What's an Ashkefard, readers might ask? It refers to someone of mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazi heritage. Our daughter with Persian and Sephardic-Belarus heritage is an Ashkefard, as am I. Many of us are entitled to use the term.
The best thing about being an Ashkefard is that holiday food is doubly delicious. So here are my recipes for Sephardic bimuelos (fried delights resembling doughnut holes) and Ashkenazi latkes (potato pancakes).
I meant to post this pre-Chanukah but was busy cooking. The best thing about this holiday is that there are eight days to try new recipes.
Bimuelos are little round balls resembling doughnut holes. They can be drizzled with an orange or lemon syrup, a rosewater-scented syrup, or honey. I like to serve the first batch rolled in cinnamon sugar.
Don't make them too big, this recipe makes about 36 small ones, although some people like larger ones. I prefer the smaller as they cook faster, stay golden on the outside and cook properly inside. Cut open a few to make sure the inside is cooked. Regulate heat to make sure the bimuelos don't brown too fast outside or leave the inside raw.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup butter (very soft)
Oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar: 1/2 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Put oil in a deep pan or a fryer and heat to 375F.
Measure flour in a bowl, stir in baking powder and salt, sift twice. In another large bowl, mix the eggs with warm milk and sugar. Add flour mix and the softened butter alternately. Mix with a wooden spoon or by hand. The dough will be soft.
On a floured board or tray, use a teaspoon to grab portions of the dough and roll between floured hands. Repeat making small balls until the dough is gone. Fry in batches until golden brown. Drain briefly on paper towel and, while still hot, roll in cinnamon sugar. Try to keep everyone away from the hot bimuelos until they're all cooked - good luck on that one!
Bimuelos can also be served with honey or a syrup. The trick to all Sephardic and Middle Eastern pastries is this: hot foods get a very cold syrup, cold foods get a hot syrup. Thus make the syrup ahead of time and chill in the frig. The bimuelos can be served hot or cold. If you make them ahead of time, heat briefly in oven and drizzle with your favorite syrup.
Here's a basic syrup recipe: Mix and boil together 2 cups sugar and one cup water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or so until the syrup has thickened. Cool and add a tablespoon of lemon juice, orange juice or rosewater (use only 2 teaspoons of rosewater unless you are Persian!). Place bimuelos on serving tray and drizzle syrup over them.
I also keep thinking about placing a chocolate chip or two in the middle of each ball before frying. Wouldn't that be a great surprise?
Latke-lovers are of two schools of thought concerning every ingredient, with peel or without, with pepper or without, baking or frying potatoes. I peel and don't use pepper. Since we can't get Yukon golds here in Israel, I use half frying and half baking potatoes - the texture is very nice.
10 potatoes (5 frying, 5 baking)
4 smallish brown onions
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese crisp breadcrumbs)
Take a large bowl, fill it half-full with water, add several tablespoons of salt and mix well.
Using a box grater on the largest hole, shred peeled potatoes, add to the salted water. Mix and let sit for about 10-15 minutes. Drain potatoes in a strainer, reserve the water in another bowl and let it settle while shredding onions. Why save the water? You want to collect the white potato starch that settles at the bottom and add it to the shredded potatoes for improved texture. To the drained potatoes, add shredded onions, beaten eggs and mix well. Add panko, mix again. Let sit for awhile to make sure there isn't too much excess liquid. If it seems too liquidy, add a few teaspoons of panko.
Notice that I don't add extra salt to the latkes as the salt-water soak seems to add just the right amount. If people want more salt, they can add it, but this seems to be enough for almost everyone.
Heat about 1-inch of oil in each of two frying pans. I have one huge restaurant one and also use a smaller one. Take a plastic 1/3-cup measuring cup and pack in the mixture, dropping it into the pan, then flatten it with a spatula. This saves your hands from the goo and assures that each latke is about the same size. Make sure to mix the batter well each time. Fry until golden brown on the first side, flip and fry until golden brown on the second side. Drain on paper towel. The panko really helps latkes to crisp up. Serve according to your family tradition: sugar, sour cream, apple sauce, or naked from the pan!
Make these ahead of time - or freeze them on a flat tray and then store in zip bags or in a freezer box - and crisp in 375-400F oven for a few minutes until hot. This recipe makes about 3 dozen latkes.