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!
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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.