Vanilla-glazed cinnamon spice donuts

By | December 21, 2011

This article and recipe originally appeared in the Dec. 12, 2011 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine. Happy Chanukah!

When I was a little girl, Chanukah meant family game night, an evening out at a restaurant, and a sing-along featuring Abba’s guitar and harmonica. It meant playing dreidel for pennies, or sometimes (organic) chocolate chips. It meant the promise of three presents: one small, one medium, one big.

I knew Chanukah was coming when a family meeting was called to plan each night’s activity. I knew Chanukah was coming when Imma put up the decorations, when she unpacked the menorahs we made ourselves and laid them out over long sheets of aluminum foil.

Most of my Chanukah memories come from years spent at home. But there were also the Chanukahs with Grandma and Grandpa in Miami, and then later, just with Grandpa. There was the Chanukah I spent in seminary, mesmerized by the dozens of menorahs aglow on the streets of Yerushalayim.

And there was last year, the Chanukah my husband and I lit the menorah together for the first time. Having been married not much more than a week, our new apartment was stuffed with wedding gifts, making Chanukah presents completely unnecessary. The joy of beginning to build a life together was the best gift of all.

It was only once my husband and I had our own home with our own kitchen that I could experiment with donuts. My health-conscious parents had never done the donut thing, and although my husband and I also eat healthfully, we’ll bend the rules when necessary. For Chanukah, we think it’s necessary.

As I set out to make my first-ever batch of donuts, I realized something important. The people who had posted donut recipes online (yes, I call browsing food blogs “research”) all seemed to own stand mixers, donut cutters, and food thermometers. I own none of these.

It seemed I would just have to improvise.

I started with a yeast dough, adding allspice, nutmeg, extra cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla sugar. Since I use my electric hand mixer ($17; thanks, Meah Shearim) for all kinds of dough, I figured it would do just as well as the fancier mixers.

Well, let me put it this way: If you have a stand mixer, use it. If not, expect that your beaters will become completely covered in dough, and that not much will be left in the bowl itself. Eventually, I pulled the dough off the beaters and kneaded it by hand. (This is how donuts were made before the age of KitchenAid, right?)

After letting it rise, I rolled out the dough and got to work with my “donut cutters”…that would be a cup to cut the circles and a schnapps glass to cut out the middles. Thankfully, this worked just fine. It was my lack of a candy thermometer that got me into a bit of trouble.

The donut recipes I had seen all called for oil heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I assumed it would take several minutes over a high flame to reach that temperature. When the pot started smoking, I removed the lid and gently slid the first donut inside.

BAM! SIZZLE! (MAJOR sizzle.)

It took approximately two seconds for the poor little guy to get completely charred.

I turned the flame to low and let the oil sit a little longer before attempting to fry the second donut. This one also quickly turned pitch black. By this point, I was wondering whether my oil had reached 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To top it off, all that smoking oil had set off the smoke alarm, and I didn’t know how to stop it.

So the kitchen was smoky, the donuts were black, and the alarm wouldn’t stop beeping at an incredibly high pitch. Did I mention yet that my husband was at Minchah?

I opened our front door to get some fresh air, and a neighbor heard the beeping and came to help (thanks, Pnina!). By the time we took the alarm down from the ceiling and popped the battery out, the oil on the stovetop had cooled enough to use properly.

When my husband came home soon afterwards, it was to a mildly smoky kitchen, a mildly harried wife…and a plate of fresh, golden brown donuts, just itching to be frosted.

When your kids are home on vacation this Chanukah, take an afternoon to make a batch of these cinnamon spice donuts together. They’re soft, light, and deliciously accented by the fall spices. Even better, although they’re fried in oil they don’t feel or taste greasy. The frying should be left to adults, but kids will love cutting donuts out of the dough and decorating them once cooked.

I used a simple vanilla glaze (recipe below), finely crushed chocolate, and sprinkles in three colors — but the sky’s the limit when it comes to donut decorating. Leave your kids in charge, and see what creations they turn out.

(Or not. Adults probably like decorating donuts just as much as kids. If you make yours while they’re out, I won’t tell.)

One final note: All my donut sources said the dough scraps should not be rerolled. Ever the obedient one, I satisfied myself with the dozen donuts I eked out on the first go. My husband, though, never wastes if he can help it. He re-rolled the dough anyway, gathered it into one mass, and divided it in three. And then he did what he does best with dough: braid challah.

Which is how we found ourselves frying one giant-sized, challah-shaped donut later that night.

We dubbed it (what else?) “The Chonut.”

I know, I know. But some things really are worth doing at least once in your life.



Pnina on December 22, 2011 at 10:52 am.

Holy Cow! Those donuts were so good!! and beautiful! I am so lucky to live next door.


Tali Simon on December 22, 2011 at 11:21 am.

I’ll make you guys donuts all the time if you move your new home to our shchuna!


Malka on December 28, 2011 at 10:11 pm.

wow i am totally jealous of the donut parties the gablers and simons are having. next time, invite the krentzmans!


Abigail on December 22, 2011 at 11:28 am.

If living next door means you get to eat all the leftovers then shotgun moving to the Pnina’s caravan when they move!
Seriously I cannot get over how amazing these are, and am jealous that Yoyo and Uriel got to eat them. Gidi and I were talking aout them for ages after we saw them.


Tali Simon on December 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm.

This week we’re doing an entire Shabbos-from-the-freezer, so I have big plans to make more donuts tomorrow. I’ll send over my delivery boy with some samples…do consider the caravan switch, though. You’d make the delivery trek soooo much easier. :)


MR on December 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm.

Wait, no chonut picture? And I’m feeling kind of jealous of all your donut-receiving neighbors.


Tali Simon on December 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm.

I knew someone was going to comment on the lack of chonut photos. I just didn’t have the nerve to post a “challah” swimming in oil. :)


Abigail on December 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm.

How are you going to manage 6 types of latkes and more doughnuts? Although I have been thinking about it and feel you should aim for 8 types of latkes – a bit more seasonal :)
Don’t make more doughnuts because of us!!!


Tali Simon on December 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm.

Oh, don’t worry. We’ll get more donuts than you will. :)


ariela on November 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm.

I just made them. Amazing. I glazed mine with a powdered sugar glaze. Yum. Yum


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