Doughnuts for Hanukkah
Photo: Dave Carlinx
Hanukkah Doughnuts

By Tina Wasserman

When I was a child, we frequented a little hamburger joint. We sat at the counter and after eating we jumped from our stools to watch the doughnut machine perform its miracle. A round of batter was plopped into a metal section in the oil and slowly it moved like a carousel in a circle until it arrived at the halfway point, where a metal arm lifted out of the oil and flipped the doughnut over to continue its cooking journey. At that end it was thrust out onto a chute, to our delight. There was nothing better than a fresh doughnut!

Hanukkah is coming and latkes and sufganiot (doughnuts) are culinary icons of this holiday, but not for the reasons that you might think. The story of the vial of oil lasting eight days is an ancillary reason for its inclusion in the holiday festivities. I’m getting ahead of myself because a Jewish inventor and a Jewish entrepreneur were instrumental in the popularity of doughnuts in the U.S. and members of the labor movement, Histadrut, were the creators of the tradition of eating sufganiot for Hanukkah is Israel.

A little doughnut history: Doughnuts were first introduced to the New World by Dutch settlers and they probably got their present moniker from the fact that, in the mid-1800s, a New England wife of a ship’s captain would place a nut in the center of the dough ball to promote even cooking and the name “doughnut” was introduced. Fast-forward to 1920, when a Russian Jewish immigrant named Adolph Levitt invented a machine that could rapidly produce his very popular “donuts” (he was the first to shorten the name). Soon he was selling his doughnuts and his machines nationally to feed the doughnut craze. His was the prototype for my childhood memory. And, to cement his place in history, he placed a sign on each of his stores that said, “As you ramble on through life, brother, whatever be your goal, Keep your eye on the donut, and not on the hole.” Jewish doughnut history progressed when William Rosenberg opened his first Dunkin Donuts in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1948.

And sufganiot? Originally fried dough treats were brought to Israel by Polish Jewish immigrants. But in the early 1920s the Histadrut (labor union) made the jelly doughnut popular for Hanukkah because it was too difficult to make at home and, if sold commercially, it would provide work opportunities in the farming, manufacturing, retail and delivery businesses to workers in need of employment. The rest, as they say, is history! So enjoy the following recipes that I have created that aren’t so hard to make. Or, there is always Dunkin Donuts!

Apple Fritters Two Ways

This recipe can be made into apple rings or puffy balls of dough with pieces of apple embedded. Either way they are delicious coated with this spice mixture that can be used in many other recipes. No peeling required, which makes it easy to prepare!

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 11/3 cups seltzer or club soda
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (use smaller amount if using club soda instead of seltzer)
  • ¾ teaspoon spice mixture (see recipe below)
  • 3 firm, medium sized apples (Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith)
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • 2 to 4 cups canola or corn oil for frying


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of the following spice mixture:

Spice Mixture:

  • 5 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  1. Combine all the spices in the spice mixture in a 4-ounce jar. Cover and shake to combine. Set aside until needed; afterward, place closed jar in the freezer for future use.
  2. If you want apple rings, wash the apples, core and then slice the apples horizontally into ¼-inch rings. There is no need to peel the apples! If you want apple fritters with chunks of apple, then cut the apples into ½-inch dice. Either way, place the apples in a 2-quart bowl and coat with the citrus juice of choice. Set aside until all ingredients are ready to assemble.
  3. In a 1-quart bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Set aside.
  4. In a 3-quart bowl, whisk the egg until well combined. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Add the seltzer and lightly whisk until egg mixture is evenly dispersed.
  5. In a soup bowl, combine the topping ingredients and set aside until needed.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oil to a temperature of 350 degrees in a 10- to 12-inch cast iron frying pan or a deep fryer to a depth of at least 1½ inches in the frying pan or 3½ inches in a deep fryer.
  7. While oil is heating, place crumpled paper towels on a large rimmed cookie sheet or pizza pan. Set aside.
  8. When ready to make your fritters, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth. Drain the apples and add the apple slices or chopped apples to the batter.
  9. Have a ¼-cup dry measuring cup or large serving spoon, a wire skimmer or shallow mesh strainer ready for use.
  10. When oil registers the correct temperature, scoop up the batter in the measuring cup or spoon and gently place it in the hot oil. Repeat with additional batter until the pan is full but the fritters aren’t touching. Fry on one side while you gently bathe the tops of the fritters with some oil. Check temperature of the oil periodically to make sure the oil isn’t too cool or too hot.
  11. When under side of fritter is golden, using a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, gently flip the fritters over and cook until bottom is golden. This should take 1-2 minutes per side. Don’t let them get too dark.
  12. Remove cooked fritters from the pan with desired utensil and place on the crumpled paper towels.
  13. Repeat with additional apple rings or apple fritters added to the pan and while the second batch is frying, toss the cooked fritters in the spiced sugar mixture and place on a clean plate.
  14. Serve the cooked fritters as soon as possible.

Yield: 12 or more fritters or 12-15 apple ring fritters

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • Club soda contains a small amount of salt, which is why I offer a lower-salt alternative in the ingredients if you are using that instead of seltzer.
  • Beer may be substituted for the carbonated water; a 12-ounce can is slightly more than the 11/3 cup of liquid called for.
  • Apple peel contains flavor cells which enhance the flavor and frying softens the peel.
  • 1 3½-inch or medium apple will yield about ¼ diced apple.

Vegan Spiced Cake Doughnuts

No need to leave out your friends who are vegan or who are allergic to eggs or milk. These are actually quite delicious and very easy to make. Worth buying a doughnut baking pan but if you don’t have one, make mini-muffins instead. If you prefer, a confectioner’s sugar glaze can be used to coat the tops and even sprinkles can be added as well.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup flavored oat milk (I used pumpkin spice oat milk from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil for topping
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Spray a doughnut hole pan (I use a mini-doughnut pan that makes 12 doughnuts) with cooking spray or wipe insides with an oiled paper towel. Set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a 2-quart mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the coconut oil in a microwave for 15 seconds and stir to completely melt.
  4. Combine the oat milk with the melted oil and vanilla and then whisk into the dry ingredients, stirring until just blended.
  5. Using a small spoon, gently place the batter into each doughnut form, using just enough to fill each form almost to the top so it keeps its shape when baking.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown but not dark.
  7. Remove from oven and pans. Cool for 1 minute while you mix the sugar and cinnamon in an 8-ounce bowl.
  8. Melt the 2 additional tablespoons of coconut oil in a small glass dish in the microwave.
  9. To coat the doughnuts, dip the doughnuts lightly into the melted oil and then dip in the cinnamon and sugar. Place on a plate and serve as soon as possible.

Yield about 12 mini-doughnuts or 6-8 regular-sized

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • I prefer oat milk because it has a thicker consistency and no nuts as in almond milk. You could use a flavored pareve coffee creamer. If you don’t have flavored oat milk, then up the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter.
  • An easy way to fill the doughnut molds is to cut a small corner off a quart-sized freezer bag, then fill the bag with the batter and gently squeeze into the forms.
  • The melted oil helps the cinnamon and sugar adhere better to the doughnuts because there is little fat in the batter. You could, however, just dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Banana Cinnamon Doughnut Holes

Fried, yes, but no yeast in this recipe! Light and airy, these small, round doughnuts can be filled with jelly or even a chocolate spread if you want. Coated with cinnamon and sugar or confectioner’s sugar, these are easy to pop in your mouth…over and over again! Enjoy.

  • 11/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup whole milk (2% is okay)
  • 1 very ripe banana, finely mashed (yields about ¼ to 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or corn oil
  • 2 or more cups canola or corn oil for frying
  • 1 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon for topping
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar in a 2-quart bowl.
  1. In a 1-quart bowl, whisk egg, milk, mashed banana and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
  2. Combine remaining 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a flat soup bowl and set aside until needed.
  3. Stir banana mixture into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Do not overmix.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot or deep fat fryer (Fry Daddy is good for this or a deep cast iron skillet with 3-inch sides) until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees.
  5. Have a large tray ready with crumpled paper towels covering the surface.
  6. Using a #100 small food scoop or a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon, drop dough into the hot oil 5 or 6 at a time and fry until golden brown on one side, about 30 seconds. Roll the doughnuts over and fry for another 30 seconds. Do not let the doughnuts get too dark. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  7. Roll the finished balls in cinnamon sugar while still warm.
  8. Before serving, if desired, poke a hole in each and pipe in some jelly or even some Nutella or Israeli chocolate spread.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • The banana flavor is very subtle but gives the doughnut a wonderful consistency. You might try mashed butternut squash or canned pumpkin as an alternative but I like the banana.
  •  A #100 food scoop is a small ice cream scoop with a 1-inch diameter. You can find it at a restaurant supply house and it will come in handy for many other cooking applications. Perfectly round drop cookies are formed using this utensil so buy a few sizes for later use!
  • Crumpled paper towels will provide more surface area for absorbing excess oil and will use much less towels to do so.

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