For some, the holidays are about faith. For me, suffice it to say they're about food. We all know the story of Hanukkah: a drop of oil burned for eight miraculous nights. Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, how I adore you! I love grease—always have, and always will. So, if there's a holiday that celebrates the deep fried, you can count me among the pious.
Every year for Hanukkah, I make two things: Maneschewitz granita and beignets. Last year I did a Provençal lavender and apricot edition, but this year, I wanted something more wintry, more Nutcracker. And though I didn't use sugarplums, there's something about the late autumnal fruitiness of apples and pears with the black dappling fresh vanilla seeds that goes so perfectly with Arabian coffee.
Just make a simple choux pastry, as I've done so often in this column, mix in grated apple and pear for their fruity bouquet, and fry. Toss in vanilla sugar, and serve. Hot, and fresh, they are a little surprise to guests who expect something more dowdy or more traditional. It may be true that it takes eight days to burn of a drop of oil, but I promise, these are worth it.
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 golden delicious apple, finely diced
- 1/2 Anjou pear, finely diced
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 cup sugar
- The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
Begin with the choux pastry: bring the water and butter and sugar and salt to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, and add the flour in all at once—stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to low, and set the pan back on the heat. Stir for less than a minute until the dough comes away from the side of the pan. Turn the dough out into a bowl, and allow it to cool just slightly. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, until they are fully absorbed in the dough. Finally, stir in the apple and pear.
Meanwhile, heat a sauce pot halfway full with vegetable oil. Test the temperature with a drop of dough: the dough should sink, start to bubble, and slowly rise to the top.
Use two teaspoons to drop little beignets into the oil. They will take from 5-8 minutes to cook—you want them pale golden, puffed, and split (cooked choux pastry will develop a "scar" on the side when it puffs). Drain on a paper towel, and toss with vanilla sugar (recipe follows).
Scrape the vanilla bean into the sugar and mix!