Saturday, June 26, 2010
Sweet Memories: A recipe for Sfenj
When I asked my children to name their favorite memory of Algeria, the answer was unanimous: Sfenj, the donut-like pastries sold by children on the beaches of Zeralda.
'Sfenj' (it rhymes with 'hinge') means 'sponge' and these light, fried pastries can sop up honey, sugar, or any other sweet topping imaginable. An Algerian mother told me she always prepares these on the first day of school. If the sfenj is delicious, the children will have a wonderful school year. But if the sfenj burns or falls flat, the school year will be a disaster.
Recipe for Sfenj: North African Donuts
2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 cup semolina
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 warm water (add more if the semolina is very dry)
Sugar, honey, or other sweet dipping sauce
To Make the Dough:
If you have a bread machine: add the first 5 ingredients in the order given, then start it on the dough making setting.
If you don't have a bread machine: Combine the flour and the semolina. Dissolve the yeast and salt in warm water. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and knead for about 15 minutes, adding water as necessary to a dough that is soft, elastic, and comes off your fingers easily. Set the dough in a wet container, cover it with a clean, damp cloth, and let rise for at least 3 hours.
To fry the sfenj:
Heat at least an inch of oil in the bottom of a frying pan.
With wet hands, make a ball of dough and poke a hole in the center. (The dough is sticky. If you're having problems, make sure your hands are very wet. Any surface the dough touches should be very wet.) Don't worry if these are not the perfectly round donuts we're used to seeing in America; they're not supposed to be.
Drop the shaped dough into the frying pan. If your temperature is right, it will sizzle but not splatter. Fry a couple of minutes on each side until golden.
Sfenj is best served hot. Some cooks will roll them in sugar, honey, or jelly before serving them. I serve them plain with bowls of toppings, and let everyone choose and dip their own. Experiment with toppings. Any sweet sauce (cherry, strawberry) is usually good with sfenj. Enjoy!
Have you eaten sfenj before? If so, what toppings do you like? Is there any other North African recipe you would like me to post?
Posted by Clarissa Southwick at 6:00 AM