There are two foods that are traditionally eaten by Jews on Chanukah (Hannouca in French): latkes and sufganyot, or jelly-filled donuts. This Chanukah, I had the idea to make a treat that is similar to sufganyot, but is a traditionally eaten in France at carnaval. In the St. Etienne and Lyon area, where my husband is from, they are called bugnes (something like boonye), and they are similar to beignets. Bugnes are made from a buttery brioche-like dough and fried up into small, crisp bites lightly dusted with sugar. They are delicious, and a perfect treat for Chanukah, the holiday of fried food.
I have perfumed them here with orange flower water, which I absolutely love. Fleur d’oranger as it is called in French has a sweet, floral fragrance that is highly appreciated in the Mediterranean area- North Africa in particular, and you can find it locally in stores that stock Middle Eastern products. If you can’t find orange flower or would rather not use it, add extra vanilla, a dash of rum, or bit of orange juice instead.
So here is a recipe that has become an annual Chanukah tradition in my French/Jewish household: Bugnes de Hannouca. This is a dairy recipe, but dairy ingredients can be substituted with non-dairy equivalents.
Bugnes de Hanoucca
Makes about 3 dozen bugnes
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 packets of granulated yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 stick of butter or non-dairy alternative
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 4 tsp orange flower water (or rum or orange zest)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- vegetable oil to fry
- powdered sugar for serving
In a large bowl, place all the dry ingredients and blend. Make a well in the center, and break the eggs into it. In a microwave-safe dish, melt the butter, and then add the water to cool the butter. Add this mixture to the eggs. Then follow with the rest of the wet ingredients.
Mix the dough well with a wooden spoon. Once it comes together, sprinkle with flour and knead (pulling up from the bottom and folding over) for a minute or two to make a smooth dough. If the dough is too wet add small amounts of flour until the ball holds together and can be lightly kneaded. This dough is supposed to be fairly loose and not stiff. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for at least 3 hours until it gets puffy. Alternatively, the dough can be left in the refrigerator for a day or two.
When you’re ready to fry, add canola or other neutral oil to a heavy, large frying pan or pot to the depth of at least 2 inches. Heat the oil to approximately 320-330 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re not sure of the temperature, add a small piece of dough. The oil should bubble actively all around the dough and quickly bring it to the surface.
Roll out sections of the dough with a floured rolling pin to about 1/4 inch in thickness, and cut in rows. Next, cut across at a diagonal to make slanted rectangles (parallelograms if I recall my grade school geometry). Traditionally a slit is cut into this rectangle and one end is pulled through the hole. Any shape will work, though.
Drop the dough in the oil. Keep a close eye on the donuts, and flip them when they begin to get golden. Don’t wait until they are too brown to flip, or they will easily turn too dark. When both sides are lightly golden, remove and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve promptly.