Friday, September 18, 2009

Mangia Sweetness -- A Special Treat for Rosh Hashanah

I have lots of food memories.  One special memory involved pizza.  

Back in Yonkers, New York, where I spent my early childhood days, we visited a little pizzeria that made some pretty darn good pizza.  I suppose we were regulars, as the guy  remembered us when we came in.  I think he thought I was cute--little girl with a big smile, curly pig tails, holding her daddy's hand.  In chatting with us, he came to realize I loved cheese.  So he often offered me some graded mozzarella to snack on while we waited.  And then, one fine evening, he gave my dad a bag of pizza dough.  "Tell your wife to fry them in oil and then toss them with powdered sugar.  Your girls are sure to love 'em."  He called them "Zeppoles."  I called them love.  And since then, I've always looked for a good excuse--er, reason--to make them.

Apples and Honey

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year.  As with most Jewish holidays, our customs and traditions revolve around food.  Symbolism includes sweet things (ie, wishing each other a sweet new year) and round things (ie, symbolic of the how time evolves and we have come back to the beginning of the year).  At the most basic level, we dip apples (which are symbols of the harvest and are round fruit) into honey (for the sweetness).   It's your basic easy dessert recipe.

This year I was looking to try something new and different using the traditional tastes and flavors and then hit me--Apple Zeppoles!!  These treats are light, crispy, chewy, sweet and round. All I had to do was marry the pizza dough flavors with apples and honey.  I took some elements from various pizza dough recipes and added my special New Year's touch to make these divine dessert noshes!

Heidi's Rosh Hashanah Apple-Honey Zeppoles

- 3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup room temperature apple juice*
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (preferable extra virgin)
- 1 large or 2 small apples, peeled and grated (small grate, like what you would use for Parmesan cheese)
- Peanut or canola oil for frying
- brown paper lunch bag
- 1 to 2 cups confectioner's (or powdered) sugar

* I used an apple-white grape juice blend, since that's what I had in the house.


In a small mixing bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of apple juice with the honey.  Add yeast and mix to combine.  Let sit for about 5 minutes to proof.

Add flour and salt into the bowl of a mixer, and mix together with a fork.  Add yeast-juice-honey mixture, remaining juice, water, and olive oil.  Using the dough hook, turn on mixer and combine ingredients.  After it just comes together, add the grated apple and continue mixing for another 3 to 5 minutes, to ensure all the ingredients have been incorporated.

Toss the dough in a bit of oil to prevent the dough from hardening, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 2 hours.  When the dough has proofed and has double in size, punch it down and let rest for another 15 to 30 minutes.  (You can also let it stand much longer.  If you want to make it the day before, consider putting it in the refrigerator to further intensify the flavors as it proofs.  Just bring it to room temperature before frying.)

In the meantime, heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in small pan over high heat.  Break off about 1 inch pieces of dough and them add to hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Let them cook on one side for 3 to 5 minutes, until barely golden (gold-kissed).  Turn with tongs and let cook another 3 or so minutes for the other side to get almost golden.  Remove with tongs to paper bag and throw in powder sugar.  Close bag with your hand and shake to distribute the sugary goodness over your fried dough.

Remove from bag and serve warm.  Kids like 'em with milk.  I like them with a nice glass of red wine!

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