Chanukah Fritters (Frittelle di Chanukah) with Figs and Sambuca Honey
At Chanukah time in Italy, there aren’t many potato latkes. But there are lots of fritters with anise, olive oil and dried fruit and honey, which are served as both Chanukah and Christmas treats. This updated version features sweet figs along with anise seeds that burst with flavor. The Sambuca in the honey gives a hint of warm spicy fragrance and delicate anise flavor. If you like, sprinkles in the colors of Italy’s flag—red, green and white—are a festive touch. The dough is easier to work with, and the fritters taste best, if you let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
- 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk, heated to about 90 degrees
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoons anise seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for coating the bowl
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 cup finely chopped dried figs (approximate ¼-inch pieces), with tough stem ends discarded
- Neutral oil (such as canola, peanut, or mild olive oil) for frying
- A deep-fry or candy thermometer for monitoring oil temperature
- Optional: Confectioners’ sugar for dusting and/or red, green and white sprinkles for decorating
- 1 cup of honey, preferably orange blossom
- 2 tablespoons Sambuca or other anise-flavored liqueur, or water
- In a large bowl, combine the milk with the yeast, and let the mixture stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, coat another large bowl with olive oil and set aside.
- Add the salt, anise seeds, vanilla, oil, honey, cinnamon and 2 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and combine well. Gradually stir in additional flour as needed to make a soft dough.
- Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 6 minutes. Knead in the figs in 3 or 4 additions. Shape the dough in a ball and place in the bowl coated with olive oil. Lift the dough out, turn it over and place the un-oiled side down in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, about 15 minutes before you are ready to work with it, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Press down on the plastic wrap to compress the dough and let it rest covered, 15 minutes.
- Tear off a large sheet of parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. Place the dough on the parchment and press or roll it into a ½-inch thick rectangle, roughly 9-by-15 inches. Using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut the dough into approximately 1- to 1½-inch-wide strips, then cut diagonally across them to make diamond shapes (squares or cookie cutter shapes are fine, too). Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest 35 to 40 minutes.
- After about 20 minutes, add oil to a large deep-sided pan to a depth of about 1½ inches. Warm it over medium heat to 375 degrees.
- Working in batches so as not to crowd to the pan, drop the dough shapes into the hot oil. When the bottoms turn light golden brown (after 20 to 40 seconds), turn fritters over with tongs or a slotted spoon to brown other side (another 30 seconds or so). Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Repeat with remaining fritters.
- Add the honey to a saucepan and heat to a low boil. Reduce heat and cook another minute. Remove from heat and stir in the Sambuca. Place the fritters on a platter and liberally drizzle the honey over them (or, alternatively, put them in a wide shallow bowl and toss with honey to coat all over). If desired, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and colorful sprinkles. Serve hot or warm.