Gil Marks’ Zvingous or Sephardic Beignets

In keeping with the Hanukkah season, and in paying homage to my friend Gill Marks‘ memory, I perused his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food where I found the following recipe for Zvingous: 

Detail from photo at:

Detail from photo by: http://honeyandschmaltz.com/stories/gil-marks/

From pages 634-635:

[..]In the middle Eastern manner, the fried balls are dipped into a a honey or sugar syrup, while the French serve then with a warm jam or filled with pastry cream. Cooks add a little more flour to zvingous dough than is typical for cream puff dough, producing a sturdier pastry that will not dissolve in syrup. The dough is not made with much sugar, as too much sugar results in overbrowning.

These pastries are a traditional Hanukkah treat, also known in in Ladino as Zvingous de Januca (of Hanukkah), and, in honey syrup, popular for Rosh Hashana. A Passover version is made by substituting matza cake meal for the flour. After a baked version of zvingous was mentioned in a 1999 New York Times Hanukkah article, the pastry suddenly earned attention among Americans.

Sephardic Beignets (Zvingous)


cup water
tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) high gluten flour, sifted or 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup fine semolina; or 1/2 cups matza cake meal
1 teaspoon grated orange and/or lemon zest (optional)
4 large eggs, at room temperature (3/4 cup)
Vegetable, sunflower, or peanut oil for deep-frying
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar , cinnamon sugar (2/3 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon), or cup atar*

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, oil, sugar, and salt to a rapid boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once , and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 1 minute. Return to the heat and cook on low heat, stirring, until the dough dries slightly, about 1 minute. Let cool completely, about 10 minutes. If using, add the zest.

2. Beat the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition . The batter should be soft yet stiff enough to retain its shape. It is ready when it drops with difficulty from a spoon. Let cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

3. In a large pot, heat at least 1 1/2 inches oil over medium heat to 375 F.

4. Dip a tablespoon or teaspoon into the hot oil. In batches, drop the batter by spoonfools from the oiled spoon into the oil, using a second spoon to scrape it off, and fry, turning, until puffed and golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove with a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs and drain on a wire rack.

5. Sprinkle the beignets with confectioners’ sugar or dip hot ones into the cooled syrup or cooled puffs into hot syrup. Serve warm.

From page 27

* Atar


2 cups (14 ounces) sugar, or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice, rose water or orange water

In a medium, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar, water, and lemon juice over low heat until the sugar disolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring. Increase the the heat to medium, bring to a boil, and cook until mixture is slightly syrupy and reaches the thread stage or 225 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. If using rose water, stir it in now. The syrup keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!


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