Once again it's that happy time of year, Chanukah, where the Jewish people celebrate the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the Greek Army and the reclaiming of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
We traditionally eat food fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of one tiny flask of pure oil, which was meant to last one night, but lasted for eight nights following the siege. Ashkenazi Jews, those from Eastern Europe, traditionally eat potato latkes and applesauce--foods that were plentiful in their native region. For Sephardi Jews various fried dough dishes like Sfenj in Morocco and YoYos in Tunisia are popular. The grandmother of all of these is likely Spanish bunuelos (pronounced boon-way-lows). These fried dough balls can be found in cuisines across North Africa all the way to Turkey and Latin America. In Mexico they take the form of fried tortillas sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and in Columbia a soft cheese is added to the batter (personally I think the latter is perfect for Chanukah, because we also eat dairy to commemorate the role of Yehudit (Judith) in the Chanukah victory).
I decided to play around with the bunuelo recipe to develop one my whole family could eat. This meant making one that was gluten free, non-dairy and egg-free. I had an idea to sub the egg with soy yogurt and it was a Chanukah miracle..it worked!
Last month I met a hard working gal named Orly who has designed a line of gluten free flour blends (each complete with xanthan gum), that are specialized for different types of baked goods, i.e. cakes, cookies, breads, etc. I would like to suggest trying the Blends by Orly-Manhattan Blend for the bunuelos. It is gluten, soy, corn and dairy free and optimally formulated by this pastry chef to produce the best taste and texture for each particular type of baked good.
If you do eat dairy you may wish to sub the soy yogurt with plain or vanilla flavored dairy yogurt. If you can't have soy or dairy there are a variety of options such as coconut milk and almond milk yogurt.
2 cups Gluten Free Bisquick (or All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour blend with xanthan gum plus 1 Tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 ounces soy yogurt
1 cup plain seltzer
48 ounces canola or vegetable oil for frying
1/2 peeled carrot or 2 baby carrots (optional)
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (I used McCormick brand, but you can make your own by mixing together 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)
Note: If you add a piece of carrot to the oil when frying, it absorbs the icky brown film that sometimes develops when doing several batches of fried items.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together Bisquick, sugar and nutmeg. Stir in yogurt and seltzer until well combined.
Heat oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven to 375F degree (on my gas stove, that is about the 7 or 8 mark on the dial). Put a small piece of batter into the oil and see if small bubbles form around dough--you're oil is ready at this point. Add the carrots.
With slightly damp hands or a cookie scoop, form batter into walnut sized balls. Gently drop about 4 at a time into the hot oil. When the submerged part begins to brown, after about 3-5 minutes, turn with tongs or a slotted spoon and fry on other side for the same amount of time, until golden brown. Remove from oil with tongs or slotted spoon, and place on a wire rack set on a cookie sheet or paper towel to drain off excess oil. Repeat with remaining batter.
Place cinnamon-sugar in a clean paper bag or small bowl. Toss several bunuelos at a time in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Best served warm. Store in airtight container for up to 2 days.
Yield: approximately 18 bunuelos