Baking grandma’s Hanukkah recipes with Beth Lee

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Hanukkah begins just three days after Thanksgiving. Baker and blogger Beth Lee prepares for the holiday by recalling family favorites. Lee admits that she didn’t spend much time at her grandmother’s hip in the kitchen, as is the case with many inspired homecooks. Her grandmother, or “bubbe,” never kept a recipe box, so every ingredient and measurement was memorized. Lee reminds bakers of the important symbolism behind the use of oil in cooking during the eight-night celebration, and shares a recipe for soufganiyot (jelly donuts). More recipes can be found in “The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook.”

Baked or Fried Soufganiyot (Jelly Donuts)
Make 14 to 16 donuts
PREP TIME: 40 mins
COOK TIME: 10 mins
INACTIVE TIME: 1 hour 30 mins

Who doesn’t love a donut, especially when you can justify it as a way to celebrate the miracle of oil for Hanukkah? This versatile dough works well either baked or fried—just follow the instructions for either method of cooking. You’ll end up with a delicious result no matter what. Feel free to get creative with the flavor of the jam filling, but be sure to use a jam thin enough to flow through the decorating tip. 


  • 2 1/4 cups (281 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams/1 packet) active dry or instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup (161 grams) warm milk (105°F to 115°F)
  • 2 tablespoons (27 grams) vegetable oil, plus more to oil the bowl
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (if baking)
  • Vegetable oil (if frying)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (240 grams) seedless jam


  1. Mix: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the milk, oil, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest (if using), and mix with a wooden spoon until a rough, wet dough forms.
  2. Knead: Place the dough on a well-floured surface, dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead for about 2 minutes. If it remains sticky while kneading, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. It should be tacky but not too sticky to knead.
  3. Rise: Oil the bowl you just used and place the dough back inside. Cover with a towel and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Roll the dough: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thick.
  5. Cut the donuts: Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out as many rounds as you can and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining scraps and repeat. You should have 14 to 16 rounds total.
  6. Second rise: Cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel and let the donuts rise until they puff up slightly, about 30 minutes, depending on the temperature of the kitchen.

To bake the donuts (Method 1)

  1. Prep for baking: While the donuts rise, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Bake: After the donuts have risen, bake them for about 10 minutes, until golden.

**While the donuts bake, melt the butter. When the donuts come out of the oven, brush each of the donuts with the melted butter. Proceed immediately to the directions to finish the donuts.

To deep-fry the donuts (Method 2):

  1. Prep for frying: Add vegetable oil to a medium pot, at least 2 inches deep. Heat the oil to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels to drain any excess oil.
  2. Deep-fry: Place a few donuts at a time in the hot oil, avoiding overcrowding. Fry for 1 minute on one side; then flip and fry on the second side for 1 minute, until golden brown. This is a fast process, so watch carefully. Once fried, transfer the donuts to the prepared baking sheet. Proceed immediately to the directions to finish the donuts.

To finish the donuts:

  1. Coat the donuts: Place the sugar in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Working one at a time, place each donut in the bag of sugar, seal shut, and shake it around to coat the donut. Return the donut to the baking sheet. Repeat with all donuts.
  2. Fill donuts: Fit a piping bag (or a plastic bag) with a decorating tip with a 1/4-inch-wide opening. Fill the bag with the jam of your choice. Using a paring knife, cut a 1-inch horizontal slit in the side of each donut, slicing through to the center. Place the decorating tip in the hole and squeeze until the jam starts to ooze out of the donut (some spillage is okay). Repeat with the remaining donuts. The donuts taste best if served immediately, but they will maintain their freshness for several hours.

In “The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook,” Beth Lee admits she found a calling to the kitchen later in life, and considered herself more of an observer and taster growing up. Photo courtesy of Rockridge Press.



Evan Kleiman