Chanukah bimuelos: A Turkish twist on doughnuts

Bimuelos (Jessica Grann)

Story and photos by Jessica Grann

Bimuelos are a tradition in my husband’s family, who emigrated to America from Izmir, Turkey, before World War I. The dough is more of a pastry dough, as opposed to the yeasted dough of typical doughnut recipes.

Our tradition at Chanukah is to eat light food, fried in oil, with other foods containing dairy ingredients. This recipe is made with butter, but you can use margarine to make it pareve.

I’m typically very picky about cooking oils. I can count on one hand the amount of times per year I use vegetable oils, but this is one of them. The oil must be very hot in order for these to fry quickly and come out light and airy on the inside. Olive oil has too low of a smoke point, and it’s not cost effective to use avocado oil considering you need between one and two quarts at a time for frying. The good news is you can reuse the oil several times, so I just leave the oil in the pot, put a lid on it and place it somewhere cool and secure until I need it again.

Everyone in my family prefers a different topping for their bimuelos. Some like them plain, some dusted with powdered sugar and others rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

If I have extra simple syrup from making another recipe, like baklava, I will also drop a few bimuelos into the syrup. That is the traditional Syrian way, which is called Awamat. The Morrocans have something similar called Sfing. Every Mediterranean country has its own version for Chanukah.

The great thing about this recipe is that it only take about 20 minutes to prepare and to cook, so it’s something that you can easily do after work.

For the batter:

  • 1-2 quarts vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

For the toppings:

  • ¼ cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, mixed
  • ½ cup of powdered sugar

Place the butter, water, sugar and salt into a saucepan and melt over low heat.

Once the ingredients are melted, dump in the flour all at once and mix up until a ball of dough starts to form. I suggest using a hand mixer to finish combining. I once tried to do this by hand but the bimuelos turned out very heavy. Turn your mixer on to low, and mix until you don’t see any steam rising from the dough. This can take 4 to 5 minutes.

Once the steam stops, and the dough is simply warm, add one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding another one. It is important that the dough is not too hot, or the eggs will scramble and you will have to start again.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat until it reaches around 375 F. It should not be cooler than 350 F, but also never hotter than 400 F or the dough will burn. I use a thermometer, but if you don’t have one, you can eyeball it. You want it to be very hot, but not smoking. If you start to see smoke, remove the pot from the flame until it cools down and start again.

I cut a carrot into five or six chunks. I add one in the beginning to test the oil. If it starts to fry and bubble quickly the oil is the right temperature. If the oil is not hot enough, the bimuelos will soak up too much oil and get heavy. If the oil is too hot, the exterior will cook but the inside will remain doughy. Determining when the oil is the correct temperature is a skill that one learns from practice. It takes time — it can take a few batches — but over the years, you just learn what to look for.

You can spoon drop the dough into the oil, but I choose to use a cookie scoop so that the balls are similar in size and cook for the same amount of time. They will have little lumps on the exterior, so don’t worry about perfection. I’ve never had anyone complain.

Scoop out all the dough into the oil, being careful not to splatter yourself. I add a few more pieces of carrot, which attracts any burned oil or bits away from the dough. This trick works when frying anything — the carrot will turn dark, but your bimuelos will remain a beautiful brown color.

After a few minutes, the bimuelos flip over like magic. This usually takes 4 to 5 minutes. Then cook them for 1 to 2 minutes more, before scooping them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and placing them on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Let rest for a few minutes more before rolling them in the cinnamon and sugar mixture, or sifting powdered sugar over them. Serve immediately — they are best fresh.
Chanukah sameach, or as they say in Ladino, Chanukah alegre!

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