Posts Tagged ‘Gil Marks


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:

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!



Gill Marks – Ponchkes, Bolas, Bumuelos, Buñuelos, Sufganyot, Doughnuts – A History

I arrived in Richmond, VA, (from Uruguay) in 1962 as a teenager. Every Shabbos and yom tov we would davven at the same shul as the Marks family. One of their kids was a very serious young man by the name of Gil, yes, that same Gil who left us on Friday, December 5 (Yud Gimmel Kislev) past. I interviewed Gil Marks (alav haShalom) a few times over the years, and it wasn’t until the second time I had him on my show that we recognized each other. Gil was an incredible researcher, historian, a good friend and a best selling author of 5 books including James Beard Award Winner Olive Trees and Honey (A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World) and his much praised, much applauded, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. Shortly before Gil Marks‘ untimely demise, at 62, he corrected the galleys of his 6th book. I hope we will see it published soon.

Following is a video in which I interviewed Gil at the Kosher Food and Wine Extravaganza 2012:


As we are now in the third day of Chanukkah, I felt it appropriate to check out his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food on the subject of sufganyot. Why? Because no one else has ever been so thorough in describing our traditional foods and their origins as Gil Marks.

From pages 256-257

[..]Fried foods became a Hanukkah tradition in recognition of the miracle of oil. Sephardim and Mizrachim typically prepare various fried pastries or doughnouts (bimuelos or lokmas). In many Sephardic communities, members of wealthier families bring trays of sweets to less fortunate ones. In Morocco and Egypt these trays include zangula, deep fried batter poured into hot oil in a thin spiral, similar to Amish funnel cakes, and coated with a combination of either cinnamon and sugar or honey. [..]Turkish families serve a dessert similar to a doughnut called burmuelos. [..]Italians make fritelle, deep-fried diamond shaped pieces of dough that are dipped in honey.

[..]Ashkenazim fry latkes (“pancakes,” levivot in modern Hebrew), blintzes and doughnuts.  [..]In the twentieth century, the Polish jelly doughnut ponchik made its way to Israel, taking on the name sufganyot, and subsequently emerged as the most popular Israeli Hanukah food, sold throughout the eight-day festival at almost every bakery and market.


As a kid, growing up in Uruguay, we had two types of sufganyotBolas and Buñuelos. Gil wrote, as follows, in his Encyclopedia [page 58]:

[..] The original medieval bola consisted of croquettes of yeast dough or mashed soaked bread deep-fried in oil, the round shape its Ladino name [bola=ball]. Over the centuries the simple fritters developed into an assortment of both fried and baked cakes and pastries.

Bolas, in my days, were fried balls of sweet dough sprinkled with powdered sugar which – occasionally – came with a thin layer of chocolate or dulce de leche, on top.

Buñuelos (again, during my childhood and teenage days in Uruguay) or Bimuelos (or Bumuelos, or Birmuelos), as Sephardim refer to them – Ponchkes, my Galitzianer Poilische mother (ob”m) would call them – as Chanukkah came around – would be filled with jelly, custard or (my favorite!) dulce de leche. As kids we couldn’t wait until the next year to enjoy the filled buñuelos! 

On page 51, he writes:

Bimuelos emerged as a Sephardic cultural icon. A very popular song from Israel is the Ladino “Vayehi Miketz  Burmuelos con Miel,” a parody from a woman’s point of view of the biblical tale of Joseph interpreting the dreams of Paraoh, which is read in the synagogue on the Sabbath of Hanukah: ” ‘And it at the end”; Burmuelos with honey; Pharaoh made them, and Joseph ate them, Pharaoh fell into the river and Joseph went to the bath, Pharaoh went to the cemetery, and Joseph went to the wedding.”

In Israel, I’ve enjoyed sufganyot filled with jelly. Hardly anything is more delicious than a sufganyah that is still warm…


As Gill Marks writes, the sufganyah has been around since the late 15th century [page 565]:

In 1485 the cookbook Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery in the Kitchen) was published in Nuremberg, Germany, and in 1532 was translated into Polish as Kichmistrzostwo. Besides serving as a resource fot postmedieval central Europeean cooking and being one of the first cookbooks to be run off Johannes Gutenberg;s revolutionary printing press, this tome contained what was then a revolutionary recipe, the first record of a jelly doughnut, “Gefülte Krapfen.” This early version consisted of a bit of jam sandwiched between two rounds of yeast bread and deep-fried… [..]Whether the anonymous author actually invented the idea or recounted a new practice, the concelpt of filling a doughnut spread around the globe.

[..]At that time, sugar was still very expensive and rare in Germany, so savory dishes were much more practical, even for the middle class. In the sixteenth century the price of sugar fell with the introduction of Caribbean sugar plantations. Soon sugar and, in turn, fruit preserves proliferated in Europe, all the more so with the introduction of sugar beet factories in the nineteenth century. Within a century of the jelly doughnut \’s initial appearance in Germany, every northern European country from Denmark to Russia had adopted the pastry, although it was still a rare treat generally associated with specific holidays. Much later, someone in Germany invented a metal syringe with which to inject jelly into already fried doughnuts , making the treat that much easier, neater and diverse. In the twentieth century, machines were developed to inject doughnuts two at a time or in mass production. [..]

Personally, I find food history and traditions fascinating, I can easily understand why Gill Marks loved that field so much. His friendliness, his encyclopedic knowledge and readiness to answer any questions, are sorely missed already…


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