Yum says the uppitty shiksaFrom Brakha’s Kitchen to you!

This year my Mom, Brakha, made sufganiot for the big family Chanukah dinner. As many of you might know, Chanukah is celebrated in part by eating oily food (to commemorate the oily nature of the big miracle). Most Ashkenazic Jews eat potato latkes and many Sephardic/Israeli Jews eat sufganiot – basically a doughnut, usually filled with some kind of sweet filling (for those of you still in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post has an excellent article on where to find the best sufganiyot in town). Being the kind person that I am, I asked Brakha for the recipe so that I could share it here on Jewlicious. Mom’s sufganiyot have no filling but derive their special magic from their freshness and this awesome honey-citrus glaze, as well as the subtle interplay between the slightly crispy glaze and the soft delicate inside.

So Mom started telling me how to make it and it quickly devolved into You take some flour – how much? – some! What?! Just listen! and You mix in the water – How much water Mom? – Enough till it feels right. Well needless to say no useful recipe was imparted. She did send a mess of them up to the office though and the picture is of the uppitty shiksa about to enjoy a yummy sufganiya.

However, there is another oily treat that we and other Jews from Morocco eat. It’s called sfenj. That’s right. Sfenj. It’s really good and if you are Ashkenazic, imagine how impressed your Chanukah guests will be with your cosmopolitan ways as they munch on this thing called sfenj. Anyhow, this doughnut variant is amazing. Here comes the recipe, all measured out in exact portions, suitable for use even in an Ashkenazi (or half Ashkenazi 🙂 ) kitchen. Enjoy!

(Moroccan Doughnuts)

Makes 20-3 inch “doughnuts”
(although I believe Sfenj transcends the doughnut designation)

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packets (4 1/2 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg lightly beaten
1 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons warm water
8 cups canola oil for frying
Sugar for coating the Sfenj

Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper dusted with flour. In bowl of standing mixer, mix flour, instant yeast and salt with a hand whisk to combine well. Engage bowl and attach bread hook; add egg, blending until mixed (note: Brakha does this by hand). Slowly add 1 cup of the warm water. Knead with hook on low speed for 10 minutes, adding up to 2 tablespoons more water to produce a soft, smooth and elastic dough.

Roll dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Put bowl into large, clean plastic bag and let dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size – 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Turn dough onto floured surface and gently press out the air, forming into rough rectangle. With sharp knife, cut dough into quarters and each quarter into five roughly equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and push out a hole in the center with your thumb, pulling out sides with fingers to form doughnut shape. Place 10 doughnuts on each prepared cookie sheet. Cover with plastic again. Let rise for 50 minutes or until double in size.

During the last 10 minutes of rising, pour oil into a large pot and turn heat to medium high. Checking with the deep fry thermometer, heat oil to 375 degrees F. With slotted spoon, place three or four risen doughnuts into oil. (Fry in small batches so temparature of oil doesn’t drop.) Fry on one side for one or two minutes, then turn with slotted spoon for one more minute. Lift carefully from oil and place on paper towel to drain. Repeat for remaining doughnuts.

Serve doughnuts while still warm, coated liberally with sugar or, if you must, drizzled with honey instead. Serve with mint tea for added authenticity. Not that fake ass mint tea in a bag, but Chinese Gunpowder tea made with fresh sprigs of mint and lots of sugar.

These are seriously awesome and well worth the effort. You’ll thank me. Happy Day 3 of Chanukah!

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • Sfenj Rocks!!! My mom makes it every year! Sfenj kick’s the sufgania’s ass bigtime!!

  • Dan – yeah lets not even mention latke ass. Speaking of which – I had to learn on my own how to pronounce Latke! Sfenj is pronounced how it sounds yo! Just get all guttural, pretend you’re middle eastern and go for it. By the way, sfenj is singular, sfenjat is plural. That’s your arabic lesson for the day.

  • Here is an Arabic saying:

    Mazeeka kadaq ou aqubah bishaq
    (“The music is playing and the cockroach (spider?) is in its corner” meaning
    some people can’t enjoy themselves even when everyone else is)

    How about another:
    Itha tareed tastareeh, kil shein qol mleeh
    (If you don’t want problems, say that everything is good)

  • Or Half-Sephardic – Half Ashkenazic thing?

    I happen to like it! Keep the recipes and the Sephardic action coming!

  • Oh, I believe you…and I, personally, like sufganiyot a lot more than latkes (which I just don’t like at all)…but that’s not because they’re Sephardic (which I didn’t really even know until tonight, I just though they were “Chanukah food”), it’s just ’cause they taste better.

  • Michael: Sufganiyot are more an Israeli thing than a Sephardic thing.

    T_M: I am sure you did indeed have world class latkes but their overall goodness is qualified by the limitations of the genre. That having been said, latkes are pretty good, especially after a night out drinking, or when you are in munchy mode. They are available here year round too so I guess come Chanukah, they’re not that unique. I do strongly urge you to follow the Sfenj recipe. If you don’t have a bread mixer you can still make the dough by hand as follows:

    Use any large bowl; when dry ingredients are whisked together as directed in the recipe, add an egg and mix with a wooden spoon. Add all the water and turn the dough onto floured surface. Knead for 10-12 minutes to acheive same smooth, springy consistency.

    There ya go. Now start frying!

  • Dave: Arabic saying “If you don’t want problems, say that everything is good”

    Great wisdom Dave. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Hey, I’m a half-breed (Ashkefardic, if you will), and I’ve tasted food from both sides. Let’s just say that at the end of the day, I’d rather be eating my Nony’s awesome Sephardic cooking versus borsht from a jar, like my father’s mother.

    Besides, this isn’t even the best food of the year… that comes out for other holidays.

  • Its pronounced SHFINJ. One syllable. In hebrew I think it would be spelled שפינג׳

  • I use the basic sfenj reicipe from bigoven.com- it’s just flour yeast salt and water- lots of water! My husband and my mother-in-law certifies my sfenj making skill (Yup I am Ashkenazi by birth…)- They don’t put eggs in the traditional Moroccan recipe.
    The dough is very sloshy and I can tell you that for 1 kilo flour, I use 3-3 1/2 cups water.
    I hope this is helpful for the girl asking for measurements.
    1 kilo flour
    30 g yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
    1 tsp salt
    2 1/2- 3 cups additional water.
    The wetter the better
    Dough has to be sloshy, smooth, elastic and spongy. I mix it by hand- takes about 15 minutes
    Make sure the oil is VERY hot.
    Bon Apétit and if you did it right- l’hatik skha! (that means like yaasher koach…)

    It rises fast if you have good yeast and didn’t kill it…

  • I am not jewish but I am moroccan and I love how our Sephardic Jews are still carrying out the traditions wherever they go. Looooove Sfenj with mint tea yummy!