Enrich your holiday dessert table with decorated delights

It wouldn’t be Hanukkah without latkes and sufganiyot (deep-fried jelly doughnuts). But there’s no harm in adding some culinary variety to this year’s Festival of Lights. Pastry chef and cookbook author Paula Shoyer (www.thejewishbaker.com) offers a doughnut recipe with a twist as well as two alternative treats that are great for Hanukkah and will satisfy any sweet tooth.

These recipes are courtesy of Shoyer’s “The Holiday Kosher Baker” (Sterling Epicure) and have been edited for space.


Vanilla Doughnut Holes

Makes 50

1⁄4 oz. dry yeast

1⁄4 cup warm water

1⁄2 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided

1⁄2 cup soy milk

2 Tbs. margarine, at room temperature for at least 15 minutes

1 large egg

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 1⁄4–21⁄2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1⁄2 cup plain or colored sugar for dusting doughnuts

canola oil for frying

In a large bowl, place the yeast, warm water and 1 tsp. 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 11/2 cups flour. Mix with a wooden spoon or a dough hook in a stand mixer on low speed. Add another 1⁄2 cup of flour and mix. Then mix in another 1⁄4 cup flour. If the dough remains sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it becomes smooth.

Vanilla Doughnut Holes photos/jns-courtesy paula shoyer

Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place. Use a warming drawer on a low setting (about 200 degrees) or turn your oven to its lowest setting, place the bowl in the oven and then turn off the oven.

After an 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 ½ inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter about 1-11/2 inches in diameter, cut out circles very close to each other and place them on the cookie sheet. Reroll any scraps. Cover the dough 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 11/2 inches of oil in a medium saucepan for a few minutes and use a candy thermometer to see when the oil stays between 365 and 375 degrees; 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 up to 8 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 dough to avoid splattering the oil. Cook for 45-60 seconds. Use tongs or chopsticks, 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 1 day and reheat to serve.


Decorated Brownie Bites

Makes 96 one-inch bites

10 oz. bittersweet chocolate

1⁄2 cup canola oil, plus 2 tsp. for greasing pan

11⁄2 cups sugar

1⁄3 cup soy milk

3 large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1⁄2 tsp. salt

3⁄4 tsp. baking powder

1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa

11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

3 (or more) different colored sugars, sprinkles, nonpareils, crushed candies or ground nuts

Decorated Brownie Bites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use 1 tsp. oil to grease a 9×13-inch 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 or chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt, either over a double boiler or in the microwave oven (heat 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; 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 a little gooey. Cool for 30 minutes and then freeze for a minimum of 1 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 from the sides and cut the short side of the brownie into long strips 3⁄4  to 1 inch wide. Cut each strip into small squares.

Press the top or bottom of each brownie into the desired decoration. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Tie-Dyed Mini Black and White Cookies

Makes 70 cookies

1⁄2 cup sugar

1⁄4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1⁄3 cup soy milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄2 tsp. baking powder

dash salt

For the icing

2 cups confectioners sugar

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

several colors of gel food coloring

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the ingredients are combined, about 30 seconds. Add the soy milk and mix in. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until combined.

Tie-Dyed Mini Black and White Cookies

Cover 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or bake in batches. With a measuring teaspoon or melon-baller, drop heaping teaspoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Try to keep the shape of the cookies round.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the cookies feel solid when the top is pressed. The color should remain light; only the outside edges of the bottoms should look lightly browned when lifted up. If the cookies stick to the pan, they need more baking time. Remove the pan from the oven and slide the parchment onto a wire rack. When the pan has cooled, peel the cookies off the parchment or lift them with a spatula and place them on the cooling rack. The cookies may be made 1 day in advance and stored covered at room temperature.

To prepare the icing, put the confectioners sugar in a medium bowl. Add 2 Tbs. boiling water, vanilla and lemon juice and whisk vigorously. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add another 1⁄2 tsp. (or more) of boiling water and whisk until you have a thick but still pourable consistency. The icing will thicken as you spread it onto the cookies and you will need to add another 1⁄2 tsp. of boiling water to get it back to a spreadable consistency. If the icing gets too loose, whisk in 1 tsp. of confectioners sugar.

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 tsp. of icing on the flat side of each cookie. Or, ice half the cookie with one color and half with another color.

You can also 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 swirl the design to create a marbled effect.

Let the cookies set 15 minutes. Store them covered at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze the cookies for up to 3 months.