flour mixture back on low speed. After the first 3 cups have been added or when the dough no longer mixes with ease, switch paddle to the dough hook. Stop mixer as needed to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
6. Knead dough on low to medium-low speed until shiny, smooth, soft but not mushy and noticeably elastic, 6-7 minutes. This is a tacky dough and will wrap around the dough hook and clear the side of the bowl, but it will stick to the bottom.
7. Transfer dough to a large clean bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Refrigerate 2-2½ hours. It will increase in size almost 1½ times the original volume. This is a slow and partial rise allowing the dough enough time to rest.
8. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a work surface and rolling pin lightly with flour and scoop the dough onto the work surface. After chilling, the dough will no longer feel tacky, but soft, supple and easy to handle.
9. Divide dough into 2 portions, each about 30 ounces. Wrap 1 portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out the other about ¾-inch thick. Dip a 3-3¼-inch round cookie cutter or 3-inch-wide drinking glass in flour and cut out 8 rounds. Place remaining dough in a resealable plastic bag, seal and refrigerate.
10. Dust excess flour off the doughnuts with a pastry brush. Spray a spatula with cooking spray and use it to transfer dough rounds to the prepared baking sheets. Handling the cut doughnuts without stretching can be tricky, but if they’re slightly misshapen, re-form into rounds on the baking sheet. Cover with clean kitchen towels and allow to rise until expanded about 25%, about 15 minutes.
11. Pour 8 cups of oil into a deep, wide 6-quart Dutch oven. Oil should be at least 2½ inches deep and no more than halfway up the side. Fit a deep-fry thermometer in the oil, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot. If using an instant-read thermometer, position up near the stovetop. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and set near the stove. Have a kitchen spider or slotted spoon ready. Set a cooling rack over more paper towels. Heat the oil over medium heat until reaching 355°- 360° F. Adjust heat as needed during frying to stay within this temperature
12. Using spider or slotted spoon, gently place 4 doughnuts, one at a time, into the oil, careful not to splatter the oil and making sure they don’t touch each other. If the temperature drops below 350° F., quickly turn the heat up to get it back to 355°-360° F. The doughnuts will begin to expand as soon as they touch the oil. When golden-brown, about 1½-2 minutes, carefully turn them with spider or slotted spoon and fry the other side, about 1 ½-2 minutes, until deep golden-brown, crisp on the outside and cooked through. With spider or slotted spoon, carefully transfer to the towel-lined baking sheet. Gently place remaining 4 doughnuts in the oil and repeat the frying process. When the first 4 doughnuts are cool enough to touch, transfer to the cooling rack. When the second batch is fried, transfer to towel-lined baking sheet to cool. Turn the heat off. Let the first batch cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
13. Roll and cut the second piece of dough, saving the excess in the same plastic bag in the refrigerator. Repeat rising and frying. Turn the heat off after frying the last doughnut.
14. Dust the work surface lightly with flour again. Place refrigerated scraps on the work surface and knead together, about 1 minute. Cover dough with a kitchen towel and rest for 3 minutes while reheating the oil to 355°-360° F. Dust the rolling pin with flour, roll dough ¾-inch thick and cut 4 more doughnuts. There will be a little bit of dough left, which would be great for doughnut hole treats. Allow to rise for 15 minutes. Fry, drain and cool. Keep the batches separate as you’ll fill the cooled ones while the others are cooling.
15. Transfer jelly into a pastry bag fitted with a small, sharp tip or a squeeze bottle with small, firm tip. Insert tip into the side and squeeze 2-3 seconds or until you see a small dab of jelly at the point of entry. Place back on the cooling rack or a clean plate and repeat, working with second and third batches only after they’ve cooled.
16. Liberally dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Some struffoli makers shape theirs into a wreath, add hazelnuts and maraschino cherries but those of us who trace our roots to the Riverside section of Paterson, N.J., don’t.

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup honey
Vegetable oil, for frying, plus more for oiling baking sheet 
Nonpareils (colored sugar sprinkles), for garnish

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and, one at a time, stir in the eggs. Add the vanilla and mix well to make a soft dough.
2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Cut the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into a ¼-inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into ¼-inch wide strips. Roll each strip under the palms of your hands on the work surface to make long pencil-thick ropes. Cut the ropes into ¼-inch pieces. Transfer the dough pieces to a large, rimmed baking sheet.
4. Line another large, rimmed baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Pour enough oil into a large wide saucepan to come halfway up the sides and heat over high heat to 350º F. In batches without crowding, add the dough pieces and deep-fry, turning them as needed, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to the paper towels.
5. Lightly oil a round serving dish. Heat the honey in a large skillet over medium heat until warm and fluid. Add the fried balls and stir until completely coated. Spoon the balls onto the lightly oiled baking sheet to pile and shape into a cone. Garnish with the nonpareils. Let cool. To serve, break off clusters of the struffoli with your fingers.

Photo: Gurwin Photography.

Leave a Reply