Sfinj (Moroccan Doughnuts)
Seeing every one of the flames lit on the last night of Chanukah was magical. I was mesmerized by the dancing flames, and my mind was calm enough to contemplate the significance of the moment, of how Chanukah lives within me and not a storybook. This sort of introspection should probably have occurred on the first night, but there was all sorts of busy, and so that it happened on the last was worthwhile just as much. Like a sort of culminating point that made me appreciate the true beauty of the holiday.
I find that there is an obsession with the things of Chanukah but little on the essence of Chanukah. And this essence of light, truth and perseverance is what I see in those flames and what I seek for my children, for me, for us. To hold onto the fierce, unyielding conviction of who we are. Pride to stay true to our values, strength to be a bright light, always striving higher, better. The fortitude to be different, to rise above for the right and true thing just like the rich olive oil against its water bed.
It's unreal that sometime too soon my children will be all sorts of grown up. They'll be their own people out in this massive world, sprinkled in different cities or maybe huddled together in the same neighborhood. Wherever they are, I wish only one thing; that they're always connected to their truest selves. That they cling to their values which will get tugged and threatened and questioned in this sometimes dark world and know that those values are their light. They'll see that the battle of long ago is still being fought every day. And they'll fight, relentlessly.
Those real, warm, and bright lights flickering atop the menorah represent this clarity of who we are, where we come from and where we're going. It's the essence of this holiday and one I hope gets instilled in my little ones' very soul, and in me.
These sfinj play a noteworthy role in my Chanukah. They're actually my grandmother's recipe and one she makes without fail every year. She's known for them. They are round Moroccan doughnuts made from a simple dough and fried until golden. They aren't very sweet so they get a drizzle of honey and sometimes powdered sugar for that perfect balance. I love making them not just for their taste but because I can just imagine my grandmother learning to make them as a young girl in her small Moroccan village and how connected I feel to something so foreign to me that's yet still a part of who I am. People say I resemble my grandmother in spirit and I think that's true and probably why it feels particularly befitting to be making these every Chanukah. Just like her.
Sfinj (Moroccan Doughnuts)
yields about 20 doughnuts
1kg (2.2lb) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3-3.5 cups warm water
1L of oil, for frying
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the egg and 1 cup of water and slowly mix.
Add the second cup of water and work the dough, kneading and adding more water until you reach a dough that's sticky but doesn't stick to your hands.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1.5 hours.
With wet hands, knead the dough a little more and prepare to fry.
Pour the oil into a 3 quart pot and heat on medium high until a thermometer reaches 350F. Place a small bowl filled with water and oil next to you to dip your hands while you shape the dough. Once the oil is ready, scoop a small round of dough, smooth it out between your hands, poke a hole in the middle with your fingers and twist the sides to create a ring. Drop into the hot oil and watch it puff. Fry for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking dish to cool. Repeat with the entire dough. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or more authentically, a drizzle of honey. Pairs well with mint tea.