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  • Stella Hanan Cohen

Doughnut Puffs - Bimuelos (beignets)

Doughnuts, or deep-fried fritters, are the symbolic food amongst Judeo-Spanish communities on Hanukkah, when the Festival of Lights, the miracle of the burning oil lamp in the ancient temple in 166 BCE, is celebrated. Bimuelos is derived from the Spanish word bunuelo, which was a popular yeast dough fritter in medieval Spain.

I am offering my mother’s recipe that she recalls from her adolescence growing up in the Belgian Congo, called beignets. This delicious alternative is lighter and quicker to make using baking powder instead of yeast. Drizzle warm honey syrup over these golden doughnut puffs and then sprinkle with cinnamon and/or finely chopped pistachios. Bimuelos are customarily served with a delicious homemade raisin syrup (see below).

1 egg 1 cup whole milk 2 tsp vanilla extract 1 heaped cup plain (all-purpose) flour 1 heaped tsp baking powder ½ tsp salt

For the syrup: ½ cup sugar; ½ cup water; 3 tbsp clear honey For deep-frying: canola, grape-seed or other neutral oil For the topping: ground cinnamon; finely chopped pistachios (optional)

Beat the egg, milk and vanilla together in a bowl with a balloon whisk. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the mixture together until the batter is well combined. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Prepare the syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water in a small pan over a medium heat. Add the honey and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, without stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Keep warm over a very low heat while you fry the doughnut puffs. Heat 7.5cm (3in) oil in a deep, medium-sized, heavy-based pan and place over a medium heat until a drop of batter sizzles in it. Very gently ladle about 2 tablespoons of the batter into the sizzling oil. Fry for 2 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, turn over and fry for a further 1-2 minutes until a deep golden brown. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter. Fry in batches, of no more than 3 at a time. Adjust the oil temperature as necessary. Drizzle the warmed honey syrup over the puffs, dust with cinnamon and nuts (if using) and serve immediately. Makes 25.

Raisin syrup (arrope): 3 cups (450g/1lb) dark raisins; 5 cups water; 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice; ½ cup sugar. In a large, heavy-based pan, soak the raisins in the water for 15 minutes to plump up. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours until soft. Place the raisins and cooking liquid in a processor and pulse to a purée. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pushing through the pulp. Return to the pan, add the lemon juice and sugar and simmer for about 30 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until syrupy. Pour into a glass preserving jar and store in the fridge. This syrup can also be served with fried matza over Passover.

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