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Refresh your Hanukkah dessert table with pastry chef Paula Shoyer

The cover of "The Holiday Kosher Baker," by Paula Shoyer. Credit: Sterling Epicure.
The cover of "The Holiday Kosher Baker," by Paula Shoyer. Credit: Sterling Epicure.

It is a truth universally acknowledged thatwe can never get tired of Hanukkah latkes and sufganiyot (the holiday’s deep-fried jelly doughnuts). But there’s no harm in adding some culinary variety to this year’s Festival of Lights. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer offers a doughnut recipe with a twist as well as two alternative recipes that are great for Hanukkah and will satisfy any sweet tooth.

All of the recipes are courtesy of Shoyer’s “The Holiday Kosher Baker” (Sterling Epicure, November 2013).

Vanilla Doughnut Holes (nut free & parve)

Doughnuts and potato latkes are the most traditional Hanukkah foods. Like latkes, doughnuts are best eaten the day they are made, but even on the second day you can get good results by re-heating them. To make doughnuts look festive, roll them in colored sugar.

Servings: 50


1/4 ounce (1 envelope; 7g) dry yeast

1/4 cup (60ml) warm water

1/2 cup (100g) plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

1/2 cup (120ml) soy milk

2 tablespoons (28g) margarine, at room temperature for at least 15 minutes

1 large egg

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2¼–2½ cups (280–315g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1/2 cup (100g) plain or colored sugar for dusting doughnuts

Canola oil for frying


In a large bowl, place the yeast, warm water, and one teaspoon of the sugar and stir. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, or until thick.

Add the remaining sugar, soy milk, margarine, egg, vanilla, salt, and 1½ cups (190g) flour and mix—either with a wooden spoon or with a dough hook in a stand mixer—on low speed. Add 1/2 cup (65g) more flour and mix in. Add 1/4 (30g) cup flour and mix in. If the dough remains sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough becomes smooth.

Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel and let the dough rise for one hour in a warm place. I use a warming drawer (see note below) on a low setting (about 200°F/90°C), or you can turn your oven on to its lowest setting, place the bowl in the oven, and then turn off the oven.

After one hour, punch down the dough by folding it over a few times and reshaping it into a ball. Re-cover the dough and let it rise for 10 minutes.

Dust a cookie sheet with flour. Sprinkle some flour on the counter or on parchment paper and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it’s about 1/2-inch (1.25cm) thick. Using a small round cookie cutter about 1 to 1½ inches (2.5 to 4cm) in diameter, cut out small circles very close to each other, and place them on the cookie sheet. Re-roll any scraps. Cover the doughnuts with the towel. Place the cookie sheet back in the oven (warm but turned off) or warming drawer. Let the doughnuts rise for 30 minutes.

Heat 1½ inches (4cm) of oil in a medium saucepan for a few minutes and use a candy thermometer to see when the oil stays between 365°F and 375°F (185°C to 190°C); adjust the flame to keep the oil in that temperature range. Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Place a wire rack on top of the cookie sheet and set it near the stovetop.

When the oil is ready, add the doughnut holes to the oil one at a time, top-side down, putting an edge in first and then sliding in the rest of the doughnut; if you drop the doughnuts into the pan an inch or higher from the oil it can splatter and burn your fingers. You can fry up to eight doughnut holes at a time. Cook for 45-60 seconds. Use tongs or chopsticks to turn the doughnut holes over and cook them another 45-60 seconds, or until golden. Lift with a slotted spoon and place on the wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts.

Place the sugar in a shallow bowl and roll the doughnut holes in the sugar to coat. Store covered at room temperature for up to one day and re-heat to serve.

Note: A warming drawer can be built right into your kitchen cabinet. It is ideal for keeping cooked food hot, warming plates, and even proofing bread dough.

Decorated Brownie Bites

If you’re looking for something other than another doughnut or latkes variation, these are great, alternative treats that can be decorated with colored sugars, sprinkles, nonpareils, crushed candies, or nuts.

Servings: 96 one-inch bites


10 ounces (280g) bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup (120ml) canola oil, plus 2 teaspoons for greasing pan

1½ cups (300g) sugar

1/3 cup (80ml) soy milk

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup (25g) unsweetened cocoa

1¼ cups (155g) all-purpose flour

At least 3 different colored sugars, sprinkles, nonpareils, crushed candies, or ground nuts


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Use 1 teaspoon oil to grease a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm) baking pan. Line with parchment paper, allowing some to extend up and over the sides. Grease top and sides with the other teaspoon of oil.

Break of chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt it, either over a double boiler or in the microwave oven for 45 seconds, stir, heat for 30 seconds, stir, and heat another 15 seconds if needed, until completely melted.

When the chocolate is melted, add the oil and sugar and whisk well. Add the soy milk, eggs, and vanilla, and whisk again. Add the salt, baking powder, and cocoa—and mix. Finally, add the flour in four parts and whisk well each time. Scoop the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top looks dry and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out looking a little gooey. Cool for 30 minutes and then freeze for a minimum of one hour.

Place the decorations into small shallow bowls. Pull up the parchment paper to lift the brownie out of the pan. Trim 1/2 inch (1.25cm) from the sides and cut the short side of the brownie into long 3/4 to 1-inch (2 to 2.5-cm) wide strips. Cut each strip into small squares.

To decorate, press the top or bottom of each brownie into the desired decoration. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or freeze them for up to three months.

Tie-Dyed Mini Black and White Cookies (nut free & parve)

These tie-dyed cookies are a whimsical version of classic chocolate and vanilla black and white cookies that could also be a great, alternative addition to your Hanukkah dessert table. You can make any design you like (I provide a few options below). Have fun!

Servings: 70

Ingredients for cookies:

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

1/4 cup (60ml) canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from . lemon)

1/3 cup (80ml) soy milk

1 cups (190g) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt


2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Several colors of gel food coloring

Directions for the cookies:

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).

Put the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice into a large bowl and beat for about 30 seconds with an electric mixer on medium speed until the ingredients are combined. Add the soy milk and mix in. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined.

Cover three cookie sheets with parchment paper, or plan to bake in batches. With a measuring teaspoon or melon-baller, drop heaping teaspoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, about 1 inch (4cm) apart. Try to keep the shape of the cookies round.

Bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes, or until they feel solid when the top is pressed. The color should remain light; only the outside edges of the bottoms should look lightly browned if you lift up one cookie. If the cookies are stuck to the pan, they need a little more baking time. Remove the pan from the oven and slide the parchment onto a wire rack. When the pan has cooled, use a spatula to lift the cookies off the parchment, or peel the parchment off the cookies, and place them on the cooling rack. The cookies may be made one day in advance and stored covered at room temperature.

Directions for the icing:

Put the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Add two tablespoons of boiling water, vanilla, and lemon juice and whisk vigorously. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add another 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of boiling water and whisk well until you have a thick but still pourable consistency. The icing will thicken as you ice the cookies and you will need to add another 1/2 teaspoon of boiling water to get the icing back to a spreadable consistency. If the white icing gets too loose, whisk in a teaspoon of confectioners’ sugar.

Decorating the cookies:

There are several to decorate the cookies:

Divide the icing among three or more bowls and color each with gel food coloring as desired. Spread about 3/4 of a teaspoon on the flat side of each cookie. You can also ice half the cookie with one color and half with another color.

Squeeze some drops of gel coloring onto a paper plate or waxed paper. Have a toothpick ready for each color. Ice about four cookies at a time with white icing. Use toothpicks to place tiny dots or short lines of different colors on the icing and then use a toothpick to create a marbled effect.

Let the cookies set 15 minutes. Store them covered at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze the cookies for up to three months.

SIDEBAR: Tips for doughnut-making success

If made properly, fresh doughnuts are never greasy and have a soft bread-like interior. To make healthier doughnuts, bake the doughnuts in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 20 minutes instead of frying.

If the oil is the proper temperature, frying seals the outside layer of the doughnut and prevents the oil from seeping in. If the temperature of the oil is too low, it cannot form an exterior seal, resulting in greasy doughnuts that have absorbed too much oil. If the oil is too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is fully cooked and your doughnuts will be gooey and raw inside. Check the oil temperature between batches and adjust heat if necessary.

The best oils for frying are canola, safflower, or peanut oils.

Do not crowd your doughnuts; it causes the oil temperature to drop. Fry no more than six to eight doughnut holes at a time and no more than four or five larger doughnuts in one batch.

While frying doughnuts, stay put and watch them. They can go from perfect to burnt in moments.

Use the following equipment: round cookie cutters in different sizes, a rolling pin, a heavy medium saucepan that can hold 1½ inches (4cm) of oil with space for the oil to bubble up, a candy thermometer—there is no way to fry properly without maintaining oil temperature between 365°F and 375°F (185°C and 190°C)—chopsticks or silicone spatula for gently turning the doughnuts, a slotted spoon to lift doughnuts out of the oil, a wire rack, and an aluminum-foil covered cookie sheet to put under the wire rack.

Paula Shoyer, a busy mother of four, believes that a healthy kosher diet can include desserts…if they are homemade. A former attorney, she graduated from the Ritz Escoffier pastry program in Paris, and now teaches French and Jewish baking classes across the country and around the world. Paula is the author of the best-selling “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-Free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy,” “The Holiday Kosher Baker,” and “The New Passover Menu.” She is a contributing editor to several kosher websites such as and, magazines such as “Joy of Kosher,” “Whisk,” and “Hadassah,” and writes for the Washington Post. She lives in Chevy Chase, Md. To learn more about Paula and her ongoing book tour, visit her website at

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