Chanuka may come only once a year but when it comes it's here for 8 days. That means for 8 days you have parties with family, 8 versions of latkes, and and endless amount of doughnuts- or something like that anyway. The miracle of oil is taken pretty seriously. It's almost like it's a mitzva of the day to have something fried. I'm not sure how we ended up getting so serious about this frying thing but what I do know is that it's probably one of the tastiest holidays on the Jewish calendar, and that is saying a lot!
There are several dieting tactics that come along with such circumstance. It's kind of like the 4 daughters of Chanuka, the same way Pesach has 4 sons. There's the eat for 8 days and don't care and go on a huge diet afterward (or not). There's the I'm going to eat every doughnut in sight and then complain about how fat I am for 8 days straight. There's the I'll have one doughnut and one latke for the whole Chanuka so it better be a good one. And then there's the I'm going to make the doughnuts and latkes and serve em up all sweet-like but don't eat any of them and never know what I'm missing.
Needless to say, if your the second person or the last person I'm not going to be talking to you for 8 days. No hard feelings. Just don't need that kind of negativity in my life right now. If you are the first person I'm not sure you will be doing much talking for 8 days since there is so many things to try and so little time! And if you are the last person, like me were probably going to have some pretty intense conversations about which doughnut or latke we are going to choose. There may be 8 days worth of doughnuts but it's so sad number of doughnuts that are actually worth eating! There's always going to be a reliable latke. Everyone knows that Bubby, or Aunt Debbie, or Tante Baila makes the best latke around and you are already marked your calendar as "Taken" for that night! The doughnut is the hard part.
To know what kind of doughnut to pick you have to know whether or not you like Cakey doughnuts or Yeasty. Cakey doughnuts use baking powder or soda to help the doughnut rise. This means that it's texture is going to be thick, crumbly and perfect for dunking and coating. Think enteman's. A yeasty doughnut has yeast to help it rise, so it is fluffy and airy. Perfect for filling and frosting. This is the classic sufganiyot that we see every year. There's also baked doughnuts which are usually made with baking soda/powder like Cakey doughnuts. Don't eat those. They aren't worth it. They taste like muffins in a doughnut shape. If your gonna go doughnut, go all the way! I happen to be partial to yeasty doughnuts. Something about the way you bite into it and it fills your whole mouth but you aren't choking type just makes me happy.
I'm not talking to the people here who have Uri's or Bagels and Greens available near them. Obviously, your choice is made. It was almost made for you. Like you had no choice at all besides chocolate with cream cheese filling. But for the people who don't have that around, we need to get to why we are really here, and that is to find the best doughnut out there.
I found it! And I'm not tooting my own horn but it came from my own kitchen. I didn't make up the recipe, the original recipe is from a place called Pies and Fries in New York (not kosher) that makes them in a whopping 3 lbs size. It's like a whole meal! The original recipe called for something like 2 pound of butter for the toffee alone! Lucky for you, I shrunk the recipe down to a family friendly size. These doughnuts are everything you could want from a doughnut, or everything I could want from a doughnut anyway. They are light and airy, with a not too sweet dough dunked in a coma of a sugar glaze and topped with chopped pecans (yum!) and homemade toffee bits (yummer!!!!). It's not filled with anything but trust me when I say it doesn't even need it! Really doesn't! It's moist and full of flavor that I had way more than one (so much for my limit!) it's got crunch and a little chew but it's still fluffy and airy. Probably one of the top ten doughnuts I ever tasted.
It takes some time to make so be sure to start it the night before. It's totally worth it though! The dough is really easy to work with and the hands on part isn't so bad, it just needs a lot of time to rest. These doughnuts are dairy, and I made them dairy but you can substitute vegan butter for butter and soy/coconut milk for milk. When you are making the toffee, keep the fire really low. It's going to take longer to make the actual toffee but you lower your risk of burning it which would be bad. Also don't leave it alone. It always burns the second you turn your back!
When you roll out the dough for the doughnuts I wouldn't recommend rolling more than 1-2 times. Then the dough gets tough and doesn't taste or puff up as nice. One last thing, don't fry more than 2-3 doughnuts at once unless you have a really great or big fryer. The temperature will drop significantly with each doughnut you fry so you don't want to add too many at once. Also don't throw your leftover oil down the drain it will clog your pipes. Wait till it cools and then throw it away in a bag. One more last thing. Safety! No one needs the Chanuka miracle to involve surviving oil splashes ch"vs! Keep little kids out of the kitchen and never drop anything into or touch the hot oil! Use a slotted spoon to insert and remove your doughnuts from the oil always!!! Last last thing! I promise! When you dunk the doughnut in the topping, set aside a little plate of the pecan-toffee mixture and keep refilling it. Otherwise the mixture will get too wet from the glaze and won't stick to the doughnut. Anything else? I know I'm forgetting something... Don't you hate when that happens?
Oh! The recipe!
Enjoy and Happy Chanuka!!!
Butter Pecan Doughnuts
3/4 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar minus 1 tablespoon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold milk
4 cups flour plus more for dusting
1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
5 ounces of shortening
1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups toasted pecans
1 cup milk
2 boxes confectioners sugar, sifted
For the donuts: Add the yeast, sugar, milk, flour, salt, eggs, egg yolks and shortening to a mixing bowl (in the order listed). Mix on low speed with a dough hook attachment until the dough is very smooth and elastic and makes a slapping sound against the sides of the bowl, 5-10 minutes. Scrape the dough into a greased container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Two hours before you want to roll the dough, remove it from the refrigerator to temper. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and roll to 1/2-inch thick. Cut the donuts using a donut cutter and place on a tray with parchment paper that's been greased and floured. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1 hour.
Turn on your deep fryer to 325 degrees F. When they are ready to fry, the donuts will be very light and airy feeling; they should barely hold their shape when handled. Fry for 2 minutes per side. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels.
For the butter crunch: First, make the toffee. Heat the butter, granulated sugar and salt in a nonreactive pan on medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until deep golden or camel colored. Pour onto a silicone baking mat or sprayed parchment paper on a tray and let cool completely. It will be very hard and shatter if you tap it. Then, grind the toffee in a food processor with the toasted pecans. It should be uniformly finely ground.
For the glaze: Whisk the milk and confectioners' sugar together until perfectly smooth. Strain to remove any lumps.
To assemble: Dunk the cooled donuts in the glaze. Let it drain for 1 minute. Roll the donut in the butter crunch, making sure to completely cover all sides.
Recipe adapted and reduced from The Food Network