Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hanukah Cookout Part III

I was always brought up to waste not, want not and after the sfinge I still had half a packet of yeast left over. So I decided to try my hand at making doughnuts (No insanity does not run in my family) 
I didn't have any particular recipe in mind so I turned to my favourite solution - the internet. 
I found several interesting recipes which didn't require yeast and they will be saved for later. However most yeast doughnuts seemed essentially the same and I decided to follow this one.
3 cups of flour seemed a little excessive to me and in fact, when I mixed up the dough 2½ cups was more than enough.

I left the dough to leaven but there was a problem. Although Israel is in the middle of winter, we live in a well-insulated apartment and as we hardly suffer the sub-zero temperatures we having no need for any form of central heating. This means that while our flat is not cold for a human being in a warm sweater it is a little chilly for yeast doing it's darnedest to leaven. Especially when it's a cloudy day and there is no sunbeam to lie in. What I mean to say is that the yeast didn't seem to active.

Meanwhile I decided that the lady I was visiting
 later that afternoon would appreciate something sweet and fluffy - Chocolate Mousse.

Chocolate Mousse is one of my standard recipes because it is easy to remember and the ingredients can almost always be found in my kitchen.
It is also popular with my guests, though its popularity can lead to its downfall as making enough can be an expensive proposition! 

Chocolate Mousse

4oz (125g) bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs

Melt chocolate in a bain-marie or in the microwave. Cool.
Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff. Beat yolks until thick and creamy. 
Mix chocolate into yolk mixture, stirring thoroughly so the warmth of the chocolate doesn't cook the egg... When chocolate is mixed into yolk so there are no streaks of colour carefully fold in egg whites. Mix carefully until there are no streaks of colour.
Chill in fridge for a couple of hours. It may be necessary to padlock the fridge door.

As far as possible I like to make my cakes and desserts non-dairy as I make them for Shabbat and holiday meals which are normally meat. However if you are eating dairy or keeping kosher does not play a part in your lives the yield of this recipe can be almost doubled by adding cream. It also makes it, surprisingly, less rich.

Take 4floz (125ml) of whipping cream, beat it until stiff and then add it to the chocolate mixture before the egg whites.

After that short chocolaty interval, back to the doughnuts.
Actually it was a good thing I had been nibbling (well I call it nibbling...:0) on some mood uplifting chocolate because my dough hadn't uplifted much at all.

Despite that fact, the dough still seemed quite light so I fired up the fryer.

I rolled two walnut sized balls of dough and dropped them in the oil. The seemed to brown much more quickly than the sfinge and, as I suspected, when I performed the obligatory taste test the centre wasn't properly cooked. 
I turned the fryer to its lowest temperature setting and tried again. After a second taste test, and this time I was also joined by my daughter, I concluded that the problem had been solved. 

Hanukah Cookout Part II

Buoyed up with my success at latkes I decided to take on sfinge - I'm half Sephardic and live in a Moroccan development town. It is almost a moral imperative.
However, I was still nervous about that recipe.
To be honest, with recipes I know well I do cook in the 'throw in a bit of this and that' style. But I have suffered several yeast baking disasters in the last couple of years and wanted to commence this endeavour with a feeling of confidence.

If I want to get started, I had to buy the Shimrit. Shimrit is the name of the dry active yeast sold in Israel. It is sold in 50g packets, which can get confusing when US recipes say to use one packet of dry yeast - in US dry yeast is sold in 1/4oz-8g packets. Big Difference :0)
I bought the packet of yeast and it has a picture of doughnuts on the front and on the back is a recipe for sfinge! Great, now I at least had an idea of relative quantities.
The yeast packet said 'Take 1 pkt of yeast, 1 kilo of flour....'. Even with my limited experience, I know that this amount of flour makes enough sfinge for a platoon of hungry soldiers. 
I used ½ the yeast, ½ kilo of flour and it made 2-3 dozen smallish sfinge. 

The day was sunny if cold and the dough leavened quite happily in the light of a sunbeam shining through our window. 

The next thing was the deep-frying. I have a pathological fear of deep-frying. Don't ask me why, it is illogical. 
When I lived at home there was almost no deep-frying - Fish and Chips came from the local Take Away (It was also the Chinese Take Away. The batter was unusual but tasty) and any other chips were those new-fangled oven-chips.
After my Dad trained as a chef he became a little braver with the boiling hot oil than the rest of us but I never deep-fried in my own home, though there was that short stint at McDonalds and the months on the kibbutz when I worked the diet corner of the kitchen and had to fry chips everyday.
For us at home a compromise would be an electric deep fryer but we have never got round to buying one. 
The other day I got on to the subject of cooking with one of my English students and when she heard I hadn't got a fryer she offered me hers. She no longer needed it now her grandson had grown up and was out of his chips craze.
At first I went crazy making falafel, egg rolls and chips with every meal but this was the first time I was going to make doughtnuts.

I pulled down the fryer and set it on the marble counter top. That was when I encountered a major problem - No oil  :0(
We hummed and hahhed as the nearest open shop was a 10-15 minute drive away. 
Then we had a brainwave and asked my parents to buy some on their way back from an ice-skating trip with my children.
The final result were quite delicious sfinge which due to our total inability to stop eating them have contributed to the latest increase in obesity statistics.

My Recipe
25g dry yeast
1/2 kg plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 cups (16 floz) water
Put all ingredients except water in a bowl. Mix. Add water slowly. Mix until dough is smooht 5-10 minutes. Leave to rise for 2-3 hours.  Shape dough with oily hands.  Deep fry at same temp used for chips until brown on both sides. Enjoy!

Hanukah Cookout Part I

Every year as we approach Hanukkah I plan to fry up fabulous batches of latkes and doughnuts. Using the holidays as an opportunity to display to my children the mixed delights of Hanukah and cooking.
But then some how my plans go awry. 
The first two candles of Hanukah the children are still at school and their evening time is taken up with parties and rehearsals and visits to friends. And even once they are holidays from school after school activities plough on regardless so that is two evenings wiped out and Saturday evening is spent with the in-laws.
Then the Hanukah holiday frequently falls near the end of December when my husband is busy with preparations for stocking in addition to the usual end of the month rush and I have 'end of month', 'end of quarter', 'end of year' and 'plain badly scheduled' financial reports to churn out. 
My children are quite happy to sit at home vegging in front of the TV or trying out the news games they have received as Hanukah 'gelt' and my parents normally dream up some trip to take them on so I don't suffer too much parent guilt for letting my children turn into couch potatoes. But that doesn't leave much time for a family frying adventure.

Considering that, in contrast to previous years, I now work outside the house 2 mornings and 2 evenings a week a Hanukah frying fest this year did not seem likely but then, as my mother will tell you, I always like to be contrary.
First of all I now possess a deep fat fryer which is great as I have a phobia of deep frying.
Second I shelved the idea of cooking with the children. My kitchen is small, my children are restless and we are dealing with hot oil.....
Thirdly I just seem to be in the mood - the weather is cold and I actually got to wear my hat and scarf a couple of times, even gloves.

So we come to Monday evening - second candle of Hanukah. My children, as part of the local orchestra, had been asked to perform at a Hanukah 'do' for the local council. (I will not dwell of the irony of wind instruments and a gathering of local government!)
Well the local council did their usual inconsiderate best keeping the children waiting for over an hour while each council member in turn pontificated on the wonders performed by himself and his fellow council members. 
Blah, blah, blah 'Aren't we doing fantastic things for Shlomi!', blah, blah, blah, 'Forget about the corruption and nepotism!', blah, blah, blah, 'Vote for me!'
The conductor was furious (Go Reuven!) and threatened to send the children home without performing. Most of us parents sat outside making snide comments about the council gas-bags and reviewing the various types doughnuts and sfinge offered as festive refreshment.

Sfinge, being a traditional Moroccan recipe, has an oral traditional - perfect conversation fodder for a group of restless residents, in a town started by Moroccan immigrants, with no way to pass the time except chat ie I was told the recipe by one of the women I work with as we were waiting.
A transcript of our discussion 
Her: You take 1-11/2 kilos flour, a packet of shimrit and a hand full of sugar (holds out a cupped hand to give me an idea of the quantity). Mix. Add at least a teaspoon of salt, be generous with the salt it adds flavour. Add water. Mix until smooth.
Me: How much water? 
Her : I don't know. Enough. You need quite a soft dough. Let it rise for at least an hour. Also if you add some alcohol it makes them better!!! 

Invigorated with enthusiasm for Hanukah baking I decided to make .....
(Look to the top of this post. It says something about me being contrary:0)
Actually I was going to make both doughnuts and latkes but I remembered to buy potatoes and forgot the yeast!
Latkes frequently suffer from my lack of patience as I grab them from the pan when the potoatoes are still cruncy and almost totally uncooked.
So I watched a couple of videos on making latkes to relax. 
I grated my potatoes and onions, mixed in the flour and egg and then set my timer set at 3 minute intervals while I glanced at the TV through the kitchen doorway treating the latkes sizzling in the pan with a certain nonchalant disregard instead of my usual method of staring at them intently, hoping by force of will to make them to cook at Mach 3.
They were really tasty and after munching through a kilo of latkes my family decided they didn't need any supper. 
Latkes for the win!
Unfortunately I was being so nonchalant I forgot to take a photo!