Zalabia (Yemenite Fried Dough)
Chanukah is a time when fritters reign. Around here, the most famous ones are potato latkes and doughnuts. A lesser-known version of fried dough is the Yemenite zalabia, which has many cousins throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Because it is free form, like the lighter Sephardic bunuelos, it is much less labor intensive than making doughnut or latkes. Made of flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water, this crisp, delicious treat is also vegan. We typically eat it savory, without additional sweeteners, but you can serve it drizzled with honey or sugar syrup, sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar or with a side of your favorite jam or sauce. My favorite way to eat zalabia is to dip one small piece at a time in melted ghee (clarified butter) and then sprinkle it with a bit of raw sugar. Let the feast of light and oil begin!
- 1 pound all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (or 2 packets) active dry yeast
- 2-3 cups sunflower or safflower oil for frying
- Place flour in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer. Create a well in the middle, pour sugar and yeast and add 1 cup water. Let stand for 5 minutes until it froths. Add salt and the rest of the water and mix with the dough hook on low speed for about 9 minutes, scraping the hook and sides of the bowl as needed. The dough should be soft and sticky. With wet hands smooth the top, cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free area for 45 minutes. The dough should more than double in bulk. With wet hands, gently deflate the dough and let rise again for about 30 minutes. You should see large air pockets on the top. While the dough is rising for the second time, heat 1-inch oil in heavy bottom skillet or pot and maintain the temperature at 365 to 375 degrees. With wet hands, tear off a small walnut-sized ball of dough, stretch into a small rectangle and lower it carefully into the oil. The zalabia will puff up and then float in the hot oil. Fry for about 90 seconds until golden then turn the fritter around and fry for another 60 to 90 seconds. Scoop the zalabia with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Enjoy immediately.