While I understand that Hanukkah has been made into a bigger holiday than it was ever meant to be, I am happy to make it the big deal that it is not. As someone who grew up in a household that wasn’t Jewish or Christian, I was surprised to discover how lonely I felt and how much I longed to celebrate something at this time of year. Now that I am part of the Jewish fold, I can’t get enough of the holiday celebrations–especially the food.
To symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days instead of one, Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Fried foods can often taste really heavy, so I like to swap out all purpose flour with mochi flour (Japanese glutenous rice flour). This adds a certain lightness to everything from fried chicken, to latkes, to this take on sufiganiyot–the Israeli jelly doughnut enjoyed during the Festival of Lights.
I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, so I never really cared for doughnuts of any kind. However, when I lived in Japan, I discovered a doughnut I couldn’t stop eating: Mr. Donut Pon de Ring. The Mr. Donut mascot is a lion, so the “pon de ring” shape is meant to symbolize the lion’s mane. These donuts are now ubiquitous and can be found all over East Asia.
Instead of the classic pon de ring shape, I’ve left them deconstructed as doughnut holes and served them alongside various jams for dipping. This recipe is my dairy-free gluten-free, Jewish interpretation of this mochi doughnut recipe.
1. For the jams, if you can purchase good quality jams, go with that. I receive homemade jam from family and friends throughout the year and always have a few bottles already in my fridge. To make a jam for dipping, I just put about a cup of jam into a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. The smoother consistency makes it easier to eat when you dip the donuts later.
2. Make the starter dough: Add the mochiko to a small pot along with the coconut milk over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the dough feels spring-y and looks similar to the photo above. Set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
3. To make the doughnut dough: Add the cooled starter dough and all of the doughnut ingredients to a stand mixer bowl with the dough hook. Mix everything on low until it looks like the dough is starting to come together. Turn up the speed to medium and mix until everything has come together. It will still appear a bit sticky. Touch it lightly to test it- if it doesn’t stick to your finger, it’s ready.
4. Add about 3 inches of vegetable oil to your frying pan and turn the heat to medium-low. To test if the oil is hot enough, insert the end of a wooden spoon or uncoated wooden chopstick into the oil. If the oil starts to steadily bubble around it, it’s ready. If the oil is bubbling really vigorously, it’s too hot. If you want to be super precise, around 350◦F is ideal.
5. Rub a thin coat of vegetable oil onto your hands. Roll the dough out into .75 oz balls and drop them carefully into the oil. When they start to brown (about 2 minutes on each side), use heat-safe tongs or chopsticks to turn them over. Transfer to a paper towel-lined cooling rack to cool.
6. Dust with powdered sugar and serve alongside an assortment of jams.