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Attention: If you’re expecting a traditional recipe for either soufganiot, Chanukah’s jelly doughnuts; or zeppole, Italy’s Christmas fried dough–this ain’t it. Instead, we’ve combined both of those traditions, given them a non-traditional twist, and come up with these easy to make fried puffs.
There’s no yeast dough to knead, no baking powder dough to mix and roll and cut. Instead, a simple cream puff dough (pâte à choux) is dropped by the spoonful into hot oil, fried, and cooled. For Chanukkah, fill with jelly. For Christmas, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or fill with sweetened ricotta cheese.
P.S. For you traditionalists out there, we have in fact found recipes for both zeppole and soufganiot using pâte à choux–so we’re not being totally wacky here!
1 cup (8 ounces) water
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1/4 teaspoon salt (use 1/2 teaspoon salt if you’re using unsalted butter)
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 large eggs
Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture smoothes out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than a minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It'll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds.
Transfer the dough to a mixer, and beat in the eggs one at a time; the mixture will look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg. You’ll have a stiff, smooth batter.
If you have a deep fryer, add your favorite frying oil and preheat to 375°F. We used a 10" electric frying pan instead, adding ¾" vegetable oil and preheating to 375°Feasy to do, since the electric pan has a temperature gauge you can set.
Drop 1" balls of batter into the hot fat. A teaspoon cookie scoop makes this a simple job, and shapes perfectly round 1" balls. Don’t crowd the pan, as the balls will expand; we found that 15 puffs at a time was the maximum number the 10" pan could hold.
Fry the puffs for about 15 minutes, using a pair of tongs to turn them over occasionally. They’ll expand, and some will probably burst (gently), giving them an interesting shapethat’s fine. Remove them from the fat when they’re a medium tan color, and drain/cool on paper towels. Once the puffs are cool, fill or top as desired.
Yield: about 42 puffs.