Levivot with Sweet Syrup

I wanted to share one more Hanukkah dish with you before the weekend. This is one of my husband’s family recipes; it was handed down through his mother’s Sephardic side. His Israeli family calls the dish “levivot”– delicious fried batter topped with sweet, exotic sugar syrup. They are simple and divine, an unexpected treat at the end of a traditional Hanukkah dairy meal.

Before I learned this recipe, I thought that the word “levivot” referred to fried potato pancakes. When researching the dish, I learned that in some families, the Hebrew word levivot can refer not only to potato pancakes, but to any small fried food for Hanukkah. These delicious treats are my mother-in-law’s version of Sephardic bimuelos (fried dough balls). In most families, bimuelos are topped in honey syrup. My mother-in-law’s version has a wonderful exotic Middle Eastern twist– essence of rose water or orange blossom water is added to a warm sugar syrup that is poured over the crispy fried levivot, soaking them in sweetness.

Our original family recipe is made with yeast, and it takes some time to rise. I have modified that recipe slightly by adding baking powder instead of yeast, which makes the cooking process faster and easier. The best way to cook these little guys is to start making the sugar syrup first, so that it slowly reduces and thickens while you are making the batter and frying the levivot. That way, the levivot will be hot and fresh when the syrup is ready to pour.

Traditionally, rose water or orange blossom water is added to the levivot syrup as a flavoring. I highly recommend seeking out a bottle of either, you can find them in most kosher or Middle Eastern markets (Cortas brand has kosher certification). The water is scented with the essence of roses or orange blossoms, which gives it a wonderful perfume and a flavor unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. A little goes a long way– add sparingly.

If you can’t find rose or orange blossom water in your neck of the woods, you can get creative with your sugar syrup by adding 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla extract, orange flavoring, or even coconut flavoring! The idea is to lightly flavor the sugar syrup to give it a scent and an essence. If you want to forgo the syrup, you could even treat these like beignets and dust them with powdered sugar, then pour warm chocolate syrup over the top and serve with fresh whipped cream. Oy! I’m making myself hungry just thinking about the possibilities.

One more fun thing about these levivot– as they fry, they take on all kinds of crazy shapes. While they will basically be round, little bits of batter spread and scatter in the hot oil, frying into fun crooked “appendages.” When my husband was a little boy, he used to “guess” what each shape was– like looking at a cloud and seeing a character in it, you can look at these fritters and see all kinds of things, from bears to dragons to elephants to snowmen. Fun!

I hope you all are having a terrific holiday season, no matter which holiday you might be celebrating. Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach!

Recommended Products:

Frying Pan

Rose Water

Orange Blossom Water

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Levivot - Fried Israeli Bimuelo Fritters with Sweet Syrup

Levivot Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large bottle of grapeseed or peanut oil for frying

Levivot Syrup Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp rosewater or orange blossom water
Servings: Makes about 24 levivot
Kosher Key: Dairy

How to Make Levivot

  • In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Whisk the milk into the egg till well combined. Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a fork till a batter forms.
  • Warm oil over medium heat till hot enough for frying (around 365 degrees F).
  • Use a metal soup spoon to scoop up each portion of batter. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into the hot oil. The oil should sizzle but not splatter-- if the oil pops or splatters, let it cool slightly before proceeding. Test one levivot first to see if you've got the oil temperature right.
  • Between each scoop of batter, dip your metal spoon into a dish of water. This will help keep the batter from sticking to the spoon.
  • Make 4-5 levivot at a time. Keep a metal slotted spoon handy to turn the levivot as they become golden.
  • Fry the levivot till golden brown on both sides, turning once during cooking. If the oil is at the right temperature, it should take about 2-3 minutes for the levivot to brown completely and cook all the way through.
  • Drain fried levivot on a paper towel.

How to Make Levivot Syrup

  • Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  • Reduce the heat and lightly simmer the liquid for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flavoring to the liquid. You can use rose water or orange blossom water, which are the most traditional, or you can get creative with adding flavorings to taste like vanilla, orange, or coconut! Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes more till liquid thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  • Pour warm syrup over freshly fried levivot. Serve.

Comments (15)Post a Comment

  1. I was going to say these are similar to my family’s bimuelos! My mom makes that and I would dunk it cold in the simple syrup right out of the fridge and just eat it (so bad!) Whenever I read your posts it takes me back to my childhood! Love it! I’m going to try using with rose water, since I have a bottle! Love family recipes :) Shabat Shalom!

  2. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Love this! My family is from Spain/Cuba and we have this every year during the holidays! My grandmothers speciality! We used a root vegetable for the dough. Can’t remember what it’s called though, I have to find out now. Thanks for your blog it’s wonderful.

  3. thanx for butter bean soup-ran out and got ingredients-we loved the soup-added 8 oz. can of tomato sauce for more body-threw a few butter bean skins out for the squirrels-they wouldn’t eat them-thanx again-
    chubbier in New Jersey

  4. Adopted by a proud Irish American family, I am an Asian American who married into a Mexican family and learned how to cook from my suegra (mother-in-law) and hours of research and I must say, I find your blog fascinating! I love learning about the history and origin of different recipes and dishes…so I found the above information very interesting. A traditional dessert at Mexican fiestas, particularly during Christmas are buñuelos ((BOON-you-el-os). These are fried, crispy, white flour cookies or tortillas dusted in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, and/or drizzled in honey or caramel. How interesting it would be to find the origin of this technique. Once again, a simple recipe unites palates across a multitude of cultures!

  5. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Happy Hanukkah! This would, indeed, be a delightful surprise at the end of the meal! Congratulations on all your appearances – it’s been a busy, but amazing year! I’m looking forward to all the amazing creations you’ll make in 2012!

  6. Here in Greece they’re loukoumades, best served drizzled with (often thinned) honey, but more often with only sugar-water syrup. Rosewater sounds a definite plus. Not particularly for holidays, there used to be little hole-in-the-walls shops specializing in them…sort of fast-foodish. Everyone loves ’em.
    Terific site – glad I found you.

  7. Hi Tori,

    Do you think i can replace the milk with soy or almond milk so that i can make these parve?

    I”m really enjoying SHIKSA!

    Happy Hanukkah!

  8. I grew up eating these every Chanukah. My mom is from Turkey (Izmir to be exact). I found a few other recipes that she used to make. When I ask my mother for recipes it’s hard because she gives them to me either in metric, or by her measurement (a little bit of this and little bit of that). I found your recipes to be easy to follow. I made the levivot last night for the last night of Chanukah. I will be making other dishes in the weeks to come. Thanks :)

  9. I LOVE your recipes and your site!
    I’m looking for a recipe for baked, not fried, Israeli sufganyot .

  10. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made these for a party last night and served with vanilla ice cream. They were unreal! So delicious, a lot like beignets.

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