Sunday, December 21, 2008

..... and on the first night

with hanukkah now upon us, tonight being the first of the 8 nights of the celebration, there is no better way to start things than with something sweet.

this is one holiday where counting your calories will have to be put on the backburner — most foods traditionally eaten for this celebration are fried in oil or prepared with it. while it doesn't have to make up the bulk of what you are eating during the week, you can't fully enjoy this festival of lights without partaking in some of 'the good stuff'.

one of the best things which are enjoyed at this time of the year — from the sefardic side — are golden billowy fritters, called bimuelos. crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, these delicious and addictive fried irregular shapes of dough are glazed with a honey (or sugar) syrup and, as we do it, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

the following recipe comes from my family and is very simple to make. like many sefardi recipes, it is based on the measurements of a drinking glass, wine glass or teacup, in this case a turkish teacup called 'la kupa' which equals 1/2 c or 4 oz. the recipe makes enough for three to four people (approx. 10 to 12 fritters) and is easily doubled or tripled. people tend to eat many of these so you will have to decide based on your crowd.

these bimuelos can also be made two ways: the first is the fritter (free form) way that is dropped from a spoon into the hot oil or as a type of 'doughnut' in which case the amount of flour in the recipe needs to be increased. first time makers of these fritters may want to start off with the dropped version as it is easiest.

note: this recipe is vegetarian/vegan - no eggs involved. if you are vegan, then make a sugar syrup instead of using honey (see lokma lessons).

happy hanukkah!
חג שמח
joyeuse fête des lumières!

bimuelos de hanuka

makes 10 to 12 fritters


1/2 c (+ 1 heaped tbsp) AP flour
1/2 tsp INSTANT yeast*
1/2 - 1 tsp sugar (i recommend 1 tsp)
good pinch of salt
1/2 c warm water
2 tsp light olive oil
grated orange zest, optional

1/3 c honey
1 - 2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp orange flower water (optional)

powdered sugar

*i use SAF INSTANT yeast which can be mixed directly with the flour. if you don't have it, use regular or rapid rise —> proof these types of yeast in the warm water with the sugar first and THEN add the salt, oil and the flour.

TO MAKE DONUT SHAPED ONES: increase flour to 2/3 c (you may need a little more ~ 1 to 2 tbsp). the final mixture should be slightly thicker than the above fritter one. remember the mixture will be kind of 'gloppy' once proved which is what you want but still hold a shape. see below for how to form donut shapes.


make your syrup first:

in a bowl for microwave, or small pan, place the honey and water in it. stir to mix. heat it until it is hot and then add the orange flower water, if using. set this aside for later.

now make your bimuelos:

in a bowl, place flour, sugar, instant yeast and salt and mix it together. otherwise proof regular yeast first in warm water with sugar and then add the flour. if using orange zest add it also.

add the warm water to the mixture and stir well with a whisk. add the olive oil. make sure there are no lumps. the mixture will be loose and somewhat watery (unless you are making donut type bimuelos).

place plastic wrap over the bowl and put in the oven with the pilot light on. you may want to warm your oven at 150F first for 1 minute.

let the mixture proof for about 60 minutes. it should be very bubbly and have risen.

take a spoon and mix the batter. you will notice the texture is somewhat like wallpaper paste! that is what you want.

heat your oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. make sure it is hot but NOT smoking hot. if the oil is too hot or too cold, the bimuelos will be either burned or greasy and uncooked in the centers. drop a small amount of batter in the oil and see if it immediately floats and sizzles with bubbles around the dough. if it does, then proceed.

always only test one bimuelo first to check your oil.

drop the batter by tablespoon into the hot oil. it will immediately puff up. bubbles will form on the top.

wait until the top looks cooked and is not raw before turning it. if the heat is too high, remove the pan to another burner and lower your heat a little and continue frying.

turn the bimuelos over and fry both sides til golden brown.

IF MAKING DONUT shaped bimuelos, either oil your hands well or wet them with water but shake off the water. you want moist, not wet, hands. place a tablespoon or two of batter in the center of your palm and then press a hole in the middle of the dough and open it up a bit. carefully place the bimuelo in the oil. DO NOT DROP IT or you will be splattered with oil.

with a slotted spoon, remove them to a platter or cookie sheet which is well lined with paper towel. let them drain while you continue to fry the rest of the fritters.

when serving, either dip the bimuelos in the honey syrup or drizzle it over them on a platter.

optional: sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon over them before eating. they're really best this way! :))

ADVANCE PREPARATION TIP: while i don't recommend it, you can make these earlier in the day, frying them and storing for serving later. place them in a 350F oven on a cookie sheet. glaze them before serving. i don't recommend it simply because these are at their best served just after you make them; it is, however, still possible to do. if you are making them ahead of time, underfry them a little and finish them off when reheating in the oven.